Ulli Ehrlich, Sportalm, Kitzbühel

Interview Lifestyle Design

Work and lifestyle on the cutting edge. In discussions with contemporary figures we review the assertions, clichés and ideals which circulate around work environments. This time we had a conversation with Ulli Ehrlich. The Head of Design and Managing Director of the Sportalm family business resides in Kitzbühel. She spoke with Marlon Schuhfleck about sources of inspiration, daily challenges and the exciting effect of the colour white.

Since the 1990s, Ulli Ehrlich has given the Sportalm collections their distinctive character. The broad spectrum of their creations ranges from sports clothing to stylish wardrobe staples and playful traditional fashion. She always knows how to bring the regional roots of the family business into an international, modern context. And success has been on her side: By now, Sportalm is one of the most successful companies in the Austrian fashion world.

Traditional, functional, regional, and yet always modern, stylish and international - Sportalms' range bends boundaries.  Ms Ehrlich, how did this very unique company positioning come about?
Traditional dress has always been part of Sportalm's portfolio. When we bought Franz Kneissl, the product range was complemented with ski fashion and then about 10 years ago we took the plunge into fashion. We believe that our alpine lifestyle can be successful anywhere, not just in the mountains. In the meantime, this has developed into a very fashionable clothing collection which we can sell worldwide.

What is a typical day like for a creative designer at Sportalm?  Or is there no such thing as daily routine in your work?
Of course, there is  a daily routine of office work and meetings, but every day is definitely exciting, because we always work on a collection, prepare a trade show or photo shoot. There is always something new to do.

Where does the inspiration for your work come from? Is coincidence your muse or do you have an established source for inspiration?
For the traditional range, we like to fall back on classical things e.g. antique patterns, flea market finds etc.  For ski fashion, we are inspired by Zeitgeist and new material and processing technology. And for fashion, you always need a lot of innovative spirit in order to filter the right thing for us from all the trends.  The great thing is that you can find inspiration everywhere and from everything if you walk through life with open eyes.

What do you think is the greatest challenge in your work?
Bundling that huge amount of information into what is relevant for us. Finding those aspects that are perfect for our customers from the excess on offer. The perfect fabric, the right colours, the best combination etc. It is not always about one's personal taste, but about the brand image.

Are there any places or locations where you are able to be especially productive or where you would like to work?
I really like my office. As much as our collections are often full of decorations, my environment in the company is very plain, it helps me to focus. And despite the fact that Sportalm always uses a huge array of colour, I find the white in my office very relaxing. (Which by the way was designed by Johannes Baar Baarenfels.)

Is your love for design reflected in the design of your office?
The love for design yes, however, the love for detail not so much as mentioned above. 

What would your dream office look like?
I already got it! The only thing which could make it any better is a balcony: I am "fresh air fanatic" and have my window open all day.

What is the most important tool for your work?
My gut and its instinct.

Your plans / desires for the career?
I already got my dream job and I don't follow any ambitious objective, in times like ours so much happens anyway. I have, however, got many plans for Sportalm, we are really only just getting started!

Thank you for the interview. 

Copyright cover image: 2quadr.at/Fotografen


Marlon Schuhfleck

Ulli Ehrlich