Girlfriend Collective – apparel

I was really excited when I heard about leggings made from recycled water bottles.  It reminded me of the Rothy’s shoes I reviewed earlier this year.  I never knew there were so many companies finding ways to reincarnate water bottles.  Thanks for the recommendation, Rachel!

ABOUT THE PRODUCT

Girlfriend Collective offers leggings in two formats: ‘Compressive’ using 25 water bottles, and ‘Lite’ which uses recycled fishing nets; as well as bras, shorts, tops and bodysuits in a variety of colors and sizes.  I purchased the Midnight Compressive High-Rise Legging in medium, and the Pebble Celia Tank in large.

compression leggings midnight
Compression Leggings Midnight.  Photo Credit: Girlfriend Collective
celia tank
Celia Tank Pebble. Photo Credit: Girlfriend Collective

The garments are made in Taiwan.  I didn’t know this, but Taiwan has a culture of recycling way more integrated into their daily lives than in the U.S. (55% of goods get recycled vs. 35% in the US).  It is often a social event, which might explain why it’s important and everybody chips in.  Another tidbit I learned from the Girlfriend Collective website, is apparently all polyester yarn and fabric is made from the same plastic as the ones used for these leggings (PET).  So perhaps buying clothing made from recycled water bottles is really not as far out there as I originally thought.

You can find Girlfriend Collective clothing on their website .

USING THEM

One of my most FAVORITE thing about these leggings is how you can order in one of three lengths – which is WONDERFUL for someone short like me.  I ordered the medium with a 23 3/4″ inseam.  I am 5’3″ on a good day and many times capri pants hit my legs at the length that I imagine normal people wear their full length pants.  In full-length workout pants, I am constantly deciding where the extra fabric should go – up in the crotch, at my knees or leg warmer style all bunched at the bottom.  If you’re short, you know what I’m talking about.  Trying to make the extra layers look fashionable.  But with these, I chose the length and they fit perfectly!  The pants are not as stretchy as I’m used to with my go-to Gap leggings.  They don’t feel as thick but they are still very insulating.  I tested these in August so I have yet to wear them in colder weather.  They feel really good to the touch – just on the rougher side of silky.  They also seem to have a very slight sheen to them.  The midnight color is nice – like a deep, stormy ocean blue.

Girlfriend Collective legging comparison
From Left to Right: GFast Blackout Spacedye Leggings Medium, Girlfriend Collective Midnight Compressive Leggings Medium, GFast Blackout Capri

I purchased a large tank top because everyone said it runs small.  I do like a bigger fit, especially with workout clothes.  However, I’m not a big fan of how this fits me.  It’s a little baggy under my arms but not big consistently elsewhere.  I didn’t wear this too often and probably wouldn’t buy another one.

I wore the pants and tank casually during my day as well as during a workout.  I was worried they might not be breathable and would make me really hot while exercising, but they worked good.  I tend to overheat and I felt very comfortable sweating in these.

Girlfriend Collective celia tank pebble
Girlfriend Collective Celia Tank in Pebble. Photo Credit: Kimberly Offenberg

ECONOMICS

They are on-par with Gap Fit, $68 for leggings and $28 for the tank top.  Pretty impressive given that many “green” products are pricier than non-green products.

ANYTHING ELSE?

Girlfriend Collective has amazing marketing.  You go on their website and you see models in all shapes and sizes.  Huge kudos to them for embracing the beauty, normalcy and variety of women’s bodies.

21078354_1719670808337329_5660063838542118790_n
Photo Credit: Girlfriend Collective, Facebook

They are insanely transparent about their materials, labor and manufacturing processes.  Click here if you’re interested.  Many companies talk about using sustainable materials but I have many follow up questions to send to them before publishing.  However, every time I’ve thought up a question, bam!  It’s right there on their website.

WHAT PROBLEM DO THEY HELP SOLVE?

A few years ago I saw a Facebook post that basically said ‘Stop shopping at Forever 21.’  That funny store that kids aspire to shop at and adults hide their faces going into.  I remember years ago buying a pair of super cheap jeans there (I think they were under $20 so why not?) in a new style I hadn’t wanted to commit big dollars to in a name brand.  I never even wore them because the smell of petrol was too strong it made me sick.  Forever 21 is probably the prime example of “fast fashion”, clothing not made to last more than a season.  Fast fashion is being blamed as one of the major problems with the apparel industry.  Huge quantities, cheap materials, and loads of landfill.

Consumers are learning that apparel is a huge contributor to global warming and pollution; in fact, coming in second only after oil.  We in the U.S. are the leader in apparel consumption by far.  It goes hand in hand with the emergence of lower cost retailers and buying trends towards fast fashion.  Here are a few mind-blowing statistics as published in Forbes:

  • Nearly 70 million barrels of oil are used each year to make the world’s polyester fiber, which is now the most commonly used fiber in our clothing. But it takes more than 200 years to decompose.
  • Cheap synthetic fibers also emit gasses like N2O, which is 300 times more damaging than CO2.
  • Over 70 million trees are logged every year and turned into fabrics like rayon, viscose, modal and lyocell.
  • Cotton is the world’s single largest pesticide-consuming crop, using 24% of all insecticides and 11% of all pesticides globally, adversely affecting soil and water.
  • Plastic microfibers shed from our synthetic clothing into the water supply account for 85% of the human-made material found along ocean shores, threatening marine wildlife and ending up in our food supply.
  • A quarter of the chemicals produced in the world are used in textiles.

