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Brecon Beacons sportswear brand takes a stand against disposable fashion

Dryad Founders Joby Barnard & Matt Thomas

The appetite for cheap, disposable and convenient clothing is undoubtedly growing; according to recent statistics, the UK fashion market is projected to reach a revenue of £60.17bn in 2022. At the same time, it’s thought that fast fashion’s emissions will rise by over 50% by 2030.

Whilst experts are calling for urgent action to reduce the industry’s impact on the planet; big brands are still catering to consumer demand for low prices and benefiting from apathy towards sustainable and ethical credentials. However, below the surface lies the lesser discussed problem of supply chain exploitation and how it disproportionately harms women.

When Matt Thomas founded Dryad, a brand of sustainable sportswear exclusively for women, in 2020 alongside design expert Joby Barnard, this was one of the issues he pledged to tackle.

Aside from using recycled fabrics, compostable packaging and sustainable manufacturers, Dryad has committed to making their supply chain fully transparent to ensure fair practice and representation of women, and also to raising awareness of the mass exploitation of garment workers within the wider industry.

With a 16-year background in climate finance and sustainability, it may be no surprise that the environment would be one of the driving forces behind Matt’s business venture, although it was his involvement in competitive long-distance running that opened his eyes to the gender disparities in sport.

Matt said: “Having met a number of professional female athletes through my personal interest in outdoor sport, I was shocked to discover that the prize money they won at competitive events sometimes wouldn’t even cover the cost of them getting there. I very quickly became aware of the inequality in opportunity for women in sport and I knew I wanted to have some impact on changing this.”

“Even when it comes to availability of sportswear, it seemed that women were an afterthought – most brands simply take their menswear collections and ‘pink and shrink it’ to appeal to their female audiences. This is why we felt a women-first option was needed which paid close attention to the fit and style, as well as having some impact on women’s experience within the sporting sphere.”

As a result, part of Dryad’s mission is to help provide better opportunities and access for women and girls into sport through initiatives with local businesses and charities to support trail running activities.

Matt continued: “Meanwhile, the garment sector notoriously under-values and under-pays women, with a significant pay gap emerging from the tendency for men to be promoted over women. Just 1% of the 250 biggest fashion brands publish data on gender-based exploitation within their supply chains meaning the issues are not being properly addressed and women are not being championed – we want to buck this trend.

“Fast fashion remains hugely popular despite its well-known detrimental effects because it’s so cheap, but the low cost is at the expense of manufacturing staff who aren’t being paid a living wage. This is why we’ve focused on creating high-quality, long-wearing pieces which may cost more, but stand the test of time and reduce the need for regular replacement – helping us to achieve our goal of slowing down fashion consumption as well as making it more cost-effective to shop ethically.

“We have a long road ahead of us in resolving the issues we’re up against, but we’re confident now is the time to do it; the growth in sustainable brands is surpassing unsustainable ones and the growth rate of female participation in sport is on the rise, too. It’s a sign that things are moving in the right direction and we’re proud to play a part in accelerating that.

“As we grow, we want to be increasingly involved with local communities and initiatives – especially our own. Dryad was born out of our love for the Brecon Beacons and being outdoors, so as we take our next steps we will share that passion with others and keep it at the heart of what we do.”