Lydia Heywood
Beauty & Wellbeing

Sports HAI

On-the-go make-up created for athletes and fitness enthusiasts

Grace de Alvaro, founder of Sports HAI, has many reasons to be excited about the coming year, not least the Tokyo Games, which open at the end of July. If ever a brand were made for Olympic success, it’s Sports HAI. ‘I built Sports HAI with athletes, for athletes,’ says Grace, who tests all of her products on sportswomen and men. Naturally she has also run, swum and sweated in them herself.


The best products always begin with a lightbulb moment. Grace’s came as she took part in her first ever triathlon. As she peeled off her wetsuit in the bike transition station, she realised that her make-up, carefully applied that morning, was now smudged and irritating her skin. She felt strong and empowered – but she looked like a drowned rat.


Grace set about producing a range of hard-working, multi-tasking products that would be fit for purpose as well as offering the highest quality. Her capsule sports collection now includes an eye shadow and liner, a mascara that is resistant to water, chlorine and sea salt, a combined moisturiser and balm stick, a 2-in-1 lip transformer, a ‘Glow & Go’ bronzer and a nourishing hair cleanser. Everything is designed to be applied quickly and withstand rigorous activity.


Says Grace: ‘I grew up in Ireland and spent my childhood on ponies. I’ve been an outdoorsy, sporty sort all my life. These days, I regularly run marathons and short races and compete in triathlons. I have always been interested in make-up – the way in which you can use it, the way it makes you feel, the empowered feeling it gives you. I created Sports HAI inspired by years of practical experience.’


She knew instinctively that there was a market for this type of product. ‘Instagram and social media are obsessed with both fitness and make-up, but while there are always hundreds of posts of women and men working out in trendy athleisure and hundreds more dedicated to make-up, you almost never see the two together. When I started a cosmetics brand dedicated to sports and fitness, there wasn’t anything else like it on the market.’


All of the products have been designed to help athletes look effortlessly glamorous, whether they’re competing at an international level or working out at the gym. However, as Grace points out, Sports HAI is not just about looking good on Instagram. ‘We’re definitely not telling people that they have to wear make-up to do sports or fitness activities; nor are we making them feel insecure if they are not wearing any products at all. The point of our products is the experiences you get while wearing them – the run, the ride, swim, cycle. I want people to feel great doing what they love. Of course wearing water-resistant mascara won’t change your life, but taking part in a triathlon might. I want my customers to be able to fully immerse themselves in their sporting activities or fitness programmes knowing that Sports HAI has them fully covered.’

The point of our products is the experiences you get while wearing them – the run, the ride, swim, cycle. I want people to feel great doing what they love

Sports Hai

Adds Grace: ‘Beauty brands tend to be very market-orientated, bringing out product range after product range. Palettes with hundreds of shades, creams, serums and oils you didn’t know you needed. Before we launched, we asked consumers what their top five hero products were. We based our collection on those products – we call them our HAI Five – and we’ve stayed in our lane, concentrating on what works in sports and fitness. We certainly have no interest in selling products that will clutter up a sports bag and never get used.’


Her own experiences notwithstanding, athletes pushing the boundaries and taking risks are the real inspiration behind Sports HAI. Says Grace: ‘Action sports elevate you to a place where performance takes complete hold; you are in the zone, you reach the HAI. In that moment, skills that were once locked away can be accessed with ease; hot decision making, a sense of calm, creativity and courage.’


Last year was about consolidating the brand, working with branding director Jon Easton to create packaging that conveyed that this was an energetic sports make-up. The company has now linked up with other sports, including skateboarding and rock climbing, two of the five new Olympic sports to be introduced this summer. ‘We love that the IOC has recognised the way in which sport is changing and becoming more urbanised and reflective of what interests the younger generation of athletes,’ says Grace. ‘Sports HAI is part of that: It’s no longer only celebrities and movie stars who have to be ready for their close up. So do athletes.’


Asked what being a British brand means to her, Grace says how proud she is of her company’s unconventional British qualities. ‘Sports HAI takes the definition of luxury as we know it and turns it on its head, taking everything back to basics while celebrating Britain’s sporting heritage. After all, Britain has founded so many best-loved sports from cricket, golf and hockey to badminton, able tennis and football.’


She attributes much of the brand’s success to her dedicated team. ‘I love working with people who spark joy. We have found that by sourcing some of the work further afield than London has enabled us to tap into the enormous amount of creativity Discovering a great marketing company based in Dorset called RiotSpace Creative has helped shape our website, social media, advertising and graphic design from the starting blocks. We’re also delighted to work with photographers Millie Pilkington, make-up artist Cristina Piña and creative artist Gonzalo Marqués who are exceptional.’


In 2020 the brand will continue to ride the athleisure wave, drawing make-up lovers away from complicated routines and back to simple, sporty sophistication. She is optimistic about the future. ‘As a new entrant in the luxury beauty market, building trust, customer engagement and brand awareness are set to be our biggest challenges. But we see it as a marathon, not a sprint: with products on several Olympic contestants it is all possible.’