Leopard print workout tights, tank tops that read; ”you have just been passed by a power woman” and zebra striped triathlon apparel. This is what Anna Wretling imagined when she created the brand PowerWoman. What once was a hobby has become her fulltime job with one intention, to empower women.

How would you react when crossing the finishing line after swimming 3,8 kilometres, cycling 180 kilometres, and running 42 kilometres in eleven hours and 57 minutes? Would you raise a fist toward the sky? Would you break down from sheer exhaustion? Or would you shrug your shoulders thinking, “oh well”?

Anna Wretling did the latter. When she took part in her first Ironman she didn’t find the challenge particularly strenuous. That she may have forged ahead a little near the end was not tactical, it was boredom. “It had just been so many hours by then, I simply wanted to get home…”

If you follow Anna on Instagram you’ll immediately see that working out is part of her everyday life. She shoots up steep hills, does ballet and balancing feats on bridges as well as yoga with her two children. That’s a lot of exercising. Doing the occasional Ironman is merely part of a grander training puzzle and it’s not even the piece she’s most passionate about. That bit is actually reserved for PowerWoman, the brand behind her company that has launched a wide collection of custom designed workout clothes, equally loud in its look and statement of values.

It started when Anna realized that nobody had really breached the gap between fashion and sports. “It didn’t make any sense to me that exercising wasn’t considered glamorous. I found it really provocative that people questioned how I could swap between high heels and long fingernails while also doing a few Ironman challenges. I want to show that of course you can do triathlon and look amazing in leopard print at the same time.”

Anna describes herself as someone who has always gone against the flow. Hence naming the brand PowerWoman was a given. It talks of strength, determination and perseverance. “To me, being a power woman means being an independent woman that stands up for herself and for her rights. I want to spread that idea through exercising and work out apparel. I’ve come to understand that many American women put a lot of meaning into that notion; it’s a whole lifestyle to them. My clothes simply reinforce what they already live by. In Sweden, where I’m from it’s more like the clothes emphasize what we lack.”

Could you elaborate on that?
“In Sweden I constantly have to inform others about the brand’s values. I seem to always have to explain it. In the States, it’s a given. It’s like everyone is a power woman already. They instantaneously ‘get’ the brand. In Sweden I think we’re a bit stuck with the idea that being a power woman means you have to do something truly grand but that’s not true. It’s not about what you do; it’s about who you are and you should be yourself!”

For Anna personally the idea that she’s a power woman has always been her touchstone, something she wanted to inspire and instil in others. That clothing ended up being the means to spread this firm belief is more or less a coincidence brought on by the fact that she herself works out so much. “A lot of exercise apparel is bad fitting and looks boring. I wanted to create something new, and when I realized how much of a gap there was in the market I decided to go for it. I want to create a sense of pride. Being told I can’t do something simply because I’m a woman makes me feel deeply provoked. I can’t stand idly by, I have to do something to change it.”

In the beginning, Anna only toyed with a few ideas for attire. It quickly grew to a whole company with clothing lines for many different activities, from yoga to triathlon. The leopard print workout tights became an instant hit, applauded by several sporty Instagrammers with large followings. Since then, more patterns and models have followed in quick succession. The demand for her products is very high and out of pure curiosity Anna decided early on to try the American market. “We sent our clothes across various states to see what would sell. When we analysed what had happened we realized that the response was so great we needed to slow the launch down. We need more capital in the company before we continue on this particular journey. It’s a big process setting up brand protection, customs duty, and logistics… Not to mention retaining and expanding the production pace.”

Keeping up with the investment demands full concentration from Anna. She recently closed the interior design shop Bohem that she ran in Stockholm previously to creating PowerWoman. “My old company has kept my new company afloat. But now I have to give my new company 100 per cent. And even though it’s uncertain, PowerWoman feels like the right path to head down.”

Uncertain as it might be, it’s still going really well. PowerWoman has grown into a stable company that is looking to expand. The manufacturers are ready to produce greater volumes, the website has implemented better online ordering systems and the inventory is bigger. “With the foundation I’ve built I can create ten tights or ten thousand tights. But to be able to do the latter the company needs capital. Hence I’m currently looking for investors that are interested in joining us for this next expansion phase. It’s a challenge, but challenges are what drive me. I’ve always been careful with my ownership and I’ve never needed external financing before but to take the lead from here, it’s necessary.”

Anna points out that the whole clothing industry is out of step financially. “You make the clothes first and sell them later. I’ve not dared to market PowerWoman too much since our whole stock sold out extremely quickly when we first launched. I’m well aware that that’s a first world problem; people actually wanting to buy what I’m selling! But in the beginning we couldn’t keep up with the orders and it was still such early days that I didn’t dare step up the production too much.”

However, there are already new ideas for PowerWoman yoga clothes, leisure wear as well as clothing for both men and children. “Being an entrepreneur is a very unique way of life. I’ve thrown myself in the deep end, with two kids at that! Of course I sometimes wonder what the hell I’m doing. But on the other hand, entrepreneurship is so rewarding. This is what I’m passionate about and now I’m giving it my all. It’s a crazy journey to be on but it challenges and triggers me to forge ahead.”