If you have watched reality TV show Project Runway in 2012, you probably remember standout winner Christina Exie. At the time judges Megan Gale and Peter Morrissey deemed her pieces worthy of any Milan or Paris runway, saying she was “ready for global design success”.
During 15 years in the fashion industry, Aussie-born Christina -whose parents hail from Vrahati (mother) and Florina (father)- has worked as a designer, patternmaker and tailor for Australian and international brands. Now, a decade later, she is running her own brand, bridging the gap between commercial and high end through her athleisure-wear label, inspiring women to step into their strength and feel powerful in all facets of life.
Christina is the founder and creative director of Australian athleisure-wear Exie, designing technical activewear combined with a street-style aesthetic that takes busy and empowered women from smashing limiting beliefs in the gym, to staying stylish on the morning coffee run.
“In my life and career, I’ve faced challenges that I learned to take as a guiding force,” she says, explaining that she launched her label from her spare Melbourne bedroom in 2020 when she came home in 2019 from living and working in Germany. It all started in 2018, however, when she once again visited Greece, getting to know her father’s side for the first time while also embracing her roots by becoming a Greek citizen.
“I studied Fashion Design at RMIT and graduated from the four-year honours degree in 2011. From there I went on to win Project Runway Australia, launched my namesake brand after that, then worked in the industry for about seven years to gain more skills and learn more about how to run a fashion business.”
During this time, the most consistent thing in her life was exercise, as it has been a way for her to take care of her busy mind. After living in Germany, she returned to Australia and realised she couldn’t find activewear that made her feel confident, that looked cool and had a focus on sustainability at an affordable price.
“The activewear that existed was either over-designed or too basic for what I was looking for and their ethos was not capturing my attention. Essentially, I saw a gap in the market,” she tells Neos Kosmos.
“It made sense for me to merge my two greatest loves; fashion and sport together to create an activewear brand. So, I decided to create my own designs to make me feel strong and sexy, that are manufactured in a way to be kinder to our planet.”
Exie proudly operates as an ethical and sustainable business. More than 60 per cent of the collections are produced from recycled fabrics via audited workshops.
“I created the brand with the intention to help women unleash their inner badass whilst making the world a better place. The aesthetic is bold and more than 60 per cent of all styles are made from recycled yarns.”
Christina’s values have attracted collaborating partners F45 and KX Pilates and the attention of fitness and music leaders the likes of fellow Greek Australian Kayla Itsines and Samantha Jade. As a result, less than a year after Christina began building her e-commerce business the brand’s vision was recognised via a partnership with the renowned Accent Group. Now Exie has five retail stores across Australia and is stocked exclusively in Glue and Stylerunner stores nationally.
Eager to kick more goalposts she says that “I dream to take my brand International and see it on the likes of Dualipa, Kim K and J-Lo.”
That success and confidence, however, did not come without its challenges, good and bad. Regardless, of their polarity, Christina welcomes each experience as its own lesson for growth.
“The major challenges in running my bootstrapped business was cash-flow and having enough capital to scale it, as I had to do it all myself since I couldn’t afford to hire a team. The most empowering moment was when I partnered with retail conglomerate, Accent Group, which provided the opportunity to scale Exie into its next phase,” she says.
“What makes me the happiest is seeing my designs on people who I don’t know, and witnessing how confident they look in it, as I feel like I’ve made a positive impact in their lives.”
A true creative, Christina sees meaning and draws inspiration from everything, especially the people that surround her, making her own creative process a platform to both express people’s stories and cater to their needs.
“Regardless of what we might think are our setbacks, I challenge the Exie community to harness everything they think is a shortcoming and use that as fuel to unlock their full potential,” she explains.
“People’s unique stories inspire me as it helps me understand what their motivations are and how I can help them through what I do, how I design, and the things I talk about. My values are kindness, authenticity, and courage, which is the way I show up every day and how I lean into driving my brand.”
True to her world, the brand caters to all women, of all ages and all shapes and forms that are on a journey to become fitter and stronger in their own, unique and beautiful way. The same principles permeate her message to her younger self as well as anyone that wants to start their own business.
“Have your own vision,” she stresses.
“See comparison as a means of inspiration, and failures as learnings. Lastly, be patient as success does not come overnight, but instead takes commitment and consistency which builds results over time.”