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Sponsor interview: Robert Webbon, Presca Teamwear

Sponsor interview: Robert Webbon, Presca Teamwear

Robert Webbon, CEO and Founder, Presca Teamwear

Partnering with Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK is by far the biggest thing we’ve done as a company, but from a Presca Teamwear perspective, it’s been a no-brainer.

There are many advantages to the partnership, from the exposure generated by a presence in some of Britain’s biggest races, to the kudos and credibility that comes from clothing riders like triple Olympic champion Ed Clancy. The wider benefit, however, comes from our shared values.

Any professional cycling or triathlon team would help us gain credibility, but partnership with Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK is much more than that. The team’s RATIO ethos - Responsibility, Activity, Teamwork, Innovation, and Opportunity - is so closely aligned to our own that we genuinely couldn’t have found a better team to partner with. I say that from the heart.

Foreground: racing cyclist, black hair, red jersey, white shorts, head down. Background: man, white, thirties, black hair, blue shirt, watching cyclist

Why are shared values so important to Presca? Sustainability and ethical manufacture in the UK are the guiding principles of our business. Our clothing is made from yarns created from recycled fishing nets and recycled plastic bottles. We set out to be brand who are doing things right, for the right reasons. We’ve always taken the decision that we firmly stand by the ethics of sustainable manufacture. It has been a much more difficult path to follow, but it’s embedded in the company.

We’re doing this because we believe in it. That underpins everything. What we do as a brand demonstrates our authenticity. There are many corners we could have cut, but for Presca, it’s not just about making a quick buck. We try to be ethical in everything we do, which should set us apart from our competitors, and we set out doing what we’re doing because cycling and triathlon are the sports that we love.

Cycling has been one of the biggest factors in my life in helping me to see more and to be more aware about the environment. I was given a bicycle when I was seven or eight, and I would go out into the countryside with my friends and ride for miles and miles. I think there’s no better way to learn about the environment and the world than on a bike.

Although I always loved being outdoors, I wasn’t a sporty kid. I never would have predicted 20 or 30 years ago that I’d be doing this. I got into sport later in life; surfing and different forms of biking. I’ve always loved nature, which is probably a starting point, and that later expressed itself through the sports I became involved in. My early exposure to the natural world, and later studying at Bristol University, gave me a deep dive into sustainability. Presca has been a natural progression.

My background is in sustainability, but on the technical side. I have a masters degree in environmental and coastal engineering and worked for nearly 20 years in consultancy for local government. I’ve worked on projects related to renewable energy, carbon management, in marine and on-shore environments. I’ve come from a very different side of sustainability, but because of that, I’ve always had an eye on the sustainability and ethics of the kit I’m wearing, and always felt that it could be done better.

Clothing factory, man, white, thirties, black hair, blue shirt, glasses, inspecting red, short-sleeved jersey

The reason I set up company is the cost of sustainability. When we were looking a how we were going to make our clothing, we saw the obvious benefits in terms of supporting the UK economy and commerce, simply by not shipping materials from one side of the world to other to be made in a factory, and then shipping them back to be sold.

We pride ourselves too on the transparency of our business, which is key to how we operate. The typical sportswear garment from the High Street will have so many layers of people involved in the process. Creating a synthetic yarn involves processing crude oil in a refinery and then transporting the source material to a yarn mill in some other part of world. Later, it will be sold by a handler in yet another part of the world to be turned into fabric, then to another middle man.

To turn a synthetic yarn into a finished product requires so many layers of people. The fashion industry in general demands a massively complex supply chain. At Presca, we work directly with the fabric. We know who is making the yarns and how they’re being made. Once in use, we handle everything from cutting and sewing the garments to sale. It’s a vastly simplified supply chain.

It’s not only simplified supply chains that we benefit from. We enjoy the benefits of simplified communications, in the widest form; not only in terms of language, but by being able to pick up the phone and to know that if something goes wrong, I can be at the factory in 2.5 hours. We know the people who run the factory. We’ve also got to know the people making the clothes.

We’ve had five or six fit sessions for the clothing for Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK, which of course has to be perfect. Cherie Pridham, the team’s owner and manager, has popped down to factory at the drop of a hat to feed into the process, and every time we’ve needed a rider there, Tim Torrie, one of the team’s rising stars, has come down. Having the flexibility and dynamism to create another version of the prototype kit, or another set of samples has been a huge benefit. We’ve been able to be highly flexible.

Sewing machine, fabric, woman's hands, white, close-up

From our point of view, it’s not enough to be make nice, sustainable kit - it has to be highest performance. Our mission is to prove that sustainability and performance go hand-in-hand, and in that regard gaining feedback from riders at the top of the sport has been invaluable. Money can’t buy that. It’s been absolutely invaluable to have Cherie be able to come to the factory and feed into that process and getting the kit onto Tim has been such an integral part of the process.

The value to us in partnering with Vitus Pro Cycling Team, powered by Brother UK should be immense. Being part of the journey we hope will have a massive impact on our profile, and will be the biggest thing we’ve done as a company by some distance. The team will race in Presca clothing for the first time at the Eddie Soens Memorial on Saturday March 9, 2019. It’s certain to be a day to remember.

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