Regina Rodríguez is the proud co-founder of Believe Athletics, a sustainable sportswear brand for women. She is committed to building a sustainable future-proof brand with maximum respect for the environment. Together with her sister, Marisol Rodríguez, she grew the company to what it is today. Both sisters had the goal of creating designs to inspire and motivate women to lead a more active lifestyle.
Text: Sanne Leenders // Photo: Believe Athletics
Combining two passions to create a brand
Before starting Believe Athletics, I worked in the Strategy Department of Gucci Group. I have always been drawn to fashion and wanted to pursue a career in a fashion company. So, even though my formal education is in industrial engineering with a master in finance, I always dreamt of pursuing a job in the fashion Industry.
Life can sometimes be unexpected, and with the arrival of motherhood, I was not able to spend my week in Paris, where I was working at that time. On the weekends, I would work in Spain where my family and husband were. I travelled a lot during my first pregnancy, but once my child arrived, I had to slow down.
I started to practice more sports than ever before, and that turned out to be the medicine for my body and most importantly, for my soul. I discovered that the more I practised, the better I would feel, and I wanted to encourage all my friends to be more active. Little by little, the idea of mixing my passion for fashion and my love for being active was becoming stronger. I dreamt of doing things differently, and the world was raving about fast fashion, but I wanted to create sportswear that was local, sustainable and long-lasting. At Gucci, I learnt the value of timeless pieces and quality materials. This turned out to be something I liked, moving away from cheap manufacturing and materials. We need to buy less, but of better quality.
Online retail model from the start
I really believed in online shopping when we started the brand. I am a mother of three, and I am very busy. Time is one of our most precious treasures. I do not want to spend my entire afternoon going to the mall to shop because that, to me, is a waste of time. I would rather spend time with my family and friends. I prefer to shop online when my kids are sleeping or just spend ten minutes in front of the computer and get it done as fast as possible.
When it comes to clothing, we always prefer to try the clothes on before we buy them. However, nowadays, with being able to order more than one size or return things that do not fit, what better changing room than your own home?
That is why I only purchase products online at stores that have a flexible return and exchange policy, and that is exactly what we offered with Believe Athletics from the start.
Customers are becoming more aware
We are happy to see that sustainability is becoming a trend and that customers are more informed of the consequences of their choices when it comes to purchasing products. Customers are becoming more aware that when they buy a cheaper clothing product that this choice has more expensive consequences for the planet, for future generations, and people involved in the value chain.
Sustainability and fairtrade have been two of our core values since day one. We have always focused on offering a product of quality that lasts for a long time. This means that customers do not have to replace the product every other season, thus producing less waste. In addition, all of our products use Spanish and Italian yarns – some of them recycled – and these are produced in Portugal in a fair and sustainable way. On top of that, being able to closely monitor the entire value chain, coupled with the high-quality craftsmanship in Portugal, allows us to offer an exceptional product to our customers.
We believe in slow fashion. The fast fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries on our planet, and we want to advocate for more responsible consumption by creating garments that offer long life and without chemical treatment or microplastics.
Reduction of water consumption
The polyamide used in the creation of our fabrics consumes an amount of water that is extraordinarily lower than that of cotton garments: 10 litres of water for Believe Athletic’s leggings compared to 2,400 litres for a traditional cotton t-shirt. In addition, we also contribute to the reduction of water and energy consumption by creating garments with Skinlife® antimicrobial technology, which does not require frequent washing. Skinlife® technology from our local supplier uses silver ions that neutralize the bacteria caused by sweat and which are responsible for bad smells. The silver ions remain in the fabric, survive washes and do not cause allergies.
Our focus is currently on the Spanish market
Being an online business, we do not see why we should limit ourselves geographically. Nevertheless, experience has shown us that focusing too early on the international market, being a small team as we are, can be distracting. Therefore, we decided to take a step back and focus on the home business. Of course, we offer international orders and have been shipping around the globe since the start, but for the time being, our marketing and communication efforts have their main focus in Spain.
Maintaining social media is essential
Social media can be an incredible tool. It allows us to convey our message directly to our customer, no intermediaries, to get feedback instantly, and to establish a dialogue.
We spend countless hours answering people’s questions on Instagram – questions we receive through DMs. We never ignore our customers, and we try to answer as fast as possible. Sometimes this can be exhausting, but it is totally worth it because we also learn a lot from their concerns and desires.
Customer satisfaction is extremely important. If you do it well, they will become your best PR. From the beginning, we have been trying to cherish and be grateful for every customer. We treat our customers the way we like to be treated, trying to exceed their expectations, always being available, treating them with utmost respect and care, listening to their concerns and trying to offer fast responses. In fact, if a problem arises, we always want to turn that into an opportunity to show them that, as a brand, we care. We always go the extra mile to solve any problem.
Being a small brand, we have more freedom to decide what to post. We always try to be authentic, showing who we are, and sharing our plans for collections or anything else that might be going on. It is amazing to see the small community that has been created around it. This results in putting together a group of people that are like-minded and support each other; it is just beautiful to us.
Working with family has been very beneficial
It has been very positive to work with family. My sister and I like to spend time together. However, before Believe Athletics was founded, we rarely saw each other. Nowadays, we spend countless hours together.
I think we are brutally honest with each other, and we make up very quickly when we have misunderstandings. To be frank, this is a great asset. It prevents some missteps that could have been made in the past. I know that when she gives me her approval on a plan or an idea, she is not saying things to please me. When she approves a plan or an idea, it is because she also believes in it. That is reassuring and creates a rich and honest dialogue within the company.
This article was previously published in Cross-Border Magazine 15.