Genus – performance clothing for gardeners

Ask the founder and mastermind behind Genus Performance Gardenwear, Sue O’Neil, why she decided to start a clothing company specially for gardeners and she will admit that it was the frustration of not being able to find suitable and comfortable clothing for herself while working in the garden.

As Sue points out, gardening is about kneeling and bending, stretching and walking and being outdoors in all weathers and seasons: “It is not just about creativity, it is also about outdoor performance,” she says. “It’s about physical activity in all weathers as well as having the best tools for the job.”

Having been a balcony gardener in London for most of her adult life, Sue (pictured left) yearned for a real gardening project so when she moved to the Cotswolds in 2009, to a remote cottage with an acre of neglected paddock, she relished turning the space into a garden.

It took her three years to do so with the garden winning an award on the journey. However, she soon discovered that nowhere were there clothes with the features and functionality that she needed, so sensing a real gap in the market, she founded Genus.

While I could find the tools, I just couldn’t find the gardening clothes. The trousers I used for gardening ended up with holes in the knees and they were either too hot or too cold or they just didn’t keep me dry,” she recalls. “There was nowhere to carry my mobile and if I put things in my hip pockets I had to take them out to bend down! The sleeves on the tops were too short and I frequently got my wrists muddy and scratched.”

The answer was to design clothes that addressed all these issues and as can be seen from the diagram below of the popular ‘All-Weather Gardening Trousers for Men’. (The women’s 3-season trousers have more or less the same features). Despite having no experience of the fashion or retail worlds, Sue created her brand for gardeners in the same way other brands cater for sport and outdoor enthusiasts.

Sue explains that they pretty much followed the principle of ‘Form Follows Function’ with designs directly addressing the needs of gardeners when they are gardening: “For example, since gardeners are so often bending or kneeling, they can’t put things such as phones in hip- pockets of ordinary trousers. So, we borrowed some ideas from cycling clothing, as cyclists also ride bent over and we designed our trousers and tops with rear pockets,” she said.

Initially starting with six products, she has since added more clothing and a selection of gifts and high-performance accessories with new ranges due to be introduced in the autumn of 2019 and spring of 2020.

We will shortly be taking delivery of totally waterproof trousers for both men and women that look pretty much the same as our 3-Season and All-Weather styles, but the new products are lined with a waterproof membrane which you can’t feel but which keeps you dry,” Sue explains.

Genus has a panel of brand ambassadors all of whom are professional and experienced gardeners and they trial all the new lines both during development and after production: “We also receive lots of emails from keen gardeners who offer ideas and suggestions, some of which get incorporated into new products,” adds Sue.

Obviously, running Genus keeps Sue pretty active and looking after a large garden takes up most of her time, however, for her down-time is the enjoyment of growing vegetables and being busy in summer with food processing: “I make jams and jellies, do some bottling and freezing, prepare lots of soups to put in the freezer for winter and try to get to grips with my new dehydrator machine!” She has four adult children and numerous grandchildren so she never really stops being a mum. She also admits that she likes to dance when she gets the opportunity, finding the latest jive dancing great fun.

Genus has built-up a loyal customer-base in the UK and overseas among amateur gardeners, professionals and garden designers, many of whom say that they have been waiting years for clothing like this.

As a mature woman starting and running her own business she has faced a number of challenges, but through a process of hard work and determination, she has created a range of clothing that really meets the needs of gardeners for a more comfortable, practical and enjoyable experience.

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