On a quiet street in the Jordanian capital lies a small shop with great aspirations. Athletique Boutique is an activewear destination for those that appreciate good quality sports and yoga wear with a bit of fashion flair. Owned and run by Caroline Rizk Zawaideh, the 5 year old establishment has survived the struggles often associated with small businesses. In fact it continues to flourish. A quick trip to the store a week after a new shipment has arrived and the pieces have literally disappeared off the shelves. Caroline’s strong business acumen means that she understands her customers, provides for them, in a happy and exciting environment.
Athletique prides itself on the fact that it stocks some of the greatest brands in activewear fashion. From JLO’s favorite brand Beyond Yoga, to Michi, Koral, Daquini (my personal favorite) Alo Yoga, Spiritual Gangster, Aurum, Nike…And the list goes on. The boutique is a little treasure trove of well-curated collections. In the sea of black leggings and colorful tank tops, it requires a strong eye for design and variety to create a strong edit of merchandise for the store. Walking into the shop one may be deceived by the effortless and tasteful way in which the pieces are displayed. There is nothing effortless about it. The merchandising of the store is key to its success. In a business where the display can appear anything from totally boring and uninspiring to cluttered and confusing, Athletique is an oasis of excited calm. Caroline has gone all in, stocking more brands side by side, than some of the greatest stores in the world. Seriously, the next time you go to Selfridges or Bloomingdales, check out the activewear sections, they pale in comparison.
In regards to ordering, anyone that has been in the business will understand the challenge of ordering enough stock without drowning in it. Strong brands expect boutiques to order large quantities, and in a city as small and incestuous as Amman, having too much of the same will backfire, but so will having one piece of each! If you have ever walked into a boutique to find lone pieces hanging like orphans on the rail, you will understand the importance of a collection. You need to order enough stock to appear professional, but not so much of the same that you don’t know how to sell it! If you are confused by these concepts, just imagine how complicated it must be to place orders from over 20 independent brands. Add to that the issue with pricing, and the availability of these products online, and it becomes evident that Caroline has a good business instinct. The products are marginally more expensive at the boutique, but then again, they are there for you to try on (pre-COVID) and you don’t need to wait for the pieces to arrive, and go through customs (yikes!)
But there needs to be more, and this is something Caroline Rizk Zawaideh, an electrical engineer (no joke) by education understands well. Athletique has a spirit, partly woman-empowering and part hippy chic, Athletique first and foremost reminds you at every corner that they totally get you. The store’s staff are more than employees, they are part of the Athletique family. They are valued, empowered and appreciated. Nadia Kamil, the store manager, is an active member of the buying process, bringing her knowledge and experience to the table. Razan, a senior sale executive for the store, is every client’s best friend. She is as approachable as she is credible, as appreciated by clients as she is by the management. Rahaf, still new to Athletique is already proving to be a great addition to the shop. It is clearly an environment of exclusivity and acceptance that has allowed these ladies to thrive.
Another great example of Athletique’s ethos is their Instagram account, with Caroline posting jokes as often as she posts images of stock. A welcome reprieve from the brands that stuff stock down our throats as we innocently scroll through IG. It is that spirit that allows the company to grow year after year.
What we love about Caroline mostly is the fact that she isn’t a snob. With the finest brands at her fingertips and on her shelves, she doesn’t shy away from supporting local designers as well. With her keen eye for good design, Caroline stocks Jordanian brands Chase the Sun and Tanya Naber, and if you think she renegades them to dark corners of the store, you are mistaken. Taking pride of place, these local brands rub shoulders with the Alo’s and Blanc Noir’s of the store.
There is something for everyone at Athletique, not in the mood or need of actual activewear, there is still plenty to try and buy at the store. Fancy a candle by local brand, Qamar wa Shams, some therapeutic crystals courtesy of Sara Sakinah’s Hajar Stones. Or perhaps a state-of-the-art yoga mat by Liforme (if you can find one, she simply can’t keep them in stock). There is always something. For me personally, it is not always product that I am after but conversation. How kind, patient and knowledgable the staff are, answering my questions on what is selling best. Why Alo Yoga of course, it creates the best derriere in town!!