Interview with Crewroom’s Kate Giles

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I was first introduced to British performance brand Crewroom at the Write this Run bloggers conference back in November. I was immediately impressed by their incredibly technical range and focus on sustainability. I recently got the chance to interview founder Kate Giles and find out a bit more about the brand.

Kate Giles is a former top British rower. One day she was out training in typically awful British weather and not wearing clothes that were ideally suited to the wet conditions, she subsequently fell ill with pneumonia and ended up in hospital with cracked ribs. Since that point she has had a very strong focus on creating exceptional clothes for athletes to protect them from all weathers and enable them to perform to their best, and so Crewroom was formed. I chatted with Kate to find out more.

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Question: Can you tell me a bit about the origins of the company?

Kate: The origins are very much from a rowing background, a lot of people who work here are from a rowing background. We’ve kind of come full circle in that 10 years and have now come back to a boathouse down on the river. As a brand we’re very much about just enjoying going outside.

Q: What was the inspiration behind the brand?

Kate: Inspirations change as you go along. I was rowing for a long time and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, I started following my passion with the kit side of things. I could never really find any fabrics which I liked, they would have been quite abrasive, or cotton t-shirts which performance wise were incorrect. We’ve arrived now at fabrics which have to be soft to the touch, but also highly technical.

We’ve always worked very closely with our customers which we will continue to do. Everything is done very organically, we have to do events, we have to listen to people, we’ve opened up the shop in Putney. It’s a necessity to listen to what people want and what feedback we get and that will always continue as we steadily grow.

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Q: Have you always had a business side?

Kate: We’ve all had to be self sufficient as we rowed, it’s created a high work ethic, to get out there and be a bit creative. Early days, I went from a bakery background with my Dad, to selling cakes down at the rowing club to support my rowing. You get more confident as you get older, and you realise making cakes is very hard work and they go off very quickly, so you find something else. Now the appreciation is in seeing the joy of someone else wearing your kit.

Q: What’s your design process?

Kate: That has changed a lot in the last year, before a lot of it was myself. A couple of years ago we got some students in from the London College of Fashion, one of which is now our head of design. The new Laser range is our first truly designed range. Before I knew the market needed a vest, or a legging, but now we have come up with true ranges and that has all come from them.

Q: What sort of technology are you using?

Kate: In 2008 the Royal Parks asked us to create a sustainable solution for a range for the half marathon. I believed what was sustainable was to be able to wear a garment over and over again and also to make sure it is highly technical. I came up with the bamboo and recycled bottles concept, which worked. We’ve tweaked it along the way and transferred this into the stretch fabric.

It all started with the Royal Parks showing faith in us. They wanted to help other businesses on their way. Now we are in our second year of sponsoring the Royal Parks Ultra so it’s a truly sustainable approach. They put their investment into us and now long term we are trying to put our investment back into them.

Crewroom recently secured a collaboration with new customer Greenpeace, highlighting their environmental credentials. They ship freight, rather than flying orders around the world, in order to minimize their carbon footprint. Each one of the Vapour-X shirts uses about 10 recycled plastic water bottles.  

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Q: Can you tell me more about the brand and sustainability?

Kate: We don’t work with lots of factories, just 2-3, and we heavily invest into those. In our first factory we helped them with orders, put sewing machines in that were needed, we would rather work with the people first. People always talk about the sustainability of the fabric, but they don’t talk about the well-being of the workers. I take an ethical approach, and that’s tied in with the Greenpeace connection.

Anyone can go out there and make something as cheap as possible but you get to the point where you are like why the hell is it that cheap? That’s the reality of it. Not everyone will go for it, but this is what we are doing, we are trying to do the best we possibly can to look after the welfare of everyone we work with.

Q: What makes Crewroom stand out in a saturated market?

Kate: I think it’s a combination. Personality behind the brand is key, we are a hard-working brand. People want to exercise in our products as well as look good. Somebody said about the brand “we like getting dirty and we are a bit quirky”. We enjoy life, and I think that comes across as a brand.

Q: Can you tell me more about the new ranges?

Kate: This is a true year of hard work in getting the elements and laser range out. We’ve done a lot of work on the fabric side. The Laser ranges falls on the back of the refresher range, it’s very urban, with different intricate prints. It is a very city range with technical vapour stretch fabrics.

