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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Curating Closets: Intimates

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

This post is in partnership with Organic Basics, a European based company focused on sustainably producing gorgeous basics for the everyday. Each item has a luxurious quality made using ethical factories with fair wages, eco-conscious packaging, and a sustainable sourcing of materials. They are the ultimate example of a company checking off all the right boxes without sacrificing beauty. 

Before you roll your eyes at me because I am talking about intimate things again, hear me out. In my defense, previous conversations regarding Giving a Crap about using Plant Paper to wipe Tushys all revolve around the subject of the restroom which is NOT what this post is about. But okay fine, it is again regarding intimates, particularly those stored in your closet and worn on your person daily.

As a blog dedicated to droning on about curating en general, I would be remiss if I skip over the article of clothing that people most oft wear. Yet underthings are not at the forefront of the conversations revolving around an ethical capsule wardrobe. In fact, searching for sustainable underwear on one’s own can be a bit of a drag since there are only a handful of companies interested in making them. After much deep diving, I have surfaced with a handful of options that I think are worthy of the slow fashion movement, but of course, first, a word.

Intimates, to me, are not meant to be frilly things. I never did understand the draw to cheap lace, or worse, itchy mesh. And whilst I believe that our homes should contain only the most beautiful things, I am also a firm believer in the practicality of certain items. I like to think that all of my clothes earn their keep, and the most hard-working of them are the ones that I most cherish.

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Organic Basics’s lite singlet and briefs are undergarments that double as pajama sets on hot summer nights.

For example, I have a beautiful blue jumper that I love to wear year round. It dresses up or down, excusing it for every occasion short of a wedding (although I’d gladly wear it to one). It’s pretty to look at, sure, but its also a utilitarian thing made of linen that moves freely with my every action, looks good wrinkled, and is reliable for even the most demanding of activities whether that be yoga or washing my car. It has a simple boyish cut and is loose-fitting, and for all these things, it is one of my most valuable articles of clothing.

I hold my undergarments to the same standard, if not more. I expect them to be versatile, comfortable, and invisible. I don’t want itchy fabrics or skivvies with too tight of a fit. I hate clasps that dig into the skin, voluminous cups that try too hard, and mostly, underwear strings. And the care routine needs to be easy on me too. I would hate to waste laundry loads washing delicates separately, worrying about whether lace would snag, or removing cups before every wash. Forget about hand washing. Despite these utilitarian requirements, I don’t want them to be ugly. They must be good enough to walk around freely on warm summer nights when I have the house to myself (almost never, but I wish). And on top of all this, I expect them to be sustainable, ethical or fair trade? I must have gone mad!

However, I can prove that it is possible for I have found a few companies and styles that fit the bill. I included some that are very precious, and some that are more financially savvy for the everyday. None of these are by any means perfect, but just a more thoughtful solution to intimates. To give you a jump start, here is my list of recommendations.

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PACT provides sustainably produced everyday options at a fair price.

+ Everlane – Everlane has a line of intimates that include bottoms, tops and bodysuits. While the functionality of the latter escapes me, I find their bottoms and tops collection to be very practical. My sister gifted me eight black and light gray bikini bottoms under my request for neutral colors in a singular style one birthday, and they have been my go-to bottoms for over a year. They have lasted weekly washes without needing to separate them from the rest of my clothes, which have made laundry day wonderfully easy for me and lighter on the environment. I have yet to observe any holes on them. They are thin enough to be invisible with most things I wear (an exception would be yoga pants), and they are very comfy. While I admire Everlane for their efforts to partner with ethical factories around the globe and providing transparency in terms of where clothes are made, my only gripe about Everlane is their lack of size inclusivity when it comes to producing clothes. But in terms of basic underwear quality, I have no qualms.

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+ Organic Basics – I had the pleasure of trying out Organic Basic’s lite singlet and briefs soft touch collection in TENCEL – a material made of wood pulp – and it is absolutely luscious. It is the prettiest piece of underwear I own. Pictured above in dusty rose, the couple is my ideal outfit for lounging around the home on hot summer days with the windows flung open and fans whirring overhead. The material is silky soft and light, while at the same time providing enough coverage  – thus freeing me to mill about, read a book on the couch, or even write from the dining desk in my drawers. This also doubles as a pajama set and while the singlet has no padding for coverage itself, I’ve worn it underneath a scrub top without people knowing any better. For the record, that’s partially thanks to my girlish frame. Still, the practicality doesn’t undermine it’s beauty. Organic Basics definitely knows what’s up. A company founded with sustainability as a whole in mind, they care about the material of a product as much as it’s design. Functionality and timelessness are both key features to having something last and Organic Basics has both down.  They work exclusively with certified factory partners (which they transparently share with their consumers) with a safe working environment free of child labor and forced labor while also paying a living wage and including employee perks such as free lunches and child care. I cannot boast about this pairing enough, and would definitely look into their SilverTech Activewear as well, which is treated with a safe, permanent bluesign approved recycled silver salt called Polygiene. For those who are wary of synthetic or recycled materials, they also have a line of undergarments in organic cotton. TheDebtist readers get 10% off Organic Basics when they use the coupon code DEBTISTOBC. 

