Lana Casey is taking over the reigns of the family business, Catfish Designs. Catfish started 18 years ago when Lana’s mum, pro-surfer Prue Casey-Spark, started making swimwear for her very active children (Lana is one of four siblings, and her brothers and sister still keep Prue busy with the wet water gear. James is a competitive stand up paddle board rider, Pascalle is part of the Aussie junior water polo team and Willis rows Surf Boats for Dee Why beach).
Catfish grew really organically – friends would see the Casey kids’ cossies and ask Prue for some too. Then local surf life saving clubs asked if Prue could make their costumes. And it grew from there. Now they supply water sports uniforms to teams, schools, individual athletes and clubs all over the world.
A couple of months ago, Catfish launched their new activewear range, using a similar bright and sunny outlook with colourful print tights to take you from yoga to training.
I caught up with Lana recently to find out a bit more about Catfish and the new venture.
Lana, Catfish is better known for it’s training swimwear and custom-made gear for sporting teams, surf live saving clubs, swim schools etc. What sparked this new venture into activewear?
We’re a pretty active family, and live in our swimwear in Summer and activewear all year round. Mum walks – a lot! And I compete in triathlons so churn through the run gear. We started seeing bright colourful tights around, and looked at each other and thought, we can do this! It lined up with what we stand for and are known for in swimwear, so it felt natural to move to some fun printed tights.
Were there any new design challenges thrown at you that you hadn’t experienced in the production of swimwear?
We are perfectionists, and very proud of everything we produce. High quality and maximum comfort were key in the development of the range. So it took us a bit longer to get to market than we thought. But we wanted it to be right not rushed. We manufacture all our swimwear in Sydney, and have a great team of sewers so at least finding the right people to manufacture our activewear was easy.
What do you think is the most important thing to get right when designing activewear?
Without doubt it needs to be comfortable and it needs to last.
When I’m out running for two or three hours I want to know I’m in the most comfortable gear I own. And similarly, I don’t want to be at Bikram Yoga doing a downward dog and showing people more than they bargained for!
We started with these two things in mind, and it is reflected through the range in the titanium compression fabric we chose, the flat lock stitching and the high waist band on our tights. The next challenge was bringing our creative flair to the table so they looked good as well!
I know it’s really early days, as you only launched at the end of July, but what are you proudest of so far?
I think we are most proud of the photoshoot we did. I know that sounds ridiculous! But we wanted our photoshoot to reflect the brand and I feel like it was spot on. From the photographer we used and her style, to our models and the location.
While we wanted the tights to be the star of the shoot, I think our models were. Now, I’m calling them models but they wouldn’t call themselves that. We had four beautiful girls from the Northern Beaches who all excel at the sports they do.
Emma Jeffcoat, who is a triathlete representing Australia all over the globe. Pascalle Casey, my fabulous sister who is in the Australian Junior Waterpolo team. Jacqueline Green, a kayaker who represented Australia at the World Universiade Games. Lana Hardiman, Stand Up Paddle Boarder who is just an all round go getter.
The feedback we have had on our images and the girls who all look so real and strong has been amazing. We have a strict no photoshop policy, we think all women look amazing as they are. And Instagram has agreed, which is awesome.
And what has been the most frightening part of launching a new line?
Will people like it? There is always that doubt. We know we love it, but we have spent so much time with the fabrics and the prints, you do get the nervous butterfly in your stomach.
Actually it’s probably not the fear of will people like it, but will people like it enough to buy it haha. Our fears have not come true though, the feedback we have had has been great – phew!
Can you describe the Catfish Active woman?
The Catfish Active woman is strong, independent and fierce but isn’t afraid to laugh at herself.
She is unashamedly herself, works hard for whatever she is striving for, and gives anything a try. She dives in headfirst to anything she sets her mind to, in sport, in work, or in life.
I’m pretty sure she also wouldn’t say no to a gin & tonic at the end of a hard day’s work either 😉
What are the top 3 things you’d like to tell people about your product?
- We use only the best fabric, titaninum compression, which is so silky smooth to touch with all the things you need, anti-bacterial, moisture wicking etc. But it’s so soft!
- Quality is key so we added only the best. There are two pockets in our waistband, one for your keys and one for your phone. We use flat lock stitching so it won’t pull at the seams. And they’re locally made.
- Don’t be afraid to wear prints! I promise you can pull it off. We carefully chose prints that would be flattering. Pair our fun prints with any black top (or crop top from our range). You don’t have to be a size 8 yogi to look amazing in our tights.
You must be crazy-busy – what do you do to keep fit?
I am quite competitive and very goal focused. So I like to set myself a fitness goal each year, and it has to scare me!
This year my wonderful partner entered me in a race called Xterra, it’s an offroad triathlon series around the world. The event is 1.5km swim, 32km mountain bike and 10km trail run. The race he entered me in happened to be the Asia Pacific Championships down in the beautiful Jervis Bay and I came 2nd in my category which got me a spot to the World Champs in Maui, Hawaii.
So I’m in full training for that at the moment it’s on 1 November. So I have a few two sport days, and a two sport day is always a good day. I spend a lot of time out in the bush mountain biking and trail running, and in the ocean swimming – all amazing places to be spending your time.
I’m also a sucker for punishment so will come off the world champs race on 1 November and ramp straight back up to train for a 70.3 ironman in Ballarat on 13 December – 1.9km swim, 90km ride, 21km run.
Your professional background is in the financial industry, this must be a bit different ;). What have been the biggest changes for you since becoming GM of Catfish?
Yes the sea-change from life at a big corporate in banking, to swimwear and sportswear was really life changing. I am so grateful for the experience I had working in a big corporate, I was in a central team so I had the opportunity to see across so many different parts of the business and I learnt a lot from it that I could bring to Catfish Designs.
The biggest change – there are so many! I love working with a product that I can hold in my hands, and I definitely am getting more of a creative outlet – which I love. I think the biggest change is that I can have such a profound impact, I can make a decision and it happens. We work in a very agile way, and there is a real trust in each other to make the right decisions.
And what’s it like working with your mum?!
You know. That was my biggest concern coming in. Not that I thought it wouldn’t work, but that we have such a great relationship, I wouldn’t want to ruin that. I think we were both prepared for it to be tough, but it is been remarkably easy. We talk all the time!
And the hardest thing is switching off from business talk and going back to mother daughter talk. We decided from the get go, communication is key and we need to be open and honest with each other all the time. I mean, that is how any good relationships work, whether it’s work or otherwise.
We have a deep mutual respect for each other, she is an incredible pattern maker, designer and has built this business. I come from a very different world and we respect what we each bring to the table.
Finally, what are your dreams for the Catfish Active brand?
That’s a dangerous question! I think at the root of it all, we want to continue to support athletes all over Australia and the world become their best version of themselves. Sometimes that starts with the right outfit.
In the near future we are looking forward to expanding the Catfish Active range. We support a number of athlete ambassadors who represent a wide range of sports, including triathlon, so we’re in the design and test stage for cycling kit and tri suits.
We also want to expand our custom made offering, we currently supply custom uniforms to a number of water sports but with our active range we would love to work with more Yoga Studios, Personal Trainers, Gyms and Run clubs. That’s one of the coolest things about my job, working with people to create an amazing, bespoke outfit for their crew.
Thanks so much for your time, Lana and good luck.
Check out the website and if you use the code TFC10, you’ll get a 10% discount off your activewear order. x