Kydra: How Two Gym Buddies Created Their Own Line After Failing to Find Functional Activewear in Singapore

Despite their initial lack of expertise, Jimmy Poh and Wong Dingyao have transformed the activewear scape in Singapore.

It all started from gym shorts with shallow pockets. As university mates and gym enthusiasts, Jimmy Poh and Wong Dingyao would often work out together. After a cracked phone and misplaced credit cards, the two friends embarked on a search for functional activewear and to their surprise, found none.

“We realised the market lacked purposeful activewear such as shorts with deep pockets or inner tights – so we decided to make our own,” Jimmy smiles. “And this was how Kydra was born in 2017.”

Kydra founders Dingyao (left) and Jimmy (right) at the SOE NEO Start Up Awards 2019 

Starting from Ground Zero

Despite the lack of design background and familiarity with the industry, the two friends took a deep dive and created their first pair of shorts for men. “The process was a long one,” shares Dingyao, designer and co-founder at Kydra. “We combed many textile fairs for the perfect material before starting on a prototype. Each prototype took about 3 months to complete, and it was only after 8 months that we achieve the final product.” 

Men’s shorts – Kydra’s first product launch

In 2015, the pair of shorts was launched on Indiegogo. While reception was lukewarm at first, the shorts eventually sold out, prompting the official founding of Kydra. “Functionality is Kydra’s key unique selling point. Not only do the shorts come with deep pockets with zippers, it also has inner tights to provide maximum comfort. The shorts are also anti-slip, so our customers don’t have to worry about their shorts slipping during workout sessions.”

Kydra Nitro Tee: The successful launch of its shorts was followed by its T-shirt collection

For Women, By Men

After the positive response, Kydra began expanding its line. In 2017, Kydra kicked off its women’s line with a sports bra collection. While designing apparel for women does present its challenges, Dingyao is thankful for the feedback from customers, family and friends. 

The Kyro Pocket Leggings feature quick-cool technology as well as pockets for essentials.

“We’re constantly asking how we can improve on activewear. Our approach has also been about functionality, so we work on the nitty gritties that are important but unnoticeable. For instance, our sports bras are designed with sewn-in paddings that remain in place, even after they’re machine-washed. Similar to the men’s shorts, women’s leggings are anti-slip and they come with pockets!” Dingyao grins.

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A Steep Learning Curve From Day 1

While the athleisure trend has become increasingly popular, Dingyao explains how it wasn’t always the case. “Back then, activewear wasn’t as widely accepted. For instance, the concept of heading out in gym shorts or leggings was new. Despite their added value, people also didn’t see the need to invest in quality activewear.”

“But that’s exactly what Kydra is about – we design functional and versatile pieces that transition seamlessly between the gym and beyond. This way, our customers never have to choose between comfort, performance and style,” Jimmy adds.

A pair of comfortable water-repellent kicks suitable for gym and everyday wear,  The Kydra Shoe is the brand’s top-selling product

Elaborating on the challenges of being first-time entrepreneurs, Jimmy continues “Everything was new – the e-commerce landscape, the rising athleisure trend. We were operating on a two-man team with little to no guidance. We had given ourselves 2 years to build Kydra – it was filled with ups and downs, but I’m glad we didn’t throw in the towel.” 

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Empowering An Active Community

More than just an online retail store for functional activewear, Kydra is also moving to empower and build an active community. This is achieved through product and content collaborations – starting with features published on International Women’s Day

In collaboration with Aware Singapore, Kydra recently published an inspirational read that documents the fitness journey of 58-year-old Agnes Liew, founder of Oompf!

Content collaborations also include working with fitness professionals within the community, to provide training tips and workout guides.

“We’re looking to build a community that focuses on healthy living,” Jimmy says. “In addition to providing accessibility to functional activewear, we are working with partners in the industry, to ease more individuals into adopting healthy lifestyles.” 

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