As I rushed around trying to find the place I was supposed to be meeting Kate Giles, founder of Crewroom, last Friday, I knew that I was going to be late. But when I finally located where I was supposed to be, Kate did not seem worried at all. I suspect that is an important characteristic when to comes to running a business in the ever-more competitive sports apparel sector: a pretty happy-go-lucky outlook.
It is immediately apparent, however, when one talks to Kate, that when it comes to running her business, she manages to combine an easy-going nature, with a very clear idea of where she wants her business to go.
The Crewroom was born
Kate was a top level rower when she was at university and competed at national and international regattas before retiring to take up a career away from sport. But after a particularly grueling run where she was caught in the rain whilst wearing a cotton top and was so cold and wet that she ended up with pneumonia, she decided to do something and created and launched a technical apparel line. There is little doubt that had Kate not had the background in rowing, that required her to run regularly to keep fit, that she did and a determination to do things a little differently when it came to creating kit, the Crewroom might never have come into existence. But Kate’s ‘lucky’ brush with pneumonia did happen and so the brand was born.
That was eleven years ago and if you have not heard of Crewroom until now, that is not all that surprising. Kate has built her business slowly and steadily, utilizing her links to the rowing world and contacts in other sports and ensuring her love of the outdoors and a real passion for sustainability is built into the DNA of her business.
2013 – the year of bravery
2013 might be about to see a change in Crewroom’s relative anonymity. Kate told me that this year
Crewroom is going to be brave
For Kate, it is the allure of the outdoors and trying to make sport inclusive, that are her drivers. Obviously a competitive sportswomen in her time as a rower, now she is more interested in finding ways that apparel and kit can allow people to enjoy more of the great outdoors for longer, without harming the very environment that she loves being in.
Performance and sustainability
The story of how Crewroom has got into running is interesting: Kate was asked to come up with an idea or two for ways in which the Royal Parks Foundation half marathon could be the most environmentally friendly and sustainable race possible. Kate was told that it was unlikely that her business would be awarded any sort of contract in light of the competition she was up against from the giants of sports apparel, but the organisers were keen to hear what she had to say anyway.
However Kate quickly received an order from the Royal Parks half for 12,000 t-shirts, made from a carbonised bamboo and recycled plastic bottle fabric that Kate had developed and Crewroom were well on their way. Indeed I ran the second edition of the Royal Parks half marathon and still have my stink-free purple t-shirt in my kit cupboard. That was four years ago!
From the boost that Crewroom received from the Royal Parks Foundation order, Kate has gone on to develop more and more environmentally sustainable materials and products. She is at pains to point out that the primary focus is on performance, so all the kit is designed to perform well first and do as little environmental harm as a back-up benefit.
I have not had a chance to try any of the Crewroom products myself; if I do then a review will be forthcoming. But I can say that it was a real pleasure to meet Kate and her team and see some of the range for 2013, which appears to be well thought out. If you want to check out the range yourself, you can on their website or if you are going to the Triathlon Show in Sandown Park from 1-3 March then Crewroom (www.crewroom.biz) will be there with all their running kit on stand D37 (and I’ll be there too, so give me a shout if you’re going – @simon_freeman on twitter)