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Meet the woman looking to make your gym kit more sustainable

Environmentalism and feminism may seem like two unrelated concepts.

After all, you can be a single-plastic-using, steak-loving, 4×4 driving fiend and still believe that women deserve to have the same rights as men.

That’s until you take a closer look at the fashion industry.

Fast fashion not only takes a toll on the planet by clogging up landfills and using virgin resources that we can ill afford, but it’s also often the product of poorly pain female labour.

That’s before you get to who the stuff is marketed towards; who is guilt-tripped and shamed into believing that they need to continuously buy new clothes to look and feel better? Women, of course.

So it’s not that surprising to find that a sustainability revolution is being headed by women.

Take Regina Polanco, for example. She’s the founder of PYRATES – a smart fabrics label shaking up the fashion industry by creating properly sustainable textiles.

She started the brand back in 2014, inspired by her ‘world-travelling millennial friends who are non-conforming young PYRATES, who lead borderless and adventurous lives’.

Regina tells Metro.co.uk: ‘In a pre-athleisure world where you had to choose between comfort and dressing well, I collaborated with a designer to offer my friends multi-functional clothing, suited for a number of activities such as travelling, business meetings or having drinks with friends.

‘When researching new materials for PYRATES, I became dissatisfied with what the market had to offer – functional but synthetic fabric or natural but less-functional fabrics.

‘I felt strongly that clothing had to evolve with our current standards of innovation.’

So, she went off to do three years of textile research in the lab and came up with PYRATEX® – a sustainable, naturally sourced and multi-functioning fabric. A luxury knit fabric, PYRATEX® is made in Europe from either vegetal, upcycled or biodegradable fibres.

After her first collection was released, Regina quickly found herself inundated with requests from brands looking to make their clothes from the same luxurious, high-functioning fabrics.

Sustainable fashion is here to stay, she tells us – we’ve just got to be patient.

‘Sustainable fashion is still very new and at first, it seemed like another hype trend,’ she says, ‘but we predict it will become the norm as the demand for more eco-friendly alternatives is taking over in many industries, not only the fashion industry.’

PYRATES and other sustainable brands straddle the tech and fashion industries – two notoriously brutal businesses that up until recently, haven’t exactly been renowned for being too female-friendly (despite their clientele).

But the idea of breaking into a traditionally male-dominated industry shouldn’t put women off, Regina says.

‘There is an equal level of opportunity for female entrepreneurs in both the tech and fashion industries. Both are hard to break into because being an entrepreneur is hard-work whatever industry; saying that, both are certainly equally rewarding and welcoming to female entrepreneurs.’

Her main piece of advice for women thinking about starting their own businesses?

‘Go for it! Building a business is hard, but if you are willing to fight for it and put on the hard work, there is no reason why you shouldn’t start your own business.’

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2020 (8 March), Regina has teamed up with ASICS to develop a special yoga capsule collection.

The seven-piece collection has been made from natural fibres coloured with natural, biodegradable dyes derived from plants and minerals like pomegranate, as part of a process which uses a reduced amount of water.

Its packaging is also made from natural and reusable fabrics to further help reduce the adverse impact on the planet and encourage the reuse of the fabric bag.

‘This collection in collaboration with ASICS has been created by women for women,’ she explains.

‘International Women’s Day is very important and sadly still necessary, until the day comes where there is full equality achieved worldwide. Every day is women’s day and we have to keep supporting and celebrating each other as women. Launching a yoga collection with ASICS, who share our vision, is another way to mark women’s strength on International Women’s Day.’