Clare Taylor was running close to her home near Holmfirth when she decided enough was enough – she was thoroughly fed up of having to pull her activewear leggings back up.
When she got home, she mentioned her frustrations to her husband, Richard, and it sparked the germ of an idea.
“I do a lot of cycling and we have bib shorts with straps that go over your shoulders. They stay in place most of the time,” he says.
But Clare pointed out that women were never going to wear bib shorts, and so they began work creating prototypes for an activewear all-in-one garment.
“We wanted something that looked stylish and made a statement,” says Richard, who designed the all-in-one with flattering side panels to the upper body. It has become the hero product of their new brand, Stretch & Burn, and can be also used for yoga and gym workouts, meaning everything stays in place when running or doing the downward dog, with leg pockets for your phone or keys (one on each side).
The piece is one of a capsule mix-and-match collection of activewear, including leggings, workout vest tops and bra tops, all sustainably made in Portugal using an Econyl Italian fabric recycled from old fishing nets and other waste materials.
The all-in-one, Clare and Richard explain, is a compression garment that is close-fitting and helps to rejuvenate the muscles by preventing lactic acid build-up. Plus, it is breathable and has UV protection.
“You can hardly feel it on you but it snugly fits and moulds to your body,” says Clare, who has been test-running all the prototypes, along with a group of school mum friends she had also roped in as models for Stretch & Burn’s first photo shoot. Emma Godfrey and Angela Hornby, from Holmfirth, posed last December for a photo shoot that took place around and about Ramsden Reservoir. “They said, ‘I can’t believe you have got me semi-naked in a wood in December’,” says Clare.
You step into the all-in-one like a wetsuit and there is a long tab on the zip at the back, so it can be reached over the shoulder to pull up. It has actually been bought by wild water swimmers, including England runner Amanda Crawshaw, from Holmfirth, who runs and does wild water swimming. “It means she does not need to change,” says Clare, adding that the all-in-one could prove useful for triathletes. Hollyoaks actress Sarah Jayne Dunn has been wearing the berry version of the all-in-one for her gym workouts.
“People have been really engaged with us,” Clare says. “They have been saying, especially with the all-in-one, how it has completely changed their thoughts on activewear and they are completely converted.”
Clare and Richard met while working as graduate trainees in 2002 for Hotpoint in Peterborough. They married in 2005 and have lived near Holmfirth for 16 years, moving there when Clare, a fellow of the Institute of Marketing, relocated to Yorkshire to work for Mamas and Papas in Huddersfield.
Clare now is a partner in her own marketing consultancy, working with small businesses. She and Richard have two children, Isabella, 12, and Harry, 10, and an eight-month-old cocker spaniel called Alfie.
Richard worked for AO.com and then for his father’s golf apparel business, Stromberg Golf, where his father taught him how to put garments together from scratch. Richard says: “He started in the mill when he was a 16-year-old and worked his way up to being the MD.” Richard worked with Stromberg for 10 years and continued to do so after the company was sold to American Golf. But, around the start of lockdown, he and Clare decided to start Stretch & Burn.
“Sustainability is key,” Richard says, adding that competition means brands are forced to order too much product which they sell later at a cut price. “It happens throughout the world – excess, excess,” he says. “The customer feels like they almost have to buy the product because it’s such a great bargain and it’s feeding that clothes mountain. Fast fashion erupts because of that whole process and we wanted to rage against that machine.”
Clare is a keen runner and Richard a keen cyclist, owning both road bikes and mountain bikes. “He drives me mad with the number of bikes he’s got,” she says. Daughter Isabella rides and has been trying out Stretch & Burn activewear for that.
The garments are EU products, which makes form filling slightly easier, but still, says Richard, Brexit is causing issues with customs delays and pushing up costs. But they are pushing on. There are plans for a men’s gym and running range, and accessories including sustainable water bottles and yoga mats. They are also thinking of introducing prints to the clothes, collaborating with Newcastle College on a competition for designs.
From lockdown has come enterprise, as spending so much time wearing activewear led to a burning desire to come up with something different, versatile and better than what was already on offer.
Clare says: “For us, the mental challenges of lockdown were eased by having time out running, cycling, walking, and being out in the fresh air, whatever the weather.” Time to feel the stretch and burn.
Stretch & Burn is available online in sizes XS-L and colours black, berry and blue, at stretchburn.com.