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Emily Oberg's Goal With First Sporty & Rich Store? To Make Fashion Less Stressful

When Emily Oberg launched the Sporty & Rich Instagram in 2015, her plans for the mood-board-formatted account never included starting a full-fledged brand. Eight years later, Oberg is preparing to open the ready-to-wear label’s first brick-and-mortar location in New York City’s Soho neighborhood.

“I really wanted the brand to stay small,” Oberg tells Fashionista. “Something that I said for the first two years was that I never wanted us to go above $10 million in revenue, and I was really set on not wanting [the brand] to become something stressful where we’re just trying to make sales goals just to make them. I wanted to do it because I love it and it makes me happy.”

Sporty & Rich is just one example of the increasingly popular social-media-presence-to-big-brand-pipeline that has produced a number of successful companies fueled by loyal followers. Other content creators-turned-entrepreneurs who began with the simple intention of crafting an aesthetically pleasing lifestyle platform include Matilda Djerf, who launched her brand of wardrobe staples Djerf Avenue in 2019, and Emma Chamberlain with her eponymous coffee brand; the former reportedly earned $34 million in sales with the latter earning $7 million in fundraising, both in 2022.

One difference between those companies and Sporty & Rich, is that Oberg sees her brand as a lifestyle and regimen — it’s not just about product, and that’s made abundantly clear as it expands into brick and mortar.

The Sporty & Rich store.

Photo: Courtesy of Sporty & Rich

In the new two-story, 3,600-square-foot store, there are three designated sections — one for shopping, one for a café and one for treatment rooms. “There is a really big wellness aspect to the brand that I’ve been trying to push, but it’s hard online because it’s such a physical and interactive thing,” says Oberg. “We’ve had our Wellness Club content on Instagram and online, but I think that’s only so effective. And so, I think having the treatment rooms and the café, those are all things you can only experience in person.”

These wellness-oriented aspects of the store seem to be what excite Oberg most about the new venture. On-site treatments will include lymphatic drainage massages and sculpting and buccal fat facials, ranging in price from $275 to $300.

Photo: Courtesy of Sporty & Rich

Photo: Courtesy of Sporty & Rich

Though these prices are on par with New York City’s spa scene, the 29-year-old recognizes that they might also be perceived by some as “coming in a little high.” She continues, “I think we’re obviously new to the space, but I do think we have the clientele for it and I don’t think it will be much of an issue. I also put a lot of time and energy into designing and testing these treatments myself for so many years. So I really think there’s a sense of quality there.”

The retail space, which was previously occupied by Dior Homme, was re-conceptualized by architect Uli Wagner and fully interior designed by Oberg. In line with the vintage-style campaigns she creative directs for the brand, the space is heavily inspired by ’80s department stores — specifically Bloomingdale’s and Espirit.”[Those stores] were very eye-catching, but at the same time, also very timeless,” says the designer.

The café space in the new Sporty & Rich store.

Photo: Courtesy of Sporty & Rich

When it came to the café, Oberg took notes from the coffee shop culture in Japan, incorporating the traditional wooden details and bright colors typically seen within those spaces. “We were really lucky. The bones [of the store] are really, really good and it just feels like a totally classic-looking Soho space with the skylights, wood floors, brick walls, archways and columns,” she shares. “Highlighting those features that are already very reminiscent of the ’80s, rather than trying to hide them, played perfectly into our vision of what we wanted the store to look and feel like.”

Overall, the integration of fashion and wellness is the dominant ethos for the new brick-and-mortar. By combining nutrition, relaxation and the most important self-care activity of all (shopping, of course), Oberg’s hope is to alleviate the stress for New York’s fashion crowd and everyday shoppers alike.

The juice bar in the new Sporty & Rich store.

Photo: Courtesy of Sporty & Rich

“The lifestyle of people in fashion is not necessarily rooted in feeling good. It’s very external and about looking good and being thin and fitting into clothes. That kind of messaging has always been a part of fashion. So I think that it’s the total antithesis and opposite of what wellness means,” says Oberg, who is based in Los Angeles. “People who work in fashion know, it’s very demanding, it’s very stressful and it’s very hectic. There are a lot of really demanding bosses and people who don’t respect work-life balance, and that’s not part of a healthy lifestyle. [The fashion industry] is super intensive and it’s very taxing, I think, on the body and the mind.”

Oberg shares that she’s “pretty much been the only one from my team to handle the spa and café elements of the store,” which she describes as her “personal projects.” Taking it on independently was a cautious choice.

“I think it’s sometimes hard to [execute a vision] when you have a big team and people like VPs, CEOs and CFOs. They don’t always believe in your vision because they may not be artistic people, because for them it’s all about numbers.” She explains a sort of balancing act, where sometimes, for her, making “what’s cool” can outweigh what’s going to undoubtedly turn a profit.

Oberg has faith that the wellness components of the store will pay off, though. “I think they’re going to do super well and I hope they do, so I can prove [people] wrong,” she says.

The Sporty & Rich store opens its doors on July 20 at 133 Greene St. New York, NY 10012. Appointments for spa treatments can be made through the Mindbody app, available to download here.

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