Interview by Marija Butkovic @MarijaButkovic
Regina Polanco, founder of PYRATES smart fabrics is a young Spanish entrepreneur based in Madrid. Just like her generation, the Millennials, Regina has travelled and lived in many countries, which opened her eyes on the challenges and convictions of her generation. She started creating PYRATES in Switzerland in 2014. Although she had studied Law and Politics, the curious and audacious woman that she is started building the brand and developing the PYRATEX® smart fabrics. Her experience allows her to understand her customer, its necessity to care his health and his desire to consume conscientiously.
What is the idea behind PYRATES and how did you come up with it?
When I was intern in Switzerland, I was in a very international environment, surrounded by people from my generation, who were dynamic, ambitious, travelled a lot and … were wearing sportswear, fitting this active lifestyle. However, their tracksuits looked comfortable, but the designs were very basics, not so flattering. This was the hint that got me started. I wanted to create sportswear that is comfortable, adapted to the active lifestyle of Generation Y and the coming ones, who travel the world but shouldn’t have to choose between cosy and stylish when it comes to their clothes. When I was brainstorming the first designs with the help of a designer, I knew that the direction was right, that sportswear is at the core of today and tomorrow’s fashion but something was missing, something more special, more innovative. In parallel with the creation of first designs I was reading a lot on the negative effects of today’s technology, the Wifi waves, the mobile that we constantly have in our pocket or stuck to our hear, those screens that we have our eyes fixed on all day. It got me thinking and this is when I came up with the idea of smart fabrics.
When did all start and do you have other members in your team?
Everything started in 2014; it’s been 4 years! For the first two years, I carried out the R&D phase by myself, finding solutions to research test and weave the fabrics. When I eventually found a weaver who accepted to try to make a yarn and then fabrics with the innovative fiber I had developed, I closed an exclusivity agreement with him to be our producer. Then I worked with a designer and launched the brand PYRATES, a performance streetwear brand using our smart fabrics. I then hired a business mind to assist me in the commercial phase.
How long did it take you to be where you are now?
With the vision that the clothing of the future will carry properties for our health and thus have an active role in our wellbeing I undertook 2 years of R&D to develop nature-derived textile fibers and weave them into high quality environmentally conscious textiles. Along with textile institutes I researched for new fibers and turned it into a wearable textiles. I then managed to develop different textile formulas out of natural fibers.
What was the biggest obstacle?
To create a suppliers chain from the start. I was only 22 years old when I started, and it was hard to find factories that believed in my project and were willing to believe in my ideas.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
As a brand (PYRATES) we set ourselves apart from performance sportswear brands as they rely heavily on synthetic fibers that are irritating for the skin despite their claimed benefits whereas the trend is going towards more natural materials, we offer that unique combination: natural performance fabrics. Indeed, our PYRATEX® fabrics provide the same benefits (and more) but using responsibly sourced natural fibers, more respectful to nature and to our skin. As a fabric provider of the PYRATEX® textiles, we stand out offering other brands this unique combination of functional and natural.
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in? How about being a female founder / entrepreneur?
When you deal with innovation, you inevitably face the very high costs (money but also time) of R&D and the uncertainty that goes with it. Hence the need for funds and having to persevere until you achieve the desired results is challenging. We see fashion as a women’s world but actually the industrial part, the textile industry is clearly dominated by men and it isn’t easy every day to make yourself a space.
Is #WomenInTech movement important to you and if yes, why?
I believe it is encouraging to know that you are part of a dynamic, forward-thinking ecosystem. I have had the chance to speak with very knowledgeable and ambitious women in the context of the development of Pyrates and I believe this movement allows those inspiring voices to be heard on a wider scale.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
Big projects and ideas take time. It is important to stay focussed but also be open to advice and constructive criticism. Perseverance is the key.
What will be the key trends in the wearable tech and smart textiles industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
The PYRATEX® fabrics can be used across the world in the $33Trillion fashion industry, but also potentially in healthcare due to the exceptional certified benefits they carry. The entire mission of PYRATES is to improve health and wellbeing through textile and clean up the fashion industry transforming clothing in an actual solution to health and environmental challenges of our times.
Who are your 3 inspirational women in wearable tech and smart textiles?
Lisa Lang from ThePowerHouse: She is definitely one of the pioneers helping build the future of fashion and technology. I love the way she is passionate about the magic of fashion tech. She’s been a mentor for me.
Pauline Guesne from Induo: A young and driven French women who answers, thanks to her amazing textile technology, a real market need. She has developed the Induo technology: stain and sweat resistant fabrics.
Muchaneta Kapfunde from Fashnerd: she is a voice and an ambassador of all the women and of the smart fashion industry as a whole thanks to her inspiring articles and interventions in major industry events.
This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables and co-founder of Kisha Smart Umbrella. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic @Women_Wearables @GetKisha.