We were all keen sportspeople and we realised that we were in fact advertising boards for brands when we were out and about.
We originally founded GRN Sportswear in 2014, and then one of the partners, Rob Webbon, searched for sustainable sportswear on Google and nothing came up. So we thought, with Rob’s background in sustainability and my background in start-ups, why don’t we have a look at doing something ourselves? And find out what would happen if we made performance-wear with completely sustainable and ethical materials, but that the kit was as good as any performance-based kit out there.
Around Christmas 2016, we realised we could make this a viable business.
There was the need and the want for it, so we decided to go full-time. But we had to rebrand because GRN was a mix of performance and leisure-based clothing, so essentially we split the business. GRN Leisure is now ethical clothing for leisure (bamboo t-shirts and the like), while Presca Teamwear is bespoke, performance-based pro-level cycle, triathlon and swimming kit.
We work with sustainable materials made from recycled sources like plastic bottles and fishing nets.
You melt it down into pellets, which is then woven into a yarn; the yarn is then mixed with something called elastane, which is essentially a lycra-based material, that gives it that stretch. The way it becomes performance-based is the weave of the material – so how it breathes is based around the way the yarn and the lycra are mixed together.
Sustainability is at the heart of the business.
We don’t hold massive amounts of stock; we make our clothes to order, and that’s a bit of an education process in a market where people are used to fast-fashion. We’re trying to say the best things come to those who wait. The kit is made in a bespoke manner, and we’re not going to mass produce it – we’re only going to supply what’s needed, when it’s needed. It’s a good thing from a profit perspective, as it lets you manage your overheads, but also from a sustainable and ecological standpoint – you get the best quality kit, but it’s not at the expense of the environment.
Our kit is better than other kit out there.
In terms of the process, we use 90 percent less water and 63 percent less energy. But if you compare the actual performance of the kit against the top brands, it holds up very well, because the core material is essentially the same, it’s just made from recycled materials. The Vitus Pro Team have just taken it on board, and they’ve worked with us extensively to get the best sustainable materials out there, but we only use the ones that perform extremely well. We’ve got top riders wearing our kit, and these guys wouldn’t wear it if it wasn’t as good as, if not better than, what’s out there at the moment.
If people think the problem is so big that they can’t change it, they probably won’t.
The one thing that scares people is when an issue seems like too big to solve. But if you do little bits at a time, then those little bits make a huge difference. What we’re trying to do with our brand is make consumers realise that you don’t have to make massive changes – it’s the small changes that will make the biggest difference. Localise it: by putting something in the recycling bin as opposed to a landfill bin, will that make a difference? Actually it will. If 100 people do that, then that’s 100 small changes which will lead to making a bigger difference.
Right now we’re looking at moving into the retail sector.
Since we launched the Vitus partnership, the interest has been incredible – we’ve taken people on and we’ve had additional investment to allow us to grow. We’re currently only web-based, but we’ve had enquiries from a few larger retail brands and outlets that we’re looking to start to partner with.
We’re blessed because we’re based in Middlesbrough.
I love going cycling anywhere in North Yorkshire. I’m literally a 10 minutes from the North York Moors, in this amazing countryside. It’s funny because I’ve cycled in quite a few places but I still think cycling five minutes outside my front door is the best location in the world.