Athleisure Brand Hustle MNL Celebrates Women's Month With a Special Collection
The brand teams up with Kathy Yap-Huang, Kris Sy, and Janice Villanueva for a clothing collection that steers the conversation on women empowerment forward
It’s the year 2023, but the fight for gender equality across the globe still feels like an uphill battle. Although the women’s rights movement has gained much traction since we were legally allowed to vote and earn as much as men do at work, we ladies can’t seem to get off the struggle bus. Everyone has a problem with almost everything we do. An assertive personality is immediately seen as a display of unladylike behavior. The decision to remain child-free is viewed as a selfish choice. Even the act of dressing the way we wish to is endlessly nitpicked and scrutinized.
I once made the decision to deliberately control my reaction to a certain predicament. I knew how quickly the tables could turn against me just because I was a woman if I responded to it the way I genuinely wanted to. I was upset at having to come to grips with the thought that it was a lose-lose situation; had I been a man, I wouldn’t have had to deal with such feelings because my reaction would be deemed as “acceptable.” And so I thought to myself: When will women ever have the emotional assurance of not needing to police every single one of our actions?
THE EMPOWERED WOMAN IN RELATION TO SOCIETAL NORMS
“It’s the double standards that affect me the most—and that applies to all aspects of being a woman,” says entrepreneur, fitness enthusiast, and mom of two Kathy Yap-Huang. “If a man speaks his mind, he is smart and assertive; if a woman does the same, she is uppity and bitchy. If a man takes up space, he is confident; a woman, siga. When a man gets older, he becomes a silver fox; a woman, past her prime.”
Electric Studio co-founder and CEO Kris Sy shares similar sentiments. Before she opened the first boutique indoor cycling studio in the Philippines, Kris held a corporate post in a male-dominated workplace in the United States.
“There were so many qualified women who could not get into leadership positions because they didn’t project confidence. As women, we always want to be sure of what we say before we say it. When we speak up, we sometimes do it with a smaller voice or with an unsure tone. We tend to take less risks or tend to apologize a lot, while men will simply jump an opportunity even if they aren’t sure how they will succeed. In the board room, men will physically take up more space while women often hold smaller real estate in their posture, which projects less power," Kris shares.
To say that all this is extremely frustrating is an understatement. Living and working in such environments can also trigger feelings of inadequacy in women; we may have it all—the credentials, the knowledge, the iron will—but we are always fed the idea that we are either too much or not enough. Mommy Mundo community founder Janice Villanueva highlights the expectations for women to be able to do everything and appear polished and effortless while doing so. “What’s worrisome is that this isn’t only a programming crafted by society due to history, and culture, but something we feel we need to do—a role we have to play. If we don’t take up the mantle, we feel like failures.”
Given all this, what makes an empowered woman? For these ladies, this is someone who knows her personal goals, sets herself up for success in accomplishing them, and lives an intentional life. She must anchor everything she does on a strong inner compass: a solid core value purpose that guides her with regards to how she spends her time, energy, and effort.
“We have so much on our plates that it is impossible to do everything well,” reflects Kris. “An empowered woman wants to do it all, but also understands that, instead of being a martyr programmed for survival, she needs to enjoy day-to-day life. She is not afraid to take a step back to analyze how to make things more efficient. She is also not afraid to ask for help when she needs it.”
“She is comfortable in her own skin and does not apologize for who she is and the life she has chosen. She doesn’t necessarily have to be an alpha type crushing it in a man’s world; a stay-at-home mom whose prime focus is her family and running her household is no less deserving of the title," Kathy adds.
HUSTLIN’ WITH HUSTLE
Arsenio “Butts” Solinap and Eunice Galura, co-founders of athleisure brand HUSTLE MNL, knew exactly what they were looking for in a collaborator when they were conceptualizing their special Women’s Month collection. They wanted to put forward pieces designed by women for women that are stylish and versatile enough to match their clients’ needs. Whether you’re hitting PRs in the gym or out running errands, there’s a HUSTLE piece designed to help you power through your day.
Kathy, Kris, and Janice are all multi-hyphenates—mothers and wives with successful businesses of their own—that share a love for fitness and an understanding as to how it can inspire other women. Through this partnership with HUSTLE, they are steering the conversation on women empowerment forward by inspiring others to express themselves not just through what they wear, but also by sending the message that women and their equity are valued by many, and that they are capable of amazing things.
“I want to tell women that we have to move—no matter what stage of life we are in—for the benefit of our physical and mental wellbeing because the best functional treatment we can give our bodies is to hustle,” says Janice, whose two-piece Easy set consists of a hoodie and bodysuit. “My idea behind my design is simple: I don’t want you to think or overthink anything. Just slip it on and get moving.”
Thanks to the many hats Kris wears, she is always on the go, shifting between CEO and instructor at Electric, and mom to Lula, who the three-piece collection (sweater + sports bra + biker shorts) is named after. “I wanted to create one entire look where I could do everything I need to without having to bring a change of clothes—sometimes, you simply don’t have time for an outfit change,” she shares.
Being a boxing and Muay Thai practitioner for almost a decade now, Kathy wanted to design sturdy, practical pieces that her fellow athletes could train in. The Cassius set—which is Muhammad Ali’s birth name—is a three-piece look (hoodie + sports bra + shorts). It's her love letter to the sleeping giants within us, all en route to greatness.
MAKING THINGS BETTER
One of the best ways to inspire change is to pass on our knowledge to the next generation. It’s not an easy burden to bear, but it’s part and parcel of responsible parenting; and as mothers to young children, Kris, Janice, and Kathy understand just how crucial this aspect of their role is. Conversations on gender issues and equal partnerships are integral to how young ones will view such matters, especially in an age where information—whether false or factual—is easy to access.
“I teach my daughter how important it is to support other women and not bring each other down,” says Kathy. “I teach my son to not be threatened by a strong woman because he can learn a lot. I hope that my children see that they have a strong woman for a mom and a strong man for a dad who support and love each other without competition, and who see each other as equals.”
For Janice, men need to understand the value of actively participating in the parenting process. “Being a breadwinner is not the husband’s or the father’s only role in the family. They should be equal partners in the work of parenthood, homemaking, and life. They need to talk to their wives or partners because we need a listening ear. It’s also good to offer help when necessary because we won’t always ask for it—especially when we know we can do it.”
We’re still far from where we want to be on the subject of women empowerment. While things are moving faster in some parts of the globe, the glass ceilings remain solidly more intact in others. However, more and more women are rising to the fore, eager to make bigger ripples in still waters. “I learned that it’s not about being smart enough or good enough; it’s not about whether we are ready or we are qualified,” Kris says. “That’s honestly just one part of what it takes to get things done. We need to ensure that we take up space in a room and to always have a voice wherever we go. If we as women keep that in mind, we will see a huge shift in our self-confidence, which will also change the way people perceive and treat us.”
Shop the limited edition Lula, Easy, and Cassius sets on hustlemnl.com