Founder and creator Rina Saleh started her business with the intention of changing the planet for the better. RSPR (pronounced res·pir – Latin for breathe) is a Qatari brand that strives to prove that being fashionable and eco-friendly are not mutually exclusive. Rina Saleh was determined to find an alternative to the uncomfortable, ecologically unsustainable, stifling and unattractive medical mask. She started to work with a manufacturer of high quality silver nano-infused antimicrobial fabric to create the RSPR line of masks that are proven to kill 99.9% of microbes. The fabric allowed the founder to create fun designs, in different colors and styles that give the unpleasant process of masking up more than a touch of style and glamour. It was during this process that Saleh started to learn more about various technologies in the fabric industry and was intrigued by the idea of continuing to create eco-friendly products.
“I wanted the collection to be universal, so athleisure made sense and I dove in head first. I also use the brand as a way to give back. We regularly donate profits to charities including Education Above All and The Sage Foundation, often taking all profits from certain collections and donating them. RSPR has become not just a brand or business but a true passion and a way for me to make a difference,” says Saleh.
“I chose to do athleisure wear because they are the clothes we all wear. No matter where we are from or what we do, athleisure wear is universal,” says Saleh. Athleisure wear lends itself to the designer’s goal of using recycled materials that can be treated in order to become antimicrobial.
The fabrics are currently made in South Korea and made antimicrobial through a treatment that is added after the fabric is produced. “Many antimicrobial treatments are in fact harmful to the environment, especially when they enter the water system when the clothes are washed, but we were able to source one that is certified to be eco-friendly at all stages,” says Saleh.
Saleh had to make sure that the line was antimicrobial for several reasons; the first being that the treatment allows the fabric to last longer as she felt the amount of clothing in landfills was bewildering. The second reason is that the treatment kills bacteria that cause foul odors, which means there’s less water waste. Finally, the treatment created an extra layer of protection that could help kill viruses, something that was vital due to Covid.
The brand’s polyester is made using recycled plastic bottles from all over the world. The bottles are broken down into chips and turned into fabric. “Regular virgin polyester accounts for 60% of the worlds PET production (double that of plastic bottles)” says Saleh, “This makes you realize that if more fashion brands used recycled polyester, we would be playing a huge part in keeping plastic out of landfills and our oceans.”
The brand focuses on creating very small batches so that they don’t have any unsold excess. The fashion industry creates around 92 million tons of excess textiles annually, which is truly alarming. Fast fashion companies create huge amounts of excess product that eventually goes to waste.
RSPR aims to make smart, ethical, eco-friendly choices wherever possible. “If consumers support ethical fashion, more companies will follow that lead. The technology is there and will only continue to develop as long as sales back up the research and production,” says Saleh. The brand is currently working on their new clothing collection with an exciting collaboration with a North American brand while also exploring new eco-conscious fabric technology that could see additional lines being launched.