DOXA is a running apparel brand designed in Denmark and manufactured in Europe. Rooted in the northern reaches of Europe, DOXA has always understood the need to cater for changing conditions whilst also applying high end fashion to the technical aspects of the products. Alongside producing top quality running apparel, DOXA also supports the Swedish NGO Global Relations, supplying running apparel to Kenswed Academy in Nairobi, Kenya which was set up to give underprivileged youngsters a better shot at life. We caught up with founder John Hansen – a life-long competitive runner himself – to understand the story behind the brand.
LtW: Please give us a brief history of your brand – when you started, who was part of the early team, where you started out.
DOXA: The brand was founded back in 2016 with a mission to challenge the industry on how performance apparel could look cool without compromising on the quality.
The brand is founded by myself and I am still in charge of more or less all processes. Some things I have outsourced since the start to have the time to focus on design, production and marketing, but otherwise I run everything on my own.
LtW: What is your personal relationship with running now and how has running played a part in your life, going all the way back to your childhood?
D: I started running when I was 10 years old and it has been a part of my daily life ever since. Some years faster than others, but in the end it gives back the exact same thing as it always does – more energy! Running is my “space”, where I can put everything else on hold and just clear my mind. I never listen to music during my runs. I think it’s a shame for those runners, who haven’t achieved the feeling of being high just by listen to the footsteps, the pumping heartbeat and being in control with their body.
From a very early age I found it motivating to train very structured and sitting down each Sunday eve to count the total K’s of the week. Actually my mom taught me that I could not participate in any races if I did not want to train in the meantime. This in mind that I was often the fastest kid in my age group in the races. A learning that stills keep me motivated today either we are talking running or working – you can’t sit back and hope for results. You must put in all your energy and work hard to get to the top.
LtW: What were the key motives for you creating a running brand?
D: I was simple missing some cool running apparel that was not Nike or Adidas!
Being a runner and a part of the running culture since the early 90’s made me see the development that was happening in the 00’s. From none of my friends running, now all of my friends are running. Some of them even started NBRO (running community in Copenhagen). There were a new type of runners and I saw a demand for something else than another solid neon coloured polyester running tee.
I would create a running apparel brand, using premium fabrics and a different design approach. After becoming a dad in 2016 I also had a need to give something back to the world. With DOXA I could give something back to those athletes, who I have always been fascinated by – the Kenyans. That is why I support the school project Kenswed Academy in Nairobi, Kenya. Each season I donate running apparel to the running talents, who are fighting their way out of poverty. Running is a career path for them!
LTW: What have been the biggest challenges for you building your brand?
D: Let us just agree that it is not easy to start a brand anymore. Your idea needs to be bulletproof otherwise you loose in the end. I have worked as a fashion designer for 10 years and been involved in other startups. But where the fashion industry is fast to adapt to new ideas and moving forward, the sports industry is much more conservative. In fashion you have a range of established brands and a ton of smaller brands. It is the exact opposite way around in the sport. Here you only have the major brands and the smaller brands are more or less not existing. For me the biggest challenge has been to get 5 minutes with the buyers, where I can tell my story and introduce the brand. Because in their mind they do not need any new brands. They are carrying the major brands, which all their customers know, so why change that. They are not so experienced with brand building and for many stores this can be a challenge. It definitely takes time and passion to tell customers about a new brand and not just recommend the first product in the line from the major brands.
LtW: What do you consider to have been your biggest successes?
D: You can always do something better and the day you think it is not possible you are done. So to achieve the goal and succeed always bring up a new milestone for me. For me it is not about numbers and turnover, because then I had created another brand than DOXA. I would actually say that my brand values are some of the most important things and what had brought the best success in terms of partnerships, credibility and PR.
To look back after 4 years and still be confirmed that the cornerstones for company are working and building the brand like I had hope for – that is biggest success for me!
LtW: Outside of running, which brands do you admire and why?
D: There are several brands out there doing lovely collections, but if I should mention my two go-to brands, who I always admire it is the Swedish Our Legacy and the French Drôle de Monsieur. Our Legacy are using incredible custom-developed fabrics each season and their way to rework the classic silhouettes are always spot on. The two French guys from Drôle de Monsieur are mixing retro sport with high street fashion in a way, where you never go wrong.
LtW: What do you hope that people will think, when they consider your brand?
D: I hope they get attracted by our design and the hand feel of our goods, because that is the first impression and that needs to be a success. If people are still satisfied I hope they get curious and finds the story about DOXA interesting. A brand that are made by a runner to all the runners around the world. I also hope that people get to know about our charity work and if people support a brand like DOXA, they are actually part of our charity work and are doing a difference in the bigger picture. People should keep in mind that they need to support these new upcoming brands and not just adore their new way to approach the running culture.
LtW: If your brand was a runner, what type of personality would they have?
D: The DOXA runner is middle distance runner, who is very disciplined in his training, but still does not say no to a great party with friends. To be a competitive runner, which the DOXA runner absolutely is, you need to be driven and see things in a long perspective. This also means that things are often scheduled and planned, which don’t leave many openings for changes or impulsive ideas. This DOXA runner is enthusiastic about running and it is a passion. Nothing is random and there is a meaning with everything. At the start line you will see a focused runner, who prefer to be the underdog and just let the legs tell you, who are actually the boss here. A fair runner, who gives 110% each time and if that is not enough for the victory, fair enough – you lost to a better person and that is acceptable. No hard feelings, just another reason to put more miles into the legs.
LtW: What is different about your brand from other running brands?
D: Hopefully as much as possible. DOXA should be the alternative to the runners.
Our competitors are making great products, no doubt about that. We do the same. But today you need to do more than “just” great products. All you can do, except for making great products, is what you can do different and what makes your brand.
All DOXA goods are made with premium fabrics mainly from Italy. Charity work has been a part of the DNA from the beginning and our sustainable range of fabrics are growing each season.
It starts in the design process, where more than 60% of the fabrics I use are from recycled materials such as old fishnet or plastic bottles. Technical fabrics are normally made of oil and that is just not workable in our work for a greener planet. Each season I try to increase the use of recycled fabrics and the range of these fabrics are just getting better and better, so to produce with 100% recycled fabrics are absolutely my goal for the future.
The cooperation with the Swedish NGO Global Relations and the school project in Kenya, Kenswed Academy, is both a personal and a business case I just love. To give back to someone, who does not have the same opportunities in life as I have. That makes sense for everybody.
To work with sustainability is an on-going project and it never ends. Like everyting else in life, you can always do better! All the goods are produced in Europe with fabrics from Italy, so I try to keep the transport distance to a minimum and you support great suppliers and manufactures.
LtW: What plans do you have coming up for your brand?
D: No doubt COVID19 did change our world and we all need to re-think our processes and workflow, which I think is valuable for all in this game.
This autumn I introduce two new lines in the DOXA universe. A unisex CORE collection with essentials made for performance and an OFFTRACK collection with athleisure styles in jersey made for everyday life.
LtW: Anything else we should know?
D: We just signed up with one of the fastest Danish mid-distance runners, Jakob Dybdal Abrahamsen, who is currently on the relentless pursuit to qualify for the Tokyo 2021 Olympic games in his primary event, the 3000m steeplechase. Jakob started out his track season a week ago with a 13:59,38 min. for 5000m. and we wish him the best of luck in his hunt for the Tokyo 2021.