So if we can’t wear cotton, rayon, polyester – what should we be wearing?  Water bottles!  Finding a second life for water bottles is very creative.  It’s seems like the go-to raw material source for many of these new companies popping up.  Wait! You say.  Who uses single-use water bottles anymore!??  That can’t be a sustainable raw material.  That’s exactly what I thought too!  But with ONE MILLION plastic water bottles sold globally EVERY MINUTE I guess it’s good someone is doing something with them.

Some experts are concerned over this new resource.  In speaking with Trevor Zink, Sustainability Professor at Loyola Marymount University, he is concerned that successful adaptations of products made from bioplastics or other sustainable materials grows the market and thus increases our consumption of said items, ultimately making the problem worse not better.  Apparel is collectible and we are all collectors.  There is very little I have only one of – cycling shoes, running shoes… but otherwise I have multiples – leggings, sports bras, hats, bags, jackets, heels, jeans, t-shirts, belts etc.  So by buying leggings made from bottles I’m not replacing any of my current leggings but adding to my collection.  The items that are singular tend to be higher priced items, specialty items, and things I don’t use on a daily basis.  For $65 blue leggings, I might own two pair (in fact I do), and I might decide I need some black ones also (yes, I do have some of those too).  So I’m not convinced this purchase has prevented me from buying a less environmentally friendly pair.

Also, there are transparency questions about using recycled water bottles.  If the cost of using recycled water bottles is more than the cost of new water bottles, there’s a concern that suppliers would use new materials rather than used.  Girlfriend Collective address this issue on their website, indicating that the Taiwanese Government Recycling Authority regulates this issue for them.

No matter where you stand on the subject of sustainable goods, the demand is increasing.  Multiple studies show that younger generations are willing to pay more for goods that are sustainable.

“A 2017 study from NDP Group found that Gen Z is willing to spend as much as 10 to 15 percent more on sustainably produced clothing.” – Jessica Sulima, Ad Week

A quick Google search for sustainable fashion will give you dozens of companies offering sustainable fashion.  The mac daddy of them all of course being Patagonia, who launched Worn Wear to let customers trade in, sell and repair their Patagonia garments.  Companies are popping up around the world.  I ran across a company, Retazo, that is partnering with designers in Puerto Rico to help them create sustainable fashion and support local businesses in a more circular model which hits both a social and environmental need.

This growing appeal and marketing potential also leads to the rise of, and concern for, “greenwashing”.  How do we know if something is labeled “green” that it’s not green in color?  Kind of like the misleading word “light” in the food industry.  Earlier this year there was a backlash against high fashion brand Burberry after they reported to have burned almost $40 million in unsold clothing in order to maintain brand appeal.  Yet they claim to be an environmentally friendly company.  Of course now at Fashion Week, they are publicly stating their commitment to fur-free and not burning unused garments.  Let’s see if they can recover with their eco-conscious customers.  But there are no major regulations or industry standards at this time that give consumers confidence in what companies claim.

Recognizing the impact fashion has on the world, Patagonia and Walmart teamed up a decade ago to form the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and has since adopted a tool that helps manufacturers and retailers quantify how sustainable their items are, accounting for water usage, chemicals, and other elements that contribute to making a textile and final product.  Not only will this help designers and retailers determine a garments impact, but it might also help to standardize the industry.  I have yet to uncover how useful this tool actually is.  It seems to be something touted and used internally, and as such consumers aren’t yet made aware of how these brands are stacking up.

Going back to Forever 21, it’s hard to completely criticize them without being cognizant of the fact that they serve a market.  I can’t imagine all of their shoppers are consumers who can afford to buy nicer clothing but choose to buy cheap single-season clothes instead.  Perhaps some of them are consumers who will wear them until they fall apart.  Which may or may not be after one season.  In order to reach everybody we need to make sure sustainability is affordable.  Luckily with continued improvement in technology and infrastructure, and increased demand, the prices should fall.

As I am struggling to figure out what I want to wear in the morning I circle back to two big sky ideas that are fun but will probably never happen.  I could benefit from an affordable personal shopper.  Someone who will take my monthly budget and come up with items that fit me properly, fit within my wardrobe and taste.  Sometimes I buy an item only to discover that it doesn’t look good on me or doesn’t go with anything I own.  If everything I bought fit me properly and could be worn with multiple outfits, that might create more efficiencies and less waste.  When I’m inspired or just watched Project Runway and think I must be missing my calling as a fashion designer, I wish for a 3D printer where I can produce something I want to wear on the spot, and then shred it back into my raw material bucket and use it to make another piece of clothing.  Basically a magic fairy.  Is that so hard?

DO I RECOMMEND THEM?

I commend Girlfriend Collective for making a great product with full manufacturing transparency and environmental responsibility.  I recommend the leggings and encourage you to try out their other items if you’re looking.

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