How do you take leggings, a classic activewear item and reinvent it? If you’re an artist you take the material designs from your pieces of artwork. This is exactly what Leigh Hawson has done. In the beginning of the year she founded Colourful Living, an art inspired Athleisure brand, the designs of which originate from her acrylic poured artwork.
The inspiration behind each design is upliftment. “When we’re feeling uplifted or joyful we emit that energy into the world thereby positively influencing those who engage with us”, Leigh says. Her intention with her new venture is to build a movement of kindness, joy, compassion and empathy. She wants to heal the world, one colourful legging at a time.
Leigh gifted me a pair of her Lila leggings which are a joy to wear. They combine violet lilacs which symbolise spirituality and magenta lilacs which symbolise love and passion. They’re buttery soft, fit perfectly and are very high waisted – if you own a pair of the Levi’s mile high skinny jeans, they’re that level of high waisted. They’re the type of legging that you’d happily wear to a yoga class, bounty marathon or for a stroll around the block. Make use of her size guide when ordering, I found it incredibly accurate in figuring out my perfect sizing.
Name: Leigh Hawson
Location: Cape Town
Business: Colourful Living
How old is the business: 9 months
What inspired you to start Colourful Living?
Corporate has been my bread and butter for 28 years and I’ve spent most of that time in Operations – developing strategy, processes, and people. Three years ago I hit a wall and started questioning what I was doing with my life. I’ve always felt that there’s more out there, but it wasn’t landing in my lap. The narrative of discontentment grew, and it became unmanageable.
One year later my resilience hit rock bottom. My anxiety spiked through the roof and I crawled into bed sobbing. Clearly something needed to change.
I wouldn’t say I’m a religious person, I’m more metaphysical or spiritual. I’m blessed to be well versed in mindfulness and how healing the mind heals both body and spirit. I took the opportunity to assess my situation as I was feeling very disempowered. I came to the conclusion that I hadn’t been mindful, present or focused on where I was emotionally. My energy was low and I was resentful that I wasn’t excited about my life. Worst of all I felt ungrateful. I’ve always seen myself as a soul full of gratitude but that just wasn’t the case. I also realised that I had been working for other people’s dreams for 28 years [neglecting my own].
I started googling and came across a fascinating course on energy healing. I signed up and spent the next 6 weeks beefing up my energy levels – meditating daily, focusing on the positive aspects of my life. Slowly but surely, I started feeling excited.
One afternoon I was clicking around on Pinterest, as you do mid-pandemic, and I came across acrylic pouring. I never knew anything like this even existed, but something resonated. It was like being struck by lightning!
Art has never been my thing. I haven’t painted since high school and even then, my teacher told me, “if you want to pass Matric, you should probably find another subject that’s more suitable.”
I spent hours on YouTube learning everything I could about acrylic pouring aka fluid art. Two weeks later I had set myself up in my garage and was painting up a storm and loving it! I learnt quickly that conceptual art is more about the process than the painting itself. Patience is key and perfectionism is pointless – that was a hard one to learn. Once you (literally) throw fluid paint on a canvas you can’t control the composition. You need to let it go and work with what you can.
For the first time in my life, I felt I had purposeful energy and I wanted to share it. In December 2019 I was walking along the Sea Point promenade when a thought came to me, “Get your designs on leggings.” And that was that. Colorful Living was born.
What has been your favourite part of the business?
I love hearing how excited and happy my clients are with their leggings. When they share their stories of how they pranced around at the park run or wiggled their booty at their Yoga class – that warms my heart.
Then there’s collaboration – small businesses supporting small businesses – it gives me goosebumps! I have the opportunity to feature and work with the most incredibly talented woman from all over the country. Imagine a world where collaboration replaced competition. I’m currently collaborating with Wild Skincare. Every order over R1000 gets a little something extra.
What has been the most challenging part?
I know nothing about manufacturing, marketing, social media and website development – it’s been the steepest learning curve of my life. There have been tears, some toy throwing and many sleepless nights BUT my purpose is stronger than the obstacles I’m facing. It’s loud and determined!
What’s your favourite pair of leggings?
My lovely lady Camellia. I named her after the Camellia flower that denotes affection and love. Each pair of leggings has her own story.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve gotten?
You’ve got to be your own Cheerleader. Expecting applause from others puts you at risk because inevitably they may miss a beat and you land up feeling that your accomplishments have gone unrecognised. That could leave you feeling very discouraged with a dent on your self-esteem.
You made a huge career switch, what advice would you give someone who is considering making a big career move?
As it stands – I’m still working in Corporate. I’m building my business at night and over weekends. The reason I’ve taken this route is because when I’m stressed and under immense pressure, I lose my creativity. Taking the financial burden off my shoulders gives me the space to build something with a solid foundation.
I genuinely believed that there was no way that I’d be able to build a business whilst working a day job, but the intention of actually LIVING my purpose outweighs the exhaustion.
A few things that have worked for me are:
- Choosing Adventure over comfort – we’re not on this planet to be comfortable. We’re here to learn, grow, fall down, get up, make a difference.
- Keeping age out of it – whether you’re 23 or 73 follow your heart.
- Listen to my body – there’s a warmth that washes over you when your thoughts align with a vision. That’s when you know it’s right.
- It’s not your job to know “HOW” something will happen. You just keep your eye and heart on what you want in your life.
- When the opportunity presents itself, take a deep breath, shoulders back, head high – you’ve got this.
What is your beauty obsession at the moment?
Gut health and antioxidants.
What is your food obsession at the moment?
Avocado! The yumminess never ceases to amaze me.
What is your favourite go to easy meal is?
Bacon and mushroom pasta.
What do you never leave home without?
My phone. My phone is my business, so it’s become an appendage.
The best thing to do after a hard day is…
Bath! Obviously when there’s no water restrictions. Bobbing around in water has always been a great stress reliever.
The product that changed your life is…
My vacuum cleaner, I feel like Mary Poppins when armed with my Karcher!
Your favourite way to move your body is…
Surfing and Yoga. The ocean is where my soul sings and yoga connects me to my body.
Your best budget tip is..
Grow your own herbs. Seeds are cheap as chips and there’s something rather liberating about picking herbs from your garden and plopping them into your pan.
Your favourite book is…
Permission to screw up by Kirsten Hadeed. I giggled my way through this very inspiring read.
Kirsten unpacks the myth that you need to be perfect as an entrepreneur and/or leader. Be ok with making mistakes. Don’t let that hold you back. Go for it! If you fall on your face, that’s ok. There’s a gift in every opportunity and if we can see failure as a gift – you’re more likely to step out of your comfort zone and follow your dreams.