Eco-friendly clothing is subject to the same ruthless laws of economics as everything else you buy. An environmentally conscious product might be so good for the planet that hut-dwelling druids would feel comfortable buying it — but that won’t matter if it doesn’t convince enough people that it’s worth spending their money on.
For the overcrowded fashion market, new clothing lines have to tempt people who just want to look good. Unfortunately, any benefit to the environment is secondary. The brand Girlfriend Collective is rising to the challenge by offering a stylish line of activewear made of 100% recycled materials.
The brand was founded by Seattle-based husband and wife team Quang and Ellie Dinh. Though Quang is a mechanical engineer by training, he has experience running an eco-friendly fashion line. In 2005, he launched the denim brand Sling & Stones, which sourced organic denim and produced the clothing in a fair trade factory in India.
Products by the Girlfriend Collective are made using RPET, or recycled polyethylene terephthalate. This material is much more sustainable than the typical polyester that comprises most activewear. It uses 85% less energy, 65% less sulfur dioxide, and 90% less water than polyester. It’s also has a smaller carbon footprint than typical fabrics: 50% smaller than organic cotton and 90% lower than nylon.
Additionally, the brand focuses on producing their clothing line ethically. The Girlfriend Collective’s website explicitly condemns manufacturers who rely on sweatshop labor.
“It is inexcusable when brands have underage workers, unsafe conditions, or underpaid employees in their factories,” it says. Instead, they use a “SA8000 certified” factory, which means their factories are audited to ensure that there is no forced labor, unreasonable working hours, child labor, or serious health and safety threats.
They accomplish all that while creating an athleisure line that was designed by ex designers from fashion giants Lululemon and Acne Studios.
But perhaps the real reason why the fashion world is flocking to the new brand is that they’re giving away leggings for free. Just by entering their email address and paying for shipping, customers can see for themselves what the hype is all about. The theory is that customers once customers feel that snug recycled polyethylene on their legs, they’re come back for more pairs — and they’ll remain loyal as more items become available.
While the Girlfriend Collective only offers leggings at the moment, they have plans to expand to a more complete line, including sports bras and organic tees. There’s even talk of offering eco-friendly bomber jackets.
If the Girlfriend Collective can parlay the current hype into sustained fashion success, it will prove that “fashion-first” and “environmentally responsible” are not mutually exclusive terms. Once that happens, looking good will be a sign of a small carbon footprint.