Curating Closets: Ethical Activewear with Girlfriend Collective

As you know from this post, I only use one outfit for my workout routines. When this post was written, I was doing yoga five times a week and wore the exact same top and bottom to every class. To simplify my life further, after class ended, I would wash my clothes in the shower and hang-dry them so that they’d be fresh and ready the next day.

The pants have been with me since my early twenties, a capri cut from Forever 21 when I was still penny-pinching dollars from my retail gig. It’s safe to say that I was due for a new pair of leggings. I honestly didn’t mind the old pair (there’s a sense of comfort in the way they sit perfectly molded on your hips) and it wasn’t like I was willing to drop a lot of money on a new one. But when my sister wanted to gift me something, I knew that ten years of exercise in the same pant meant that perhaps it was time for a new one.

I had researched the perfect, sustainable, ethical legging option and landed on Girlfriend Collective as my choice (although Organic Basics was a close second). Transparency was the company’s prerogative while making active wear with a high-end fit and feel.

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Less waste is the goal. Their compressive leggings and bras are made from 25 and 11 recycled bottles respectively (“because plastic bottles look better on you than in the ocean”). The LITE leggings are 83% recycled fishing nets and waste. If you wish to purchase tees and tanks, you will be happy to hear that they are 100% cupro, a delicate fiber made from waste left behind by the cotton industry.

The yarn itself is made in a zero-waste, zero-emission facility in Japan, then constructed at a SA8000-certified factory in Hanoi. To be as transparent as possible, all their recycled fabric is Standard 100 as certified by Oeko-tex. As an eco-conscious brand, they use only 100% recycled and recyclable packaging. In fact, when my sister presented her gift to me, she brought it in its original packaging unwrapped, just the way I like it. The leggings were inside a reusable pouch that was placed in a large brown paper envelope embossed with “Girlfriend Collective” in gold print. “I know how you find wrapping paper wasteful, so here you go,” she said with a big old grin on her face. That, alone, was a great gift.

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The verdict? Fantastic compressive leggings! I am 5’1″ and 97 pounds and purchased the black color with a 23″ inseam. It goes right to my ankle. (I love that they have three length options because that is the most difficult part about pants for shorties like myself).

The compression is strong enough that it keeps me warm on cooler days and 6am runs. I ran in it for the first time and three miles were a breeze. Since I’ve always worn capris, I was worried that the ankle length would be too warm for running but it was not. The material of the legging is on the thicker side, but I tend to run cold anyway.

The waistline goes pretty high (above my belly button) without any bunching. I am a huge fan of high-rise in general and did not notice the pants ride up at all. In fact, it stayed put throughout my entire run! Despite being a gangly stick figure, there was no extra material anywhere. Their size guide was fairly accurate, however, it leans towards the smaller side and if you are unsure, I would order a size up. Lastly, there’s a pocket on the back where I can keep a key if need be.

It’s a beautiful pant for both yoga and running. I think it’s also as good for everyday lounge wear. I can see myself wearing these pants out during the weekends paired with some AllBirds or Tevas, T-shirt tucked in or a sweater half-tucked. This would complete any coffee shop outfit, or any stay-at-home mandate. I would highly recommend.

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To learn more about their sustainability, this page is worth checking out, and girlfriend, GC is worth getting behind.

Other alternative options I came across are listed below.

  • Prana– Mike and I bought Prana hiking pants when we got married in preparation for a honeymoon filled with hikes in New Zealand. To this day, more than three years later, we wear the exact same hiking pants on every trip we take. We’ve hiked Banff, Juneau, New Zealand, Germany, and so much more. I absolutely love those pants and it has seen us through some very tough treks. I’ve fallen on slippery jagged rocks or walked through prickly reeds without incident. Prana is a company extremely dedicated to creating sustainable clothing. From farm to factory to your closet, you can rest assured that they have thought of a way to reduce the impact of their clothing on the environment. Their social responsibility initiatives include using Fair-Trade certified materials, overseeing the supply chain, complying with the Fair Labor Association and creating a movement for Positive Change. Their eco-conscious acts include choosing organic cotton, recycled wool, responsible down, and bluesign-approved products. They are currently having a sale this weekend until the 22nd of June – up to 60% OFF.
  • Everlane– The thing I can give to Everlane is their dedication to transparency. They have made ethical clothing affordable and mainstream, which is something I can get behind. And they publish the costs into making each item of clothing – extra work most companies aren’t willing to do. My one gripe with Everlane is a sizing issue. I am 5 feet 1 inch and 96 pounds, and I find most of their sizing too small which goes to say that the brand doesn’t help with the body shaming culture that exists in the fashion industry. While I can appreciate that there are now sizes that fit me, I would be willing to forego that pleasure and wear over-sized tees if it means a person my size doesn’t feel the need to size up to a medium and a person closer to normal size doesn’t feel the pressures of a slim world.
  • Organic Basics – Organic Basics makes the most luxurious products. I have written about their Intimates collection previously, but am happy to include them here as a a source for ethically made active wear. Not only are their practices clean, their products are some of the most gorgeous things. Their active collection features SilverTECH which is a Polygiene fabric made from recycled plastics in GOTS and SA8000 certified factories. TheDebtist readers receive an additional 10% OFF using the discount code DEBTISTOBC. 
  • Outdoor Voices – This company has designed their products with longevity and circularity in mind. Their prioritization of raw materials (both in packaging and in fabrics) has greatly reduced their environmental impact. But their dedication does not stop there. Additional initiatives help to reduce their company’s impact, including running a stipend-based carless commuter program, incorporating sustainable design elements in new builds, such as recycled rubber flooring, launching partnerships with WWF, The Nature Conservancy, and CHOOOSE to generate funds for and drive education around sustainability, conservation and carbon offsetting, and eliminating single-use plastics from all community events. For all these reasons, I would recommend trying their active wear.
  • Patagonia – Patagonia has been at the forefront of sustainable active wear for many years. They sell everything from camping gear to winter sports clothing. Their products are easily accessible through REI.
  •  Groceries Apparel – Lastly, I just recently came across this brand and do not know much about it except that they boast tracing the source of a product from seed to factory. They only use 100% GMO-free, Pesticide & Herbicide-free, Recycled & Fair-traded Ingredients. Additionally, they are supporting family farms, localized manufacturing, living wages, and Monsanto-free post-consumer ingredients. I am curious to try their leggings, although they make non-active wear, too.

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