As Bristol-based brand Presca Sportswear – the world’s first climate positive sportswear brand – hires its first creative director, we catch up with Lily Rice and co-founder Rob Webbon to find out all about their core values…
Designing and manufacturing high-performance sportswear that is made ethically and sustainably, the team of cyclists, triathletes and runners at Presca – who are all just as passionate about the world we live in as the sports they love – spend a huge amount of time thinking about how they can be part of the solution, rather than a continuation of the problem. Working to address the issues that determine each piece’s ecological impact throughout its manufacture and lifecycle, the team are always striving to do better.
Honest about their journey and aware that, for now, they’re still a part of an industry that is responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions and over 20% of global water pollution, they are hoping to drive brands in the right direction.
This month, as Presca becomes one of the sponsors for Sustainable Fashion Week – which is set to take place in Bristol from 16-25 September – we caught up with newly-appointed creative director Lily Rice and co-founder Rob Webbon…
TBM: Where did the inspiration for Presca first come from? What did you set out to achieve? Rob: Guy and I spent a lot of time racing together in triathlons and endurance cycling and running events. My background as an environmental scientist made me particularly curious around the impacts of the clothing that we were wearing to race. I recognised that all these clothes came from crude oil and there was a real lack of transparency around how and where they were made. So we set up Presca to lead the sports industry in creating positive climate and social impact through the creation of gear we love and use that stands the test of time.
Lily: Our mission is to make sportswear better. Better made. Better to wear. Better for the planet.
Why did you choose to base the world’s first climate positive sportswear brand in Bristol? What makes the city so special in your opinion?
R: I went to university in Bristol so it’s a place that I know and love, and Lily is a proper West Country lass. Besides that, there are so many reasons to base ourselves here; Bristol was the UK’s first cycling capital, and the European green capital in 2015. The cycling and running scenes are really strong here, and the environment is really important for a lot of the Bristol community. Probably because we’re surrounded by some incredible natural beauty, which is pretty easy to access – there aren’t many cities where you can get onto some amazing trails within minutes of your doorstep.
Tell us about Presca’s circularity approach to making high-performance sportswear and how it uses recycled, renewable and deadstock materials and ethical manufacturing… One of the key principles of circularity is reducing waste so we’ve always looked to use the lowest impact fabrics that we could for our clothing. Initially, we did that through the use of recycled fabrics from plastic bottles and ghost fishing nets and as our product ranges increase we now incorporate renewable fabrics and those from end of line and deadstock materials.
Another aspect of circularity that is less discussed is keeping products in use for as long as possible – this is a great way to affect the impact of that product, as it reduces the need for new products. So we manufacture using the highest quality fabrics and production techniques to ensure our clothing stands the test of time.
We are also designing our garments to be as recyclable as possible and are working with innovative technology providers to look at how we can take these clothes back at the genuine end of their lives and recycle them into new products.
Women’s conscious capsule collection
Men’s conscious capsule collection
Tell us about Presca’s trade-in scheme and how customers can earn credit in store for returning unwanted garments… We have committed to taking responsibility for every garment we have ever made and ever will make. That means that when a customer no longer wants or needs an item of clothing or if it is at its genuine end of life then we will take that product back and re-home re-purpose or, ultimately, recycle it into something new.
As part of that promise we have our trade-in scheme where customers can gain credit towards future purchases by returning their old Presca clothing. This type of approach is being taken by a lot of companies now and cynically a lot of them are doing it just to sell more clothing so we’re taking a different approach to the standard. Instead of credit reducing overtime, which incentivises rapid return of clothing, we have committed to increasing credit for all our garments kept over two years (which is the average lifetime of a piece of clothing). So we’re actively incentivising our customers to hold onto their clothing and keep it in use for as long as possible because longevity is one of the key aspects of sustainability in clothing.
How is Presca adapting kit for those with disabilities? How can customers request adaptations? Sport and being active is for everyone and sportswear shouldn’t be the barrier. To help alleviate this blocker we offer to amend any of our garments for free for anyone with a disability, whether that’s a sleeve or length alteration or something more specific for a wheelchair user. We will also offer this on other brands garments for a small fee. We feel really passionate about inclusivity and not just paying lip service to this but actually creating change.
Tell us about your B Corp status… We began our B Corp application last year, and submitted this spring. We’re aiming for B Corp status because it’s the accreditation that we see as being the most holistic assessment of a company’s sustainability and intentions in the environment and social space. That’s not to say it’s perfect, and some companies who might not on the face of it look particularly sustainable have got accreditation but the key point is about continual improvement and B Corp challenges companies to always be better. The B Corp community is a natural home for Presca and it will help to grow our community. There’s quite a queue to get evaluated by the B Corp analysts so we’re waiting for that at the moment, but we’re very positive that we’re going to be successful.
What do you hope for the future of Presca – and for the future of fashion? We genuinely believe that we are radical in our approach to sportswear and the clothing industry and so to spread our impact as far as possible we need to grow. But that cannot be at the expense of the climate and wider environment. So we’re planning on massively increasing the scope of our workshop repair function and have an ambition to repair one million items of clothing with that service.
Whilst this cost of living crisis is going to be very challenging for so many of us I do believe it’s an opportunity for us all to step back and rethink our buying behaviours. It’s a critical time for us all to recognise that less is more and that buying quality over quantity is much better for our planet, our mental health, and ultimately our wallets.