Welcome to the nation ... Pip
SHE’S A DRIVING FORCE BEHIND WORKOUT WARDROBES NATIONWIDE. PIP EDWARDS TALKS WORLD DOMINATION, THE ‘NEW FEMINISM’ AND THE POWER OF PILATES
P.E Nation’s Pip Edwards on the new feminism, and the power of pilates
You’d be forgiven for thinking P.E Nation had been on the activewear scene for a decade. In only two years (yep, it launched in 2016), the cult Australian label has seen more action than many brands ever do: legions of fans including Kayla Itsines; denim and menswear collections on top of the sportsluxe-with-an-urban-edge gear it’s known for; two collaborations with Reebok (the first sold out in six hours); and not to mention the coveted 2018 National Designer Award. But, this success is no surprise when you consider the drive and passion of the woman at the helm, Pip Edwards.
Since co-founding P.E Nation with Claire Tregoning (the friends met while working at label sass & bide), Pip’s consolidated her place as one of the most influential Aussies in the fashion-meets-fitness space. There are snippets of her life on Instagram – the events, workouts, clothes, beach days with son Justice, 12 – but behind the photos is a woman who’s been through as much of a journey as the brand she lives and breathes.
More on that in a moment, but first, let’s talk tattoos. Pip has nine. The first was Justice’s name on her right foot. There’s a rose on her arm for her grandmother, a star on her ankle because she loves stars and, among the rest, the line ‘This must be the place’ – the name of a Talking Heads song that reminds her of Justice – written on her left arm.
These arms were a major talking point at our photoshoot with Pip, 38, at Sydney’s Paramount Recreation Club. If there was ever an ad for pilates, her arms would be it. But her non-negotiable thrice-weekly sessions are about much more than honing a hot bod. “I’d love to do [pilates] more,” she says, holding a mug of licorice tea as we chat at P.E Nation HQ the day after our shoot. “When I don’t do it, I feel that I’ve not done it and the wheels fall off.”
Pip credits her workouts with Kirsten King at Fluidform Pilates for helping to change her outlook and sense of self. She began seeing the Sydney-based instructor as part of her rehab after a shoulder injury in 2017. Before that, Pip’s fitness approach was very different: she went hard. “When I was training, it was aggressive. It was HIIT, it was circuits, it was weights.”
She says this all-out attitude stemmed from an upbringing with “more of a masculine edge”. “My mother’s Palestinian and she was brought up in a non-western world where women couldn’t really work; she wasn’t allowed to wear pants,” says Pip, who grew up on Sydney’s north shore. “She was lucky enough to be educated – and was this pioneering woman – so when she had me, she raised me to be independent. I was going to be the provider, the breadwinner, the academic, the achiever: I was to do everything and I wouldn’t stop at anything. And I took that to the nth degree, sometimes to the detriment of my femininity. It was like being a girl was almost too much of a vulnerability, you know?”
It was her shoulder injury, coupled with some personal stress, that forced her to connect with her feminine side. “Thank God I had the injury, because I was able to connect with pilates – and [Kirsten’s] holistic approach – and it coached me through my body,” she says. “I saw my body transform in a way it hadn’t before through any training ... and now I’m actually more womanly in my appearance, stronger in my core, prouder to be a woman.”
This new appreciation has influenced her personal life and business too. “I call it this ‘new feminism’ of being graceful and playing to your feminine guile, which is powerful but more so if you know how to use it and it’s coming from your core strength. Not from external strength. It was a really beautiful turning point for me.”
Here, Pip spills on the strong women in her life, building a fitness empire and why time was never a barrier to smashing her goals.
DESCRIBE THE PERIOD SINCE P.E’S LAUNCH.
Whirlwind, challenging, exciting. We knew this was a void in the market, in the sense that Claire and I had nothing to wear that satisfied our needs for a busy life, so we thought we [couldn’t be] the only ones. We’re mothers, career women, we love fashion, we train. [The label] was an everyday solution for the everyday woman. Claire and I have been in the industry for so long – 17 years each – [that] we weren’t going to set up a brand just for fun. This was to be a business and it was to be scalable. So, the approach when we launched was to operate like we’d been operating for a long time. Structure and that attitude is key.
WHAT’S BEEN YOUR PROUDEST MOMENT?
Oh, every bloody day. I’m just so stoked that it’s come to such
a fruition and of course, my team. There isn’t a moment. The moments are when I walk into my pilates class and the whole class is wearing P.E Nation. Or walking down the street and seeing numerous women [in the clothes]. I kind of just go, “Holy shit, how did that happen?”
DO YOU HAVE ADVICE FOR NEW ENTREPRENEURS?
I’ll reiterate, structure. It’s the only key to longevity. And it’s not necessarily the clothes, you know? It’s the operational side behind it. Also work with people who bring strengths that you don’t have. Really identify your weaknesses and don’t try to do them; you need to bring on the right people to do that.
WHY DOES YOUR PARTNERSHIP WITH CLAIRE WORK?
