Emma, tell me more about Tribe Sports.
Tribe Sports is the first British 360-degree sustainable running apparel brand. We create sustainable, high performance running kit that endures every step - without costing the earth.
Where did Tribe Sports begin?
It was originally founded in 2010 as an online community inspiring people to get active. Over time, we grew our community to over 250,000 members across 130 countries before moving into creating high quality performance running apparel, guided by feedback from our community.
What does Tribe Sports stand for now?
Sustainability has always been an important issue for me. My background is in fashion and I have seen first hand the damage that fast fashion does to our planet - I wanted to do things differently at Tribe Sports. In 2020, we launched as a 360 degree sustainable running brand with the message: For the Love of the Run, For the Good of the Planet. It’s about taking a stand to protect the environment we love to run in today, for the generations to come.
So who is Emma? Have you always been a runner?
I’m the Managing Director here at Tribe Sports, having joined the company in 2016. I first got into running aged 18 and I absolutely love it - I used to run 6 miles home from work and have run several half and full marathons. Since having my kids, it’s a little harder to run as far as I used to! A steady goal of mine is to be able to run half-marathon distances again, but for now I mostly stick to 10ks.
How big a team is behind Tribe Sports?
We’re a small team - but perfectly formed! Even though we’re all working remotely at the moment and juggling challenges such as home schooling, we always work in a very collaborative way. No day is ever the same!
Where do you like to run? Do you have any recommendations?
I love running around the local trails where I live in Cranleigh, Surrey - it’s a beautiful part of the world and I’m lucky to have so much countryside to explore nearby. Most of the team live in the surrounding areas and the Surrey Hills and South Downs are right on our doorstep.
How important do you think it is to be a part of a community?
Community has always been at the heart of what Tribe Sports stands for - it’s where we first started and something that still guides us to this day. Being a community means being part of a shared purpose. Our Tribe love to run, but they care about the environment they run in and want to do their bit. It’s that shared purpose that makes our community.
Under the current circumstances, I think it’s something that has never been more important. The challenges we’ve all faced over the last year have shown how crucial it is for people to stay connected with people around them and the positive impact those communities have on our lives. It’s so important for our wellbeing!
Do you think communities can also work just as well remotely?
Communities can definite exist remotely, you can have a positive impact on someone and be halfway around the world or next door. It's sharing with likeminded people where ever they might be and this inclusiveness is so important right now. When you feel part of something then I believe you feel less lonely.
What lead you to pivot to using more sustainable materials in your products?
As a mother to two young boys, I’ve always been mindful of the legacy we are leaving for our kids, so I wanted the business to focus on what we could do for our planet and communities. In the end, we have brought back the best bits of the original community inspired Tribe, but with sustainable, performance running kit. I know from my experience in fashion that the apparel industry and especially synthetic fabrics are some of the worst pollutants, so I was mindful of doing things differently at Tribe Sports. Its about making smarter choices.
You talked about Tribe Sports being a 360 degree sustainable company - what does this mean?
A 360 degree sustainable approach means making the best sustainable choices for all aspects of the company. We have full control over what we do, so why not think consciously about the effect of each decision. This is important because we want to practice what we are preaching! If it’s important throughout the company, then it will come out in every touch point with a customer. We want to be fully embedded as a sustainable company. Also, I believe each decision does have an impact, even if it’s small now. I think the more people make conscious sustainable decisions, the bigger the impact will be.
What could 360 degrees of sustainability mean to an athlete?
I think it comes back to making positive choices. There’s small changes we can all make as runners which will ultimately have an impact. It could be using a reusable water bottle instead of a disposable plastic bottle, or car sharing to your regular running club meetup instead of all driving there separately (in normal circumstances of course!). It's also important to consider the brands you're buying from as a consumer and what practices you are choosing to support. No one is 100% perfect all of the time, but it's about making steps towards those changes.
What makes your signature Endure collection 'sustainable'?
The Endure collection is made out of plastic waste. We use three innovative fabrics: Eco Tech Light, Eco Tech Form and Eco Tech Woven. Both Eco Tech Light and Form are made from ECONYL, which is regenerated nylon from rescued waste materials. The Eco Tech Woven is made from Repreve yarns who are the industry leaders in recycling plastic bottles into regenerated polyester. Both fibres can be recycled indefinitely without losing their quality. So the more we use these fabrics, the less we will have to make virgin nylons. Once the kit reaches the end of its life, it can be sent to our recycling programme where it will be broken down, respun and made into new kit, creating a circular economy and helping to close the loop on unnecessary waste.
Have you had any pushback against using recycled plastics?
I think there’s sometimes the perception that recycled plastics will be scratchy, rough or uncomfortable to wear - that couldn’t be further from the truth. Personally, I think our Endure range is the softest, most comfortable kit we have ever produced. People always comment on how soft the fabric is and how well it holds its shape. Recycled fabrics doesn’t mean compromising on performance, comfort or quality - if anything, we’ve found it enhances those features.
Of the whole collection - what is your standout piece of kit?
A real standout product for me is our Endure Tee - the material is like silk and so fluid in it’s movement. It really moves with you as you run. It’s infused with anti-odour technology, which means you rarely need to wash it. It’s also incredibly versatile - our Eco Tech Light fabric is super lightweight, so it’ll keep you cool during the summer and provide a great base layer during winter. And it’s such a gorgeous colour!