SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST
National Designer Award winner P.E Nation.
Creating and nurturing a healthy fashion business is hard. Launching a brand robust enough to endure an Orangetheory class from day one is almost unheard of. Pip Edwards and Claire Tregoning might be bigger advocates of Pilates, but the pair’s activewear label, P.E Nation, established just two years ago, has enjoyed the kind of growth more aligned with 2018’s answer to F45. then again, Edwards, an influencer before influencers existed who has worked everywhere from ksubi to General Pants, and Tregoning, a former designer for sass & bide, were well placed to hit the ground running.the pair debuted the label, now instantly identifiable for its black-and-block-colour palette and retro aesthetic, at MBFWA in 2016 with 45 stockists already in the (gym) bag.
Since then they’ve expanded into the US, partnering with stockists including Equinox, released collaborations with Reebok and cult spin-class brand Soulcycle, grown their denim offering and created a menswear line (much loved by their female customers). the Kardashian-jenners are also big fans of their crop tops and leggings (which, incidentally, are among the top-selling core items). there’s also an ongoing partnership with Woolmark, and last month they took out the prestigious National Designer Award during the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival.
“It’s been such a great experience,” Edwards tells me from P.E Nation’s spacious new HQ in Alexandria, Sydney. “I think, for us, even though things have grown super quickly, our focus is on being a household national brand. this award was really important to secure our space as a national designer.”
Edwards’s and Tregoning’s roles are split into sales/marketing and design, respectively, but the pair always comes together to nut out the creative vision for every new collection. Each season focuses on a different sporting world; right now, it’s all about phys-ed. “didn’t we all love that at school?” Edwards asks with a laugh. Still, it can’t have traumatised her too much — the lookbook was shot on site at her old high school. But beyond that, there’s no grand theme for the collection. Much like Gucci and Balenciaga, two of the most
influential houses in fashion at the moment, Edwards and Tregoning have followed a strategy of evolution, not revolution when it comes to the seasonal look of P.E Nation. “I think that’s what has made the brand stand out, to be honest — holding onto our aesthetic and really driving that home, where the only things that change are what’s changing globally: colour and print trends and silhouettes,” Edwards says.
Indeed, the newness in the Phys. Ed collection is thanks to an injection of pastels in the form of vintage-print tees and sweaters and contrast-panelled leggings, which intermingle with the label’s signature black and bright staples, stonewashed denim hoodies, bestseller shell jackets in racer prints and retro sweats. “we had yoga in mind, ”tregoning says.
“I think it made us think ‘earthy’,” Edwards adds. “i mean, it’s not pastel in its true sense because we splice it with a bright colour or a black, but the softer palette is playing to that feminine side, whereas we are usually quite tomboy. I’m actually rocking it today. I don’t feel that much softer, though!
“But it’s definitely based on who we are and what we do — that’s the whole integrity behind the brand,” Edwards continues. “We have certain pillars in our business — the working mum, the fashion girl, the street style [tomboy] and then, obviously, the fitness enthusiast — and Claire and I are all those things. So if our personalities don’t fit into the looks then they’re not going to work — that’s been a proven recipe.we are our best customers.”
And ambassadors, for that matter. Look no further than Edwards’s Instagram feed (@pip_edwards1), which is essentially photos of her looking fabulous in P.E Nation, working out at Fluidform Pilates, boxing in Bondi or travelling the globe to promote the brand.
But Edwards is also constantly on the lookout on social media for P.E Nation customers who work the brand as hard, and well, as they do to drive home the brand message. “i love to stalk these women who wear our stuff; you know, there are some mums, they could have a following of 20 people but they are so proud and amazing and we’ll post them on our P.E Nation feed, or there are the girls who have a million followers. It doesn’t matter — it’s the way they interpret the brand and wear it that’s important,” she says. “we are for all the women.”
“We have certain pillars in our business — the working mum, the fashion girl, the street style [tomboy], the fitness enthusiast — and Claire and I are all those things.”
Claire Tregoning (left) and Pip Edwards.