Because we are the opposite in our skill set, in some respects. The yin to the yang. It was always like that at sass & bide – our working relationship was so rock solid and so understood. We have the same eye [and] there was never a conflict over who does what – it was a clear delineation and it always has been. The honesty and the transparency’s there, and we also play to our individual strengths.
WHICH WOMEN INSPIRE YOU?
I love my team. I love having smart, strong, experienced women around me because you need to be carried, as well. You don’t know everything so I acknowledge that. My mother, because I couldn’t be here or present in my business if I didn’t have her to assist with managing my son. I don’t have a huge network at all. It’s really just my work network, my family
and about five friends I can count on one hand. The core. The nucleus.
FITNESS IS AN INDUSTRY WOMEN ARE DOMINATING. WHY IS THAT?
I think we’re in an age where your voice … is allowed to shine, and I think [it’s] a beautiful time. It should have come a long time ago in terms of feeling able to be who you are. But I do think the women who are conquering at the moment deserve to conquer. It’s not because they’re women. I think if you’re killing it or you’re conquering and you’re successful, you earned the right to be there.
WHAT ELSE DOES 2018 HAVE IN STORE?
Lots more. We’re launching a snow [range], that’s [coming out in] October. I think what’s next is really exploring the disciplines of sport, so getting into the boxing, the yoga, skiing … Snow is big for Claire and I because we both love skiing. Denim’s a big part of the business, which speaks again to our heritage and our strengths professionally, coming from a denim background. And you know, just more in general!
ANY MORE BIG COLLABORATIONS COMING UP SOON?
Well, the snow [range] is with DC Shoes, the heritage snow [and] skate brand from America, so that’s a really big one. We’re also doing a slide with Superga, and then the rest of the big collabs are happening next year, which we won’t talk about! The big dream would be to crack America. To be like a Nike or an adidas ... to be Australia’s version of that would be amazing.
WHAT DOES YOUR TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE?
I get up early, like 5:30 or 6am. I sort out my dog, sort out Justice and drop him to school or to my mum’s depending on what morning it is.
I go to pilates Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, then come into the office. Anything from meetings to photoshoots to financial budgets to planning to product ranging – you name it, it happens all day. I pick up the dog from his doggy day care, pick up Justice, go home, cook, sort out homework, put him to bed, then [do] more research. That’s my creative time. When no one’s around and I’ve got my licorice tea.
“I’VE LEARNT THAT HAPPINESS IS A CHOICE. HAPPINESS IS RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU, ALL THE TIME. IT’S WHETHER YOU WANT TO SEE IT OR NOT”
LET’S TALK FOOD. WHAT’S YOUR APPROACH?
In the last year, I’ve leaned towards the more vegan side of life. I was so busy juggling so much that I’d eat whatever, whenever, but then put all the pressure on training to fix my body. And I think it’s definitely 80 per cent diet. So, turning slightly vegan in terms of ... I still eat eggs ... [and] it’s just the cleanness of food and the consciousness of thinking about what’s healthy for my body. That has been a dramatic change.
HOW DO YOU SPEND YOUR DOWNTIME?
I love the beach. I live in Bondi, but my partner has a house in Palm Beach, and so every weekend – I know I’m very lucky – I get my downtime by being on the northern beaches. Claire [also] lives up there, and it’s just a bit of a break. You just get out of the hustle of the city. I’m driven by the sun, so whenever I’m in the sun I’m at peace.
DO YOU SURF?
Yeah! Surf, swim ... I was a Little Nipper growing up. I love being at the beach and in the water. I’m a true Aussie coastal girl.
WHAT KIND OF PARENT ARE YOU?
As a single parent [ed’s note: Justice’s father is Pip’s ex-partner, fashion designer Dan Single] it’s always a work in progress, and I think you’re always learning. I was definitely a young mum at
25. You’re talking to me now as a mother that’s come into her own, [but] it took me a really long time to deal with motherhood, especially as a working single mother who had to compromise or sacrifice a lot of my child’s firsts to survive, or to pay the bills. In saying that, my relationship with my son is everything. He’s not just my son but my best friend, my roommate, my confidant. And I’ve grown up with him, if you know what I mean.
WHAT DOES THE WORD ‘HAPPINESS’ MEAN TO YOU?
I’ve learnt that happiness is a choice. You can actually be happy every day and I choose happiness a lot of the time. Happiness is right in front of you, all the time, every day. It’s whether you want to see it or not.
LASTLY, WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE EVER BEEN GIVEN?
The grass is greener where you water it, and where your focus goes, the energy flows. It’s about making things happen.
P.E Nation Stroker Ace dress, $249; Camilla and Marc Harper jacket, $750
LEFT P.E Nation Man Up jacket, $199, and No Set tank, $99; Lillian Khallouf bralette, $680, and pants, $760; Valentino Logo cuff, $395 @ Parlour X RIGHT P.E Nation Overtime crop, $129, and Commit leggings, $139
P.E Nation Man Up jacket (worn around waist), $199, and Chasse leggings, $139; Toni Maticevski top, $1650, and long-sleeve top (worn underneath), $995; Louis Vuitton trainers, $1490