Slightly in contrast is the elements range, it’s less in your face, it has a feeling of cottons about it, it’s breezy and natural, but it’s also highly technical. It’s perfect for longer runs.

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Q: Do you have a favourite piece from the new ranges?

Kate: I do, it’s the haze vest and I also wear the no fuss leggings all the time for training.

Q: What items from the new ranges are good for this summer heatwave?

Kate: Both the ranges are. The laser range has traditional Vapour X technology, people psychologically prefer that tech feel, it’s got UV protection, and is quick drying. With the elements range people may not be aware that it’s highly technical as it feels so natural. Our hats and long sleeves also have UV protection for summer sun.

Q: Do you have new collections coming out later in the year?

Kate: Lots of hard work has gone into the new ranges, so we will see newer pieces for each range into autumn, with jackets, leggings, and on the back of that there will be slotting in of more winter products. In spring there will be a migration through, with some overlap.

Q: Have you thought about taking Crewroom abroad?

Kate: I have done. I was foolish a few years ago and went too quickly, we need to be fully established in the UK first. I’m selling a little bit in the States and we’ve done well when I’ve been over to Australia as well. I think to open up properly in Australia would be a natural move for us. Our stuff has an Aussie, surfing feel about it anyway.

Q: What’s the next step for Crewroom?

Kate: It takes time to build a brand. We’ve had a good 10 years in industry so people trust us. Brighton half marathon this year for us was fantastic, the store and on-line are also doing really well. The next step for us will be opening more of a mainstream shop. We will be opening a pop up in the exchange in October, and hopefully we will open a true store there in the new year and then possibly somewhere else in London or South East. It’s been a pretty good year!

Crewroom run breakfast run clubs every Saturday from their base in Putney, which is a great way to get to know the brand and join in on a social run on the weekends. I’m hoping to get over to one in the next few months.

You can buy Crewroom gear online, or in store in Putney, which is great as you can also have a chat to the staff and find out more about the brand and ranges.

* Catch up with Crewroom (www.crewroom.biz) at the London Triathlon Expo 2014, on Saturday & Sunday, August 2 & 3 at the ExCeL Centre, east London, where the team will be on stand 32 exhibiting their brand new ranges.

 

Photo Credit to Pandora’s Thoughts Photography.

Berlin Marathon Training Week 7

This week started as last week ended, no running, lots of pain/stiffness and masses of frustration. Thankfully it did pick up towards the end of the week, and there is finally some running to report!

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Mon: Rest Day
Tues: TFBR Upper Body Weights/Core + 4 mile Walk
Weds: Rest Day: Hip Opening Yoga + 3.6 mile Walk
Thurs: 4 mile Run (Yay) + TFBR Lower Body Weights/Core + 3.6 mile Walk
Fri: TFBR Metabolic Blaster (Upper Body weights + Hiit cardio) + 5 mile Walk
Sat: 10 mile Long Run (Yay)
Sun: TFBR Body Blast Circuits

I got back into The Fat Burn Revolution this week after taking a week off weights, I definitely felt a bit more rejuvenated and excited for the workouts this week. I did all the weight workouts, and a very sweaty body blast circuit workout, but no furnace workouts this week as I didn’t want to push my leg. I did the upper body workouts earlier in the week when my leg was playing up, and once it was a bit better later in the week managed to get the leg workout in as well.

I have one more week of Phase 2, and then it’s onto phase 3 for the first time ever- excited to see what is in store!

After the disaster of so many failed runs last week, I didn’t even want to test my leg out early in the week. I was so frustrated, and didn’t want to put myself mentally/physically through another failed effort, so on Wednesday I laced my trainers up, decided I wasn’t quite ready and didn’t want to risk it so took another rest day. I also stupidly burnt my leg with an ice pack, it was so painful, and looks pretty hideous right now!

I tentatively headed out on Thursday and thankfully there was a big improvement, it wasn’t pain/niggle free, but I was actually able to run, unlike last week where the pressure was so great in my calf that I couldn’t physically run.

Right now I’m not risking running 2 days in a row, my body seems to be taking an age to recover between runs, and I don’t want to rush back into it. If this means I can only run 3/4 times a week, then so be it, I’d rather be able to run 3 times a week than not at all!

