dryad running - our thoughts on sustainability - illustration by jessica noble

Illustration by Jessica Noble | @jcndesign

The S Word

Banks. Car makers. Big brewers. Microscopic brewers. Tech giants. Home appliance manufacturers. People who make crisps, and even governments. They're all using the 'S' word in their communications.

At Dryad, we believe that if you're in business now (any business) you shouldn't have to really even mention sustainability. Sustainable practices should be built in to your product design, operations and hopefully your philosophy from the get-go.

In fact, those that shout about it loudest - the big corporations, because they have the biggest platforms - might just be doing it to cover the sound of frantic back-pedalling. Maybe.

We're certainly not perfect, and we're learning every day. But we have set out with the intention to at least try and do things responsibly.

So what does sustainability mean to Dryad?

We feel sustainability as a word is getting played out; when a large corporation launches one sustainable product and doesn’t address the rest of the issues in their supply chain, then that is just green-washing. Seasonality, fast fashion and cheap manufacturing place a burden on people and the planet.

It should go without saying that all our packaging is recycled/recyclable or compostable, our energy supply is renewable, and our textiles are manufactured responsibly with the well-being of the workers - the people actually making the clothes - taken into account.

At Dryad we would rather talk about integrity. We make sure that every decision we make is the right thing to do - we will probably make mistakes but we will learn from these. Talking about sustainable materials puts the emphasis on the products, but there is so much more that needs to be considered. We want Dryad to operate with integrity in our value chain, and we want to ensure that the people who manufacture our products - from the workers at the textile mills through to the machinists at the manufacturers are treated fairly. Downstream we want our consumers to understand our decisions and feel assured about the products they purchase. We want to give back to our community and we want you to feel involved.

The most sustainable clothes
are the ones you already own.

The most sustainable clothes are the ones you already own, but when they wear out we would like you to consider us. We don’t intend to launch new styles frequently, we won’t be changing everything every season. We will grow our range but our business model is not based on growth at all costs, it’s about doing the right thing with integrity, and engaging our community on the journey. Our first clothing range is manufactured from recycled fabrics, with simple designs created to be timeless, in colours that should complement other items in your kit, and our branding is subtle. The manufacturing processes that have been used allow for repairability, and we've avoided using multiple fabrics in single garments as this makes recycling at end-of-life much harder.

All items in our first range are made from different types of post-consumer and pre-consumer recycled polyester. We are aware of issues around micro-plastics, so we advise washing your clothes less, on cooler settings, and using a laundry bag or washing machine filter to mitigate this. We haven’t ruled out natural fibres going forward, but wanted to steer away from virgin fibres initially.

We have an advantage over the established industry giants; we're small, we know where everything we produce comes from, we know why we have made that decision and will happily tell you if you ask. We originally wanted to manufacture our products in the UK to minimise our impact, but that just isn’t possible at this time - to date there hasn't been the level of investment in the UK textiles and manufacturing industry to produce the best quality sportswear - hopefully this will change in the near future, but we are very pleased in the meantime to be partnering with one of the best manufacturers in the business. We had to look further afield for textiles; one of our partners is based in Taiwan, over 6,000 miles from Abergavenny where we're based.

So, as an ethical organisation, how do we justify the environmental impact of shipping fabric such a great distance? Well, we did struggle with the carbon emissions from the shipping, but seeing the investment and technology our partner was putting into creating sustainable fabrics, and their plans going forward, made the decision to purchase from them an easy one. We want to support organisations that are sustainable and innovative; the fabric in our Eido short and a certain special piece coming in 2022 - is fantastic quality - we think you'll understand why we made these decisions.

We have big ambitions to deliver as a purpose-driven organisation and intend to become a B Corp, but firstly we need to become a stable profit-making business - we look forward to sharing our plans with you going forward.

We're a new little start-up talking about sustainability, whilst asking you to buy our products, but what is already clear is that consumers will inevitably keep buying things. We, like every other sportswear business hope to keep making, promoting and growing our business. We have a call of action to you as consumers: please unite behind the best brands and the best businesses, hold us to account to become the best we can be, and help us grow with integrity and purpose.

Cribyn by Caitlin Turner | @caitlinfturner