“We started our sustainability journey in the first year”
P.E Nation’s co-founder Claire Tregoning on closing the loop
By Jenny Ringland
Claire Tregoning is the co-founder and creative director of cult Australian athlesiure label P.E Nation. And if you own a pair of P.E tights, it’s her you can thank for their sweat-wicking, figure-hugging amazingness. But what you might not know about P.E’s entire multi-faceted range of active streetwear is, that when they launched the cult brand back in 2016, they also began their sustainability journey. Fast forward four years and Claire and her co-founder Pip Edwards are finally beginning to talk about it.
“When we first started, even before we launched, we were talking to Cotton Australia about using their organic cottons, but with activewear fabrications there is a lot to consider, they’re mainly made out of nylon and polyester which is possibly the worst fibre you can potentially use, and given we are manufacturing out of China, trying to source fabrications that no one knew about was really difficult,’’ Claire says.
“So we started our sustainability journey the first year, but it took two years before we actually started to see it coming through in the product, and now I feel quite proud of where we are at; almost 90 per cent of our activewear alone is recycled polyester or nylon and all our t-shirting is either organic cotton, hemp or linen.’’
P.E’s recent launch of their first stand-alone snow line (previous lines have been in collaboration with other brands, such as DC) is sustainable, with its outer shell layers made from 80 per cent recycled nylon, and the interior insulating wadding made from recycled polyester. Claire says the zippers are the only element not made from a recycled material, but her ultimate long term aim is for the entire garment to be 100 per cent sustainable.
Given sustainability has been part of P.E’s fabric from the start, in addition to sustainability focussed garments, the brand also partners with I-change, donating $1 of every sale to your choice of three charities. They use The Better Packaging Company’s biodegradable packaging and is currently renovating it’s head office to be an eco space. So why has it taken so long for them to talk about being, in their words, ‘a Conscious Nation’?
“Our customers are very vocal, they tell us exactly what they want, the first conscious collection we did was really, really successful. I think we sold out within two days. I think at that point we only had three legs and three products and the response was amazing, just people saying, thank you, and give us more,’’ Claire says.
“I think maybe we didn’t realise how important it was to our customers.’’
One of Claire’s ultimate aims is to develop a natural fibre for their leggings, which will negate the need for polyester and nylon altogether, however nothing exists as yet that bridges both fashion activewear and performance activewear.
“We’re talking to this amazing manufacturer in New Zealand who works with wool. They’ve had huge successes with a lot of ski apparel, they have this new wool spinning technology and it’s quite phenomenal,’’ she says.
“They’ve got all the sweat-wicking and quick drying technology, but it’s in a lighter fiber that doesn’t lend itself to being completely opaque, or being able to splice with other colors or fabrications because it’s not a similar structure.”
Ultimately closing the loop is another long term goal for the brand, but Claire stresses the point of being on an ongoing sustainability journey and realising that, ‘no-one can do it perfectly from the get-go’.
“It is an ongoing journey, technology is changing constantly for the better and there are so many new things coming out to explore,’’ she says.
At home Claire says her P.E sustainability journey has had a huge impact on the way she lives her life, acknowledging that it was the launch of the brand that made her realise the huge and long-lasting impact the fashion industry, and in particular activewear fabrications has on the planet.
“Going deep into that research has taken me on a full journey of trying to be as plastic free in our household and obviously in the office and doing the best we can for P.E,’’ she says.
“Tim’s (Claire’s husband) on the journey as well. Everyone’s got a keep cup and we are buying organic. We are getting local deliveries, locally grown and all that kind of stuff. So we’re trying our best. Again, that’s another journey which needs hurdling, which needs attention too.’’