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This homegrown brand is stretching activewear from street-to-studio

NO-VA, founded by Bader Al Ghaith, pioneered the idea of wearing activewear outside of the workout and into everyday life.

This homegrown brand is stretching activewear from street-to-studio
[Source photo: NO-VA | Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

Activewear brands are flooding the market, filling our worlds with cute yoga pants and high-performing sports bras. Over the past decade, we’ve seen brands pop up, each with their spin on sustainable material innovation and stylish looks.

Since the pandemic, wellness has become an even more active pursuit for many. So, it only follows that options for what you can wear to these workouts pose a giant opportunity. One that activewear brands have been quick to jump on.

Brands winning the top spots in this race aren’t imitating models followed by international brands, especially since consumers have become more discerning.

To help customers navigate the sea of products, the result is a homegrown brand built on the pillars of high-performing fabrics and “street-to-studio” styles. 

NO-VA Athleisure, founded by Bader Al Ghaith, pioneered the idea of wearing activewear outside of the workout and into everyday life. 

Inspired by the Nova star, the Emirati-owned brand caters to the everyday gym-goer and is made with sustainable fabrics. It focuses on clean lines, neutral colors, and simplicity. Think monochromatic outfits with subtle pops of color and classic staples. 

“We have everything from simple designs to the stand-out designs as well as more conservative looks, filling every need in the market,” says Al Ghaith.

He adds this look can be dressed up or down, making it more versatile. His plan worked. NO-VA has flourished. In addition to a thriving e-commerce store, it’s looking to open a brick-and-mortar store.


Although there’s a host of international activewear labels already easily available (and well-established) in the region, there is space (and need) for homegrown counterparts, he says. 

“In a bustling market, our edge lies in crafting minimalist, timeless designs. We’re not chasing trends; instead, we focus on enduring styles that resonate with the everyday gym-goer, offering a unique blend of functionality and fashion in a sea of choices.”

The activewear market in the Middle East has been gaining traction, driven by a growing fitness culture and lifestyle changes, he says. 

It is estimated to reach $32 million by 2028, growing at a CAGR of 9.3%.

“There’s a significant and expanding market with ample opportunities for brands to thrive,” adds Al Ghaith.

But launching an activewear brand that can compete with bigger players is no easy task, so NO-VA has its work cut out.

“It’s challenging as collections take really long to perfect, and once they’re out, they become the old collection as people always seek what’s next, and the process is definitely fast,” says Al Ghaith.

Currently, the brand is launching two to three collections per year, which Al Ghaith says will increase as it expands. A thing that stands out about the AW23 collection is that it is more fashion-forward than many of the company’s other garments. It features sustainable leggings and tights designed with mesh ventilation panels for improved breathability. The collection blurs the line between athletic, loungewear, and everyday wardrobe essentials, making it easy to become a part of your everyday lifestyle. 

The products are manufactured abroad as Al Ghaith says the “offshore market currently has the best machines and materials.” 

Interestingly, the brand isn’t chasing celebrity or athlete endorsements, and the product isn’t a walking billboard for the logo. Al Ghaith says this by design. “We want our customers to embrace NO-VA for its inherent quality, comfort, and style rather than being driven solely by external endorsements.” 

“We emphasize substance over flashy branding—a deliberate decision to create a more genuine and enduring connection with our community,” he adds.

Now, the online retailer wants to assert its dominance in the realm of brick and mortar, believing it’s key to the brand’s continued success.

“We are currently seeking a permanent space to make the NO-VA experience physical and make our products easier to see and feel,” adds Al Ghaith.

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