Wilson Oryema, model, writer and activist, dives into the world of sustainability in sporswear to discover the brands working towards a more planet-friendly future.
Sportswear is the new casual wear. For many, the de facto choice of denim, a relaxed suit or some type of dress as a go to for social events, has now been usurped by (or at least worn in tandem with) a tracksuit, yoga pants, trainers/sneakers, or any other type of item primarily made for sustained physical activity. Although this has become prevalent in recent decades, it’s quite difficult to pin down when this started. However, moving forward, attention around sportswear has sharply increased, as it has become one of the more profitable subcategories in fashion — it is estimated to have produced $174 Billion globally in revenue in 2018 alone.
Now, as with all mass contributors to human consumption, the questions have to be asked: who are the key players in the space? how are they going about reducing their impact, and so on. As such, we have decided to use this article to highlight some of the more sustainable sportswear brands in the space, and why we think they are.
We (or at least I and most people I know do) buy more socks on average more than any other item of clothing. It is said at least three billion pairs of socks are sold every year. With many getting lost in washing machines and tumble driers or discarded due to developing holes after a few weeks. It is more important than ever to be looking at sustainable socks, which is why I’ve decided to highlight TEKO socks. The self designated “eco-performance socks” company is committed to sustainability and ethics, they are said to support fair pay of workers across their supply chain. Using primarily: chlorine-free, bluesign certified merino wool, regenerated polyamide from fishing nets and recycled polyester to make their socks. TEKO use completely recycled or recyclable materials to package their products, and have no toxic dyes in their production process meeting the OekoTex100 standard.
Probably the most unexpected name on this list. As for most, not much is well known about Nike’s commitment to sustainability. The longstanding largest sportswear manufacturer in the world, recently announced in 2018 that at least 75 percent of all their apparel contains some recycled material. They even claim that no one uses more recycled polyester in the industry than them. In addition to that, Nike also annually release their “Sustainable Business Report” documenting their commitments and achievements to reducing their impact on the planet.
As well as being known for their positive social impact, consistently fighting against injustices. The outdoor performance company has and is continuing to make strides towards making themselves a more sustainable brand. Whether from organic cotton to ethically sourced wool to traceable routes for down insulation or actively researching and implementing ways to cut down on synthetic microfibre pollution. Patagonia is taking a look at their whole supply chain to reduce their impact. All this information is available for public viewing, which can be found on their site along with a map of all their farms, factories and textile mills. As well as that, they are making great efforts ethically with their staff across the world being fair trade certified and also encourage reuse, repair, and trade/purchase of second hand wear through their WornWear initiative.
Adidas are the first name for many when thinking about sustainable brands. Mostly because of their ongoing collaboration with the ocean awareness group, Parley for the oceans. Essentially, Parley (and partner organisations) collect plastic waste from shorelines across then world, which Adidas then use to turn into apparel and other items including clothing hangers. Adidas have also made a pledge to remove all virgin plastic from their supply chain, offices and stores by 2020, as well as reduce its waste production by half. For more info about their general approach to sustainability please see here.
Vayama is a women’s activewear company primarily focused on yoga wear. With crop tops, tank tops, and leggings being there main offering. What separates them from the pack is that they are natural alternative and as such tout no synthetic materials in any of their garments. This is made possible through their use of custom KALABLAKTM Tencel® and printed Tencel® fabrics. Which are completely safe for the wearer and lead them to no exposure of chemical risk, verified by their European Oeko-tex Standard 100 verification.