Sportalm Kitzbuhel is a family run business. It offers wonderful mountain styling blended with international fashion and using innovative performance fabrics.
The company started in 1953 as a knitwear company. In 1973 ski wear was included in the range of products and in 1976 Wilhelm Ehrlich was made Managing Director of the company. To cut a long story short, in 1980 he bought the company and in his and his family's hands the business has grown substantially and now employs over 250 people. The head office is still in Kitzbuhel and that is where 170 of the current staff work. Not a bad place to work surrounded with a backdrop of beautiful mountains and the lively charming village.
Ulli Ehrlich started helping her father in the early 90s and has been heavily involved in design ever since. We're big fans of Sportalm and so are our customers. We took a moment to ask Ulli a few questions. We are sure you'll find it interesting but think some of the answers won't surprise you, especially her loyalty to her location!
Winternational: Hi Ulli we know you grew up in Kitzbuhel.
Ulli: The heart of the Alps!
Winternational: How old were you when you first skied and where was that?
Ulli: I started in Carinthia in Austria at the age of 3 or 4.
Winternational: And your favourite ski resort?
Ulli: Sorry but it's Kitzbuhel!
Winternational: No surprises there Ulli! You work closely with your family members and we wonder if they inspire or annoy you. Or both! We'd love to be a fly on the wall at some meetings. You were honoured in the Leading Ladies Awards by Madonna Magazine in 2010. Do you get your entrepreneurial spirit from your family?
Ulli: We lived 15 years beside the company. I grew up with it and it's in my blood.
Winternational: That's understandable. Guess it just becomes part of you after a while. It must be such an amazing job, heading design at Sportalm. What do you love most about it?
Ulli: The variety, it's never the same, it's never getting boring and you can work with so many inspiring people all over the world.
Winternational: Including customers...Sportalm is sold in 21 countries worldwide. That must make you so proud.
Ulli: Yes but I'm really happy after our catwalk show in Berlin every season.
Winternational: To keep creating and designing, it must be a real challenge. Who or what inspires you? From the world of art/architecture/music or literature?
Ulli: Everything is influencing a creative person. You just can't stop having ideas the moment you see something interesting. And of course the whole world of arts is important for fashion...We understand a "Made in Austria" as an obligation. We want to make high quality fashion.
Winternational: Whose look on or off the piste do you most enjoy?
Ulli; I adore Iris Apfel (even if she doesn't know how to ski!) I appreciate it a lot when people get personal style. That's what we are doing as well, creating a complete own style which cannot be compared to any other ski brand.
Winternational: Despite what you have just said about individuality, do you feel that ski wear trends are influenced by fashion trends too?
Ulli: Not in every collection but in ours for sure sometimes. Sportalm brings the catwalk on the slopes, what we do is really Ski Fashion. The styles look in fashion but they are also produced with the highest knowledge of technology in our own production centres in Europe. We get Know How in our own hands which is quite exceptional.
Winternational: And of course it explains the European feel to the collections too. What can you tell us about this year's collection?
Ulli: Retro is a big influence. Some old fashioned looks celebrating the sixties with slim fit and Loden details, embroidered badges and classical colours or the nineties with volume and brightness and strong colours. Colour blocking and psychedelics.
Winternational: And finally Ulli, you've skied hard all morning, what is your favourite lunch to eat at a mountain restaurant?
Ulli: It's Kaspressknodel, a typical Tyrolean dish, hard to explain but worth trying!
Winternational: It's a sort of cheese dumpling with onions and parsley, yes we love it too! (We have to admit we love Ulli even more now...after all, what's not to love about a fashion designer who admits to eating cheese and carbs!)