I headed out for a long run on Saturday, I’m so concious of the injury that I really didn’t know what to expect. I knew I would stop if there was any pain or pressure, but other than that I just wanted to see how far I could go and how the body felt. I had in my mind to aim for around 10 miles, other than the 2 half marathons in the last few weeks that is my longest training run to date, so I thought it would be a good tester. I’ve actually missed going for long training runs, as much as I love racing and running with others, sometimes I just want to shut off and be by myself!

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I felt good during the run, the only real twinges were when going up/downhill, my calf felt OK and it was only my left knee that was niggling. I headed out really early on Saturday but it was still so hot/humid, it was tough going. I feel like I’ve lost a lot of fitness over the last few weeks with the injury, so I was flagging a bit towards the middle and end, but I just pushed on and was happy to be out there enjoying running again. I also had one of these 33 Shake chia gels for the first time, they are amazing. Like a portable chia pudding. I loved the flavour, they were easy to use and no digestive issues at all. The ingredients are awesome too!

I’m still going to see my physio today, as I don’t want this issue to continue flaring up whenever I push things harder. I’m continuing to take running steady, checking in with myself and how the body feels each morning before committing to a run, and of course stretching/yoga-ing as much as possible!

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We’ve had a super busy week as all our stuff has been taken into storage for the move, packing the house up this week (in the 30 degrees temp), and sorting out the hideous overgrown garden has been grim, and actually a workout in itself. This is gross but I’ve never sweated as much in my life as I did on Sat when packing. Hard work! Thankfully everything has gone now, and we’ve got professional cleaners coming in to deep clean the house today, saving us another sweaty job! We will be moving out on Weds :( and I’m hoping to get in one or two more Angel canal runs before we leave! We are staying in Stokey with my brother for a bit, so not too far away anyway.

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As all our stuff has been taken, it’s been very simple and easy food for the last week. I’ve actually been eating fully raw for the last 6 days as I can’t face cooking and have no ingredients/utensils/cookware. I kept the Vitamix unpacked so I’ve been living off smoothies, salads, raw soups and loads of watermelon! I’m feeling really good, it just seems so right to eat this way while the temperatures are this hot! Hope to continue on with it while we are moving around in between moves over the next few weeks!

Ilu Fitwear Review

If there is one thing I wish I could live in-other than my pyjamas- it would be workout clothes! There are an increasing number of brands trying to make this a reality with a launch into fashion-fitwear. For me performance really comes first with regards to workout clothing, but there is an increasing drive towards so called “active-wear”.

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I was recently contacted by Ilu fitwear, and introduced to the brand, as well as sent some of their lovely items to try out. Ilu is suitable for all fitness activities, as well as everyday wear- more time in workout clothes=win.

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The Ilu concept was born in 2013 by Sonya Morton-Firth and Mary Moran, who shared a passion for health, fitness and fashion and wanted to combine the lot. They are a fashion brand with a fitness twist, designed for women with a an active lifestyle that blurs the lines between exercise, daily life and play time too!

Ilu is the Estonian word for beauty, and they want to help women to feel beautiful inside and out using their clothing range and community of holistic health and well-being professionals and enthusiasts.

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Ilu launched their first range late last year with technical sports fabrics, lots of bright colours and fashionable styles that are both functional and sophisticated.

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I was sent the Sporty Compression Leggings which are designed to give ultra-support, as well as enhancing body shape. The colour contouring on the sides creates a slimming silhouette. They use integrated triathlon technology to ensure they can be used indoors/outdoors- whatever your activity. I haven’t tried these out yet as I live in shorts during the summer, but they will be getting a thorough testing once the weather gets a bit cooler.

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I was also sent the Sporty Uplifter, which is a sports bra but I think works really well as a top for summer. The bra is constructed with triple layer technology for uplifted shape and support. It’s really soft and comfortable as well as sweat wicking which is essential! For me personally I would need a bit more support from a sports bra, so I wore this on top of my regular sports bra, and it is perfect in this heat!

There is an increasing demand for active-wear, and Ilu certainly fits into this area. Ilu produce a full range of sports bras, tops and leggings suitable for any interests, that can take you from day/night.

 

Disclaimer: I was sent the clothes for review, all opinions are my own.

 

Berlin Marathon Training Week 6

Well this post is a total contrast to my last marathon training update. I have done zero running this week, apart from two runs abandoned at 0.9 and 0.4 miles. My calf/knee injury has flared up yet again, and I am slowly reaching the end of my patience with it.

