Co-founder and creative director behind the female-founded activewear brand Recess, Paulina is the pinnacle of all things wellness, and has created a world that empowers movement.
Paulina Ortega is the co-founder and creative director behind the female-founded activewear brand Recess, which she launched in the midst of a pandemic in 2020. She is the pinnacle of all things wellness, whose mission is to empower women from all around the world in practicing the things that feel good. Recess directs the fitness dialogue inward, focusing on both the mental and physical wellbeing of others. Her endeavours have created a world that empowers movement and is an inspiration to all that she impacts.
Sip & Savour
As Co-Founder and Creative Director of Recess, an activewear/lifestyle brand, what does wellness mean to you?
Wellness to me is the habit of practicing the things that feel good—whatever that might be. No judgement. These days wellness is making it to Lagree at least 3 times a week, not doomscrolling on Instagram before bed, unplugging from work to have proper meals, and (strangely, at least this week) popping on some italo disco at 730 in the morning.
What has your journey through building the brand/business been like?
It’s been pretty wild! But so, so rewarding. We launched the business in 2020, peak pandemic, when international travel wasn’t possible. So that in and of itself was a huge hurdle to overcome. My partners (like myself) are all Filipino, but are based across Hong Kong, Manila and France, so it was a lot of Zoom calls and having to orchestrate things long-distance.
That said, launching our brand over such a challenging period ultimately gave more meaning to what we were doing. Outside of providing people with activewear, we really built a rich community around sharing ways to feel good with one another. We had contributors from all over the world — people sharing free yoga classes on IGTV, healthy recipes, funny haikus. And building that community really added a whole other dimension to our purpose as a company.
Tell us about your evolving relationship with alcohol. What is a session for you now vs what a session was for you at 21?
Oof. So different. Culturally, Filipinos love to drink. It goes hand in hand with our very hospitable and warm culture. A glimpse of things at 21: lots of tequila, lots of laughter. I drink a lot less these days. Part of it is not being able to recover as quickly anymore. Ha! I prefer to not ‘lose’ a day after a big night. I cherish my clear, quiet mornings.
Is there a particularly embarrassing drunk story you can share with us?
I think I was 21 when a friend and I got on stage at a club in Singapore, to sing to “Walking on Sunshine” along with a live band. We were two petite girls who had a little too many shots. First and only time I was carried out of a club by a bouncer. Funnily enough, we managed to make our way back in. I don’t even like those sorts of places, I don’t know what we were doing there! Youth.
In order to prioritise your mental and physical wellbeing, what are some non-negotiables you live by?
Exercise is a constant for me. To varying degrees (I’m still working on building my strength back up from lockdown). But really, any sort of movement is important to both my mental and physical wellbeing. Getting some sun and time by the beach any chance I get is important to me too. Especially living in Sydney, not much of an excuse to skip the beach.
How do you cultivate balance in your life?
Work-life-balance is an ever elusive thing. Some days feel more balanced than others. And I think key to not losing your mind over it is to accept that ebb and flow, and kind of roll with it. I will consciously switch off after a particularly busy period. But on the daily, I live and breathe by my Google Calendar. Very present when I’m working, very absent (from work) when my Calendar says I’m out.
If you were a drink what would you be and why?
Maybe a lovely little glass of tequila or mezcal on the rocks. Tiny, celebratory, packs a lot of energy. Haha. I also just love a good tequila.
Describe your drunk alter-ego in 3 words
Loves. A. Boogie. (or, also: Loves. To. DJ.)
What is your favourite thing to spend money on at the moment?
Good food. Good drinks. (And unfortunately, still, great shoes).
If you could share a drink with anyone (dead or alive) who would it be?
I am actually crumbling under the pressure of having to just pick one person for this. Permission to come back to you in a month??
What is something that really energises you?
Being on a boat at sea or a beautiful swim.
In your ideal adventure what would you be doing, where would it be, and who would it be with?
I once got on a little boat in Iceland, ploughing through the most stunning seascapes, all while 80s music was being blasted. It was so perfect. And then, the skipper says there were hundreds of orcas on the route we were on, just the day before. I often think about that because I would kill to do it all over again with the orcas. (I have thought about this ideal day before and this has been my answer for years).
What is one thing that always cheers you up?
One song you can’t stop listening to at the moment?
Love for the Sake of Love by Claudia Barry. Which has found its way to my 730am pseudo aperitivo vibe playlist.