Welsh sportswear brand Dryad is collaborating with Nike and LuluLemon designers to create sustainable women’s activewear
Two Welsh sustainability and outdoors enthusiasts have joined forces to launch Dryad, a sustainable women’s activewear company based in Abergavenny.
Matthew Thomas and Joby Barnard design women’s running tops, shorts and leggings made from recycled fabrics that have a fully traceable value chain, ensuring that everyone involved in the production line is treated equitably. In addition, a portion of Dryad’s profits go towards grass roots organisations aimed at increasing access to sports for women and girls.
The company has been named on Runner’s World’s list of the top ten most sustainable brands and recently won two Editor’s Choice awards in Women’s Running magazine.
The idea behind Dryad came about after Matthew identified that women were disproportionately affected by inequalities in global supply chains through his work in sustainable finance and development.
Meanwhile in his life outside of work, Matthew became aware of inequalities in sports:
‘I used to do long-distance triathlons and I trained with professional female athletes who, even if they won an event, wouldn’t be able to cover the cost of travel to the competition. Meanwhile their male counterparts would win a lot more money at the same level. Even at an earlier stage, there’s a huge drop-off rate for girls’ sports participation’, Matthew said.
‘Both of these issues, gender inequalities within supply chains and inequalities in sports, struck me as being wrong but also fixable. I wanted to start a business that would raise awareness of these challenges but also help address them’, he said.
Matthew and the brand’s designer, Joby, who has previously worked for companies including Hiut Denim and Innocent Drinks, launched Dryad, with the help of a £25,000 British Business Bank start-up loan.
They used the loan to produce the first collection of Dryad’s sustainable sportswear, including enlisting the help of SSEAMS, an apparel specialist company whose female founders have previously worked for sportswear giants Nike and LuluLemon.
The loan has also been used for the development of Dryad’s website, its current sales channel.
The British Business Bank Start Up Loans programme provides government backed loans of up to £25,000 per individual, up to a maximum of £100,000 per business, facilitated through delivery partners in Wales like Business in Focus based in Bridgend. In addition to finance, successful applicants receive 12 months of free mentoring and advice.
The Start Up Loans programme has delivered more than 4,300 individual loans to entrepreneurs in Wales over the past ten years, worth over £43m. In September 2022, the British Business Bank announced it is expanding the programme to include new businesses that have been trading for up to three years, as well as introducing a new second loan option for businesses that have been trading for up to five years.
In October last year, Dryad was announced as a Start Up Loan programme ambassador, celebrating the business’s contribution to Wales’s flourishing start up scene.
‘We couldn’t have achieved what we have without the British Business Bank loan. It was a very simple process to apply, which meant we could get the funds quickly and execute on our launch plans. We’re now in the best factory we can be in, using the most sustainable fabric we can be using and working with the best possible designers’, Matthew said.
Jessica Phillips, Senior Manager for Wales at British Business Bank, said:
‘We are so pleased to be supporting an award-winning company like Dryad, whose mission is to tackle gender inequalities while producing sustainably-made women’s sportswear.
‘Our Start-Up Loans programme exists to support entrepreneurs like Matthew and Joby, who not only want to establish a successful and thriving business, but also have ambitions to be a champion for social change, and who really to make a positive difference in the world.’