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Berlin training has been very stop/start, I feel like I’ve missed more weeks of training that I’ve run so far. This is the 2nd week out of the last three that I’ve done absolutely no running, and it’s super frustrating. I’m not so much worried about the distance, as I know I have that in my legs, it’s just that this problem keeps flaring up and I wonder how I’ll get through the rest of training if it continues.

 

I’m having to reassess my goals, as I really wanted a solid training period and focus on this marathon so I could go for a massive PB, unfortunately I’m missing so much training, that I think I’m going to have to settle for just getting round the course, and I’ve kind of accepted that. What difference does it make if it’s slower than I want to be, I’m going to be running a marathon in one of my favourite cities! I missed several weeks of training in the run up to Manchester, and it was painful, but I still got round!DSCF3982

I was hoping this week the injury would gradually improve like it did the week before last, but actually it doesn’t seem to be. I’ve been doing a lot of walking and stretching, but haven’t tried to run again since mid week. I know earlier in the year I would have probably run through the pain and carried on instead of taking a week off, but I’m just not in a place mentally where I can push through it any more, especially as I know I’m just going to make it worse, and risk being out longer. What is most frustrating is that I’ve been running for 5 years and I’ve barely had an injury problem before this year! It’s like everything has come one after the other, and I’ve never been fully right since the injury in Feb/March.

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Today was my first ever DNS for a race, I was supposed to do the National Lottery Anniversary run having won a place on Twitter, but I had my sensible cap on and decided against it due to the knee pain. I was annoyed not to run the race, but I would have been more annoyed if I had paid for it- and may even have dragged myself round which would have been incredibly stupid.

I’ve taken a week off TFBR this week also, I did one workout earlier in the week, but I didn’t want any jumping/leg weights to aggravate the problem, so I thought I would take a week off exercise completely. I usually get burned out around week 8 or so of a weights program anyway, so I thought taking a week off at the half way point (week 6) might see me finishing the program stronger as well.

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I think what’s most annoying about this injury is that I’m not even running that much or particularly big mileage compared to earlier in the year. If I hadn’t already paid for Berlin (race, flights, hotel) I would most definitely pull out as I need some time away from running, to let my body rest and repair whatever is going on. Hopefully I can get to the bottom of this soon, and it starts to improve, or this could be a pretty grim training period in the run up to Berlin.

Healthy Vegan Snacking

I’m a major snacker, whether I’m out and about, studying, or just at home I love snacking in between meals. I tend to have smaller meals, and I do get hungry in between, so like to have a snack to keep my energy up through the day. I sometimes snack in the morning and I almost always snack in the afternoon, and if I’m marathon training then I’m snacking all day!

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Some of my favourite snacks are pieces of fruit/dried fruit with a handful of nuts, veggie dippers/oatcakes with hummus, avocado with hemp seeds, home-made energy bars/balls, chia pudding and smoothies.

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I like to make home-made snacks, but sometimes that’s not always possible, or they are difficult to transport, or I forget to pack one, in that case I know there are great brands like Nakd that I can rely upon when I am out and about and need to grab something quickly. I love food with simple ingredients, and these really hit the spot. They are super easy to transport, and don’t get all mushed or squished when they are in your bag for weeks on end either. I usually have one hiding in a bag somewhere just in case! They have a great website which usually has some good offers and also has a great little guide on Veganism for beginners. When I first discovered them, Cashew Cookie was my favourite, then I went onto a Berry Delight phase, then Rhubarb and Custard and now Cocoa Mint is my new fave! Do you have a favourite?

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I recently won a whole box of these Cocofina bars on Claire’s blog, and they are so delicious, again super simple ingredients: oats, dates, raisins and coconut and they are easy to transport. Win!

chia podsOther favourite snacks to grab when I am out and about are chia pods, kale chips, coyo and of course what could be simpler than fruit! There are plenty of healthy options to grab on the go, and that means if you haven’t already packed a healthy snack you should easily be able to find one!

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Being in the middle of a house move I am going to be relying on more shop bought snacks for a while, and it’s safe to say I have enough bars to get me through it! I think I could open a shop ha!

What are your favourite snack foods?

 

Disclaimer: I was sent the Nakd bars in exchange for a review, all opinions are my own.