This article originally appeared in Standard Issue (the no bullshit magazine for women) and is the story behind how we founded our female-led stylish waterproof business
Start up with a Purpose
Sick of her choice being ‘get wet’ or ‘look rubbish’, Anne Muir took matters into her own hands and, along with Rebecca McElligott, some savings and a bright idea, started her own all-female rainwear brand focusing on the holy grail – stylish waterproofs.
“Performance clothing is traditionally a male dominated area; as a woman looking for protection from the weather, the only option seems to be outerwear that’s simply been ‘pinked and shrinked’.
The idea for Protected Species started when I was on maternity leave with my first child. I spent a lot of time on those crazy walks you do, trudging round the streets in an attempt to get the baby to sleep and to get outside.
I lived in Glasgow at the time: there was always rain, and I hated wearing my hill-walking jacket (or my ‘mum’ jacket) when out on the trudge – it seemed to suck the very soul out of me.
I wanted to burn it when I went back to work, but I had all the nursery drop-offs/pick-ups and commuting to do. There was literally nothing on the market that was super technical but looked good, something that could be worn everywhere but also shoved into a buggy or bag. I wanted all the technical features I had in my outdoor and sports clothes – wickability, breathability, ALL the abilities – made into something that made me feel human again.
Anne (right) with her co-founder Rebecca McElligott.
I have close friends working in the technical clothing industry (a great source of sporty clothes), and it was through them that I met Rebecca who had a long and successful career in technical clothing product development.
Rebecca lived in Manchester (lots of rain) and we found out we both had the same idea about wanting to step out on our own and make something new. My background is in the commercial area of science and innovation. Our skills and outlook seemed to fit like a perfectly tailored parka.
We wanted to make something that stood out: something that answered the needs of a woman, flattered our shapes and was something to wear out of choice rather than necessity.
Our lifestyles take us outdoors every day: walking the kids to school, walking the dog, commuting, holidays – and if you want to climb a mountain, well, that’s fine too. It was essential that the performance levels we offered were as high (if not higher) than brands you find in performance outdoor shops on the high street.
For us, women are at the centre of everything we do to make the right product – and we took the chance to make that philosophy the heart of Protected Species. We wanted to work with strong entrepreneurial women, passionate about innovation and what they create, in every area of our business.
The type of manufacturing required just wasn’t available here in the UK; all the innovation and skill we needed was in the Far East. We were incredibly lucky to find a small but highly specialised operation run by a brilliant woman, who set up and grew her own operation: an all-female team specialising in small volume, high-quality orders.
The factory is almost boutique, but it’s a very high-tech operation with the cutting-edge machinery required for technical performance wear – she supplies some of the top outerwear brands and team sportswear in Europe. She runs her operation more like a co-operative – the factory is built around a courtyard next to her family home with excellent working conditions.
The manufacturing base for our fabric is run by a Taiwanese woman. Her business is unusual in that it produces only waterproof fabrics. She develops and supplies laminated waterproof fabrics around the world, and she has developed the innovative soft and luxurious four-way stretch waterproof fabric we use in all our jackets.
Technical fabrics take years to develop, and doing one thing well is something we greatly admire. Our fabric supplier is an expert in her field and we trust her implicitly with one of the most important components of what we do.
We’ve ended up being an all-female team from design to manufacture – it’s extremely important to us and central to what we do, and we feel the difference is tangible in our technical and design details. We live, breathe and wear our brand and we’re proud to have travelled down this path (even though, at times, it’s been tough). The best reward? The amazing feedback we get from women*.”
*have a read of our customer reviews in the shop!