Pia Muehlenbeck’s considerable social media following (not to mention her ease in swimwear most would only dream of wearing) belies a commercial savvy well beyond her years. Along with her partner Kane Vato, Muehlenbeck lives and breathes the kind business acumen that has seen her turn a one-time passion project into a luxe sportswear label and a staggering international fanbase. Founded on simple sportswear and a sustainable ethos, their label SLINKII Athletic has evolved into a rapidly expanding business with even grander designs.
Born in Reutlingen, Germany, Muehlenbeck’s formative years were spent a world away – figuratively and literally – from the kind of scenarios you might have encountered her in before today.
A self-professed tomboy more inclined toward catching tadpoles and collecting snails than wearing dresses, Muehlenbeck and her family relocated to the Gold Coast, Australia, where she was quickly forced to learn a new language after being thrust into a new school at only eight years old. Demonstrating astute early adopter tendencies, Muehlenbeck not only mastered her second language within months but went on to become the exemplary academic (and touch football captain). Eventually graduating at the top of her class in high school, Muehlenbeck earned a scholarship to Bond University to study law and communications.
But it was a fortuitous email exchange concerning a prospective modelling job that would not only introduce Muehlenbeck to her now partner – in business as in life – Kane Vato, but also change the course of her life. As Muehlenbeck tells it, “At the time I was doing some TV presenting and he needed a presenter. We had this amazing banter over email for two weeks until one day he asked me to breakfast. The next day he flew to Queensland to have breakfast with me on the beach before flying back at midday.”
What followed was a year of “insanity” spent balancing work, study and long distance. It was the relationship, however, that eventually won out over a job in real estate sales and studying at Bond. Muehlenbeck eventually moved interstate, transferring to Sydney’s University of Technology to complete what would become a first class honors thesis on advocate’s immunity laws. Encourage by Vato to pursue a creative outlet whilst working as a junior lawyer at Kardos Scanlanto, Muehlenbeck began writing a blog called Slinkii. Originally a destination for content like homemade salt scrub recipes, Slinkii soon evolved into both a full-time preoccupation for Muehlenbeck and inspired the catalyst for her initial business venture. Whilst researching for an article on the best yoga mats, Muehlenbeck discovered that most were made from PVC – a non-biodegradable substance – and set about creating a prototype that emulated the best qualities of a traditional foam mat but was made with none of the environmentally unsustainable practices that are involved in their manufacturing.