RIYADH: As the global fitness industry slowly gets back on its feet following the pandemic, brands are finding leverage through community engagement and mindfulness.
Rolly, a Saudi brand established in 2021, focuses on creating fitness experiences and products while platforming sustainable practices through a “global perspective,” Yusr Al-Otaibi, co-founder of the brand, told Arab News.
Her sister, co-founder Yara Al-Otaibi, said: “In Saudi Arabia it’s really important to set a standard because we no longer settle for the minimum or the normal. We really want the best in terms of our brand, or products, or initiatives.”
Saudis are no strangers to sedentary lifestyles. Days are outlined by long car rides through scorching sun-stroked streets. Only in the colder months can joggers and cyclists be found roaming Riyadh’s Wadi Hanifa or Jeddah’s Corniche. While there are no recent statistics on the topic, according to the 2021 Household Sports Practice Survey by the General Authority for Statistics, 29.7 percent of people are involved in moderate physical activity.
Rolly looks to create safe spaces and products for individuals to integrate movement into their daily lives.
Yusr said: “We started with a question: Why weren’t there sustainable products that look fun and are also high performance? We took the challenge.”
After suffering a knee injury, cutting into her active lifestyle and gym routine, Yara found conventional yoga mats caused more pain than support. An idea resulted from the two sisters’ need for products and spaces that are comfortable, safe, and help all types of movement.
Yusr said: “We found a gap in the Saudi market, and the Middle East as a whole, and we’re hoping through this we can spread awareness of the importance of movement while taking care of the Earth.”
After three years of testing alongside physiotherapists, the sisters’ first product saw the light of day. Their plastic-free and anti-humidity yoga mat is constructed using rubber and a top layer of vegan leather. The wide structure was designed by Yara to ensure that it is suitable for most body types and fitness exercises.
They have also developed a mat carrier, made of local fabrics, to promote the idea that safe spaces to practice can also be portable.
Yusr explained: “I think through the product design, perhaps Rolly opened the door for a new category of products in the Kingdom in terms of fitness that are approached by both male and female, or whether you’re a yogi, or a physiotherapist or pilates trainer, or a high school girl who loves movement.”
We found a gap in the Saudi market, and the Middle East as a whole, and we’re hoping through this we can spread awareness of the importance of movement while taking care of the Earth.
Yusr Al-Otaibi, Rolly co-founder
Their company is built under the three core values of sustainability, performance, and creativity.
Yara said: “As entrepreneurs we do really believe that businesses that don’t have a social, environmental, or an economic responsibility in Saudi Arabia will not flourish.
“We focus on these three aspects that are (components of) international sustainability … It’s not only the fact that we have products that are sustainable; socially, we are encouraging people to move, which has a sustainability aspect as well.”
By working with Friends of Rolly — who are local instructors — fitness talent, investors, local businesses and studios get to boost their exposure.
The Jeddah-based brand this year began Rolly Experiences, which the sisters explained is at the “core of what Rolly does.” Their curated events captivate the senses of their clients, whether it is the weight of the mat they stand on, the music, or the environment they are placed in.
Mindfulness techniques are incorporated to engage mind as well as body.
Rolly has been able to promote mindfulness and fitness through experimental events, using lights to help encourage curiosity from onlookers.
Yusr said: “People are excited now to know what’s next because our experiences move from one location to another.
“The trainers are people who also fuse different types of sports together and these things are very exciting. It’s very heartwarming to see and know there is a demand for it.”
The sisters’ most recent event, called “Shells by the Beach,” which was run in collaboration with local studios and instructors, focused on locating and tuning into inner fluidity.
Yusr said: “We wanted it to be by the beach so the participants could feel and visualize the waves and recreate that feeling inside them. Human bodies are made up of 70 percent water so it made sense to be there.”
While they are currently based in Jeddah, they plan to expand into other parts of the region in the near future.
Yusr added: “The ultimate goal is to redefine the idea of fitness experiences in the country.
“People are interested in Pilates and yoga, and so on, but they also want a fresh perspective on making it something new: a very high-performance, high-quality experience.”