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Organic Basics commit to plastic-free packaging, even going so far as to use recycled materials for their boxes.

+ Pact – Pact (photographed below) gifted me a number of items to try on and I have to say this brand is for the practical type who can do without the frills. Pact makes sensible underwear for busy people in an all-organic matter. They use GOTS certified organic cotton and are Fair Trade USA Factory certified. My only gripe is the individual plastic packaging that they ship their products in. I tried their Classic Racerback in black, the Modern Racerback in heather grey, and a more traditional Triangle Bra in pewter (pictured). I also tried on the High-Rise Hipster in black and the Boy Short in charcoal grey. I have to say that their products are perfect for my lifestyle. They are equally as useful at a yoga class, on a run, underneath scrubs, sweating over bread turns or running errands – which take up the majority of my time. The bras are neither constricting nor bothersome. The modern racerback is the only one with cups which provide more coverage for bigger-busted women but due to my girlish frame, I find that the cups are actually a nuisance and prefer the lighter coverage options. The modern racerback also is made for taller people and without the adjustable straps fit a bit frumpy on me. The other two bras, though, fit like a glove. The bottoms are more standard with the boy short having a thicker material than the hipster. I would like to note that my husband also sports PACT boxers and briefs and he has reported a sincere affinity with their underwear. While they aren’t the fanciful undergarments you would wear to a tea party, they definitely fit the bill for incorporating sustainable clothes into everyday wear.

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Wireless and clasp-free triangle top is my go-to bra for low cut attire and comfort.
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My capsule wardrobe has low frills and neutral colors.
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These high-rise hipsters and classic racerback almost classify as a full on bodysuit.

+ Botanica Workshop – This line of underwear is for the vintage-loving, delicate type (even their brand name exudes beauty) searching for pretty pieces worthy of a higher price point. Their most gorgeous best-sellers include bras made of silk and lace, or some limited-edition, small-scale, dyed-by-hand pieces. My favorite part about the brand is their passion for minimizing waste. Recycled and second-hand supplies are used in the production of their garments, which are drafted, cut, and sewn by hand. As a company, public transportation and walking are the main modes of travel, encouraging the business to grow on a very local level. Founded in 2014, the company partners with local artisans and technicians to produce small production runs in line with the slow fashion movement. Tiny details such as these made a huge impact and it shows in their products. For those who wish to walk around freely but be fully dressed, they’ve got a line of slip dresses which I would love to try out one day. Looks absolutely dreamy. 

+Land of Women – Whereas the previous attracts the more feminine, I have to say that no one has perfected minimalism like the Land of Women. Without sacrificing luxe, their underwire are made for those looking for something other than cotton. I am not sure how ethical the Italian silk-like fabric they use is (it’s very beautiful but there is little transparency about the material itself), but they sure do know how to maximize style in minimalist cuts. Plus it’s a great resource for swimmers, too!

+ Nude – Nude is a family run factory in Valencia, Spain that ensure good working practices via a safe working environment that provides something as personal and sweet as pastries and snacks to their fairly compensated workers. Their locally manufactured organic cotton basics come in stylishly functional cuts available in nine beautiful and earthy colors. Their products also encapsulate men’s boxers, socks, and swim attire.

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A word on storage: I store my delicates in drawstring muslin bags separated by tops, bottoms, and socks. The bags are then stored in a collapsible gray bin underneath a bathroom cabinet, where I also store all of my folded clothes – which is to say, most of my clothes. The separate bags make it alright for me to toss the underwear unfolded when in a rush putting away laundry, without creating an eyesore. I used to keep all intimates in a large dresser drawer when I was in college, but I’ve found that I had a tendency to rummage through and mess with the piles so that by the end of the week, I would have to refold the entire drawer again. Sometimes, I’d spend a good few minutes looking for a sock pair. Having bags to corral like things together have helped a ton. The muslin ones that I own are ones I’ve collected throughout the years which wrapped anything from Aesop products to Mejuri jewelry.

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