Design & Style
23 April 2021
Design & Style
23 April 2021
When Australian active streetwear label P.E Nation was launched in 2016 by friends and creative partners Pip Edwards and Claire Tregoning, activewear’s role in fashion was in a state of flux. Women, in particular, had begun donning comfortable activewear outside the gym and the market was flooded with labels trying to capitalise on the trend.
What set P.E Nation apart from the pack was Claire and Pip’s belief that women’s activewear wasn’t a passing trend but an upcoming revolution. They understood that busy women were looking to be fashionable, comfortable and unrestricted in their everyday lives.
While their competitors were turning out thousands of pairs of flower-print yoga pants to meet this demand, P.E Nation took a more high-fashion approach. “Other brands were “doing it in a very different way. It was very feminine and not design driven,” explains Claire. Drawing on their decades of combined experience in the fashion industry, the duo created runway-worthy performance pieces with a nod to ‘90s streetwear. “Function and luxury. Putting that into everyday design wasn’t being done,” says Pip.
Don’t let the fashionable designs distract from the performance aspect – P.E Nation’s garments are as powerful as they are stylish. “As much as the pieces are design-driven, they’re functionally driven as well. Tennis, yoga, running, swimming — each has its own technical movement that does dictate a panel line or contrast fabric,” explains Pip.
The fabrication of the designs is something in which the duo have invested heavily. For much of the label’s life, P.E Nation has been quietly working behind the scenes to ensure its garments are produced in the most sustainable way possible.
“When we started, there wasn’t a whole lot of information or fabrications out there that were sustainability-minded. We’re constantly striving to make our product more sustainable. We’ve got 80 per cent of active, completely sustainable. And then things like our tanks and tees use organic cotton and hemps. We’re on the path to doing it as a whole,” says Claire.
Leading by example, P.E Nation has created a ripple effect in the supply chains of the wider fashion industry. “All of our suppliers are certified. They know that we will only work with certain dyes, prints and fabrications. They are on the journey, but we’re educating them as well. And now they’re thinking outside the box and they’re finding things that we wouldn’t have been able to get before,” Claire continues.
“[Thinking sustainably] is normal to our everyday operation. But there’s still always more to do. And we’re on a journey forward,” adds Pip.
For P.E Nation, the pursuit of more sustainable production is intrinsic to the label’s ideals. “We’re inspired by the outdoors. This country thrives on the land and we have to look after that land.”
This year marks five years since the creation of P.E Nation, a milestone that is no small feat in the highly competitive fashion industry. “It’s been a journey of self-development. A culmination of 20 years working in the industry and what that means to us, what that means to our family, how do we evolve as women, and what do we say about women in this space,” explains Pip.
Recently that conversation has expanded and now includes men. “During COVID-19 we realised that we were getting requests from guys who wanted to buy our stuff,” says Claire.
Pip explains: “I feel like women were ahead of men when it came to wearing activewear socially. The lifestyle of women lent itself quite well. Men didn't wear activewear socially – it was for performance only. COVID allowed men to be comfortable all the time and to be ok with wearing leisurewear or performance wear all day.”
The label’s expansion into men’s products is just one example of how Pip and Claire are tapping into the needs of their customers – a key to their ongoing success.
“One of the great things about our brand is that we’re very close to the customer base. We’re in touch and accessible. We, and our social team, keep a close eye on the social media channels. We get messages all the time. My favourite thing to do is talk to our customers,” says Pip.
No matter who they’re speaking to, the feeling Claire and Pip want to give P.E Nation’s customers is the same: “We want them to feel supported from a performance angle, but also in the sense that they look good,” says Pip. “They’re loud and proud to wear it. I think it’s more about being proud of the journey they’re on and what they’re doing, which is kind of the essence of what Claire and I tried to build. It always comes back to community and being inclusive.”
By Mitch Parker