As a dancer, whenever I was given a little creative freedom to not have to wear tights for class, it was always important to have a great pair of shorts. They needed to be the right length, material, and thickness in order to not become a burden during class. Nylon checks these boxes, and it is what all of the big brand dance companies use for their dance shorts. A nylon alternative, Econyl regenerated nylon, is becoming more popular among dance products. It is still not completely sustainable, but it is a better choice. This is a decision I was impressed to see for these dance shorts, but sadly that is where the innovation ends. It is up to the customer to figure out that the “planet friendly material” used here is Econyl. This makes me wonder why their constant advertising of Econyl on other areas of the website is not reflected on this product’s page. Besides the location of their manufacturing facility, there is a significant lack of transparency surrounding their labor practices. There is no doubt that Econyl is less environmentally damaging than conventional nylon, but the fact that the amount of regenerated nylon in these shorts and other critical production details are not shared is a bit concerning. Also, in the age of certifications it is surprising that they do not at least have something verifying their use of Econyl or participation in the Healthy Seas Initiative.
Any good pair of dance shorts needs to be made of a durable, stretchy, and lightweight material. This is why the vast majority of these shorts are made of nylon. The dance shorts made by Dansez, however, are made of Econyl regenerated nylon instead. It is important to point out that there was a little bit of assumption that went into making this conclusion. On the page for this product, it says that they are “made with sustainable and regenerated planet friendly fabrics”. The only alternative fabric the company mentions using is Econyl, which is why I believe it is fair to assume that it is the fabric used here. This is not a step the customer should have to take. Econyl is certainly a better choice than conventional nylon, which creates numerous issues in terms of greenhouse gases, water, and energy. Nylon production starts with crude oil, which is converted into a large sheet of nylon after going through a chemical-intensive heating process. The nylon sheet is broken into chips, melted, and shaped into individual fibers that can be woven into fabric. This makes for a fairly durable product, but that means that it is not biodegradable. The production process emits nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that is 300 times stronger than carbon dioxide. Nylon also requires a significant amount of water, which often contaminates and pollutes the surrounding environment as runoff. Finally, nylon manufacturing uses a lot of energy, and this adds to environmental degradation and global warming.
Regenerated nylon such as Econyl does not carry many of these negative impacts. Econyl nylon is made of waste such as fishing nets, fabric scraps, carpet, and industrial plastics. Nylon can then be recovered from these products and made into new nylon fabric. This encourages a more circular or closed loop production process, as opposed to precious resources being used to make a material whose lifespan of use is relatively short. Regenerated nylon is still not a perfect material. When nylon products are washed, they release microplastics into the water system, which causes ocean pollution and harms aquatic life. There are measures that can be taken, like washing the product in a special bag, but Dansez does not bring this to the customer’s attention. It is great to see that Dansez chose to use Econyl nylon instead of the conventional nylon that all of the biggest dance brands use. It would be much better, though, if they were more explicit about the material used for these shorts, and told the customer that they are made of Econyl on the product’s page.
Econyl regenerated nylon is made by collecting nylon waste that is serving no other purpose besides polluting the earth. It is then brought back to the facility to be sorted and cleaned so that as much nylon can be recovered from the product as possible. The material goes through a regeneration and purification process to make the nylon into a new material that is as pure as the original. It is then ready to be processed into yarns and polymers for any industry to use. One big benefit of Econyl nylon is that it can be recycled infinitely without using its quality. Some plastics gradually lose their ability to be recycled and can only go through the process a few times before it cannot be used anymore, so this is an important property of regenerated nylon. Econyl is built so that once a product containing the material is not desired by the customer anymore, it can go back to the first steps of this process and become a useful object again. As no additional materials need to be extracted, the process of making Econyl saves 70,000 barrels of crude oil and avoids 65,100 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. This data applies to every 10,000 tons of Econyl raw material created. This nylon alternative also reduces the impact nylon has on global warming by up to 90%. Unfortunately, Dansez does not share much information on their own production process once they receive the regenerated nylon. The only thing they disclose is that their garments are manufactured by hand in their studio in Kent, England. They make a lot of statements about their use of Econyl and being planet friendly, but do not go into any detail on social responsibility regarding their workers. Somewhat local manufacturing could be a plus, but that does not necessarily mean they are functioning under any labor standards.
The Between the Waves Dance Shorts are made by Dansez, which was founded in 1975. They specialize in creating dancewear for specific dance schools and companies, but also have ready to wear pieces that anyone can purchase. The company is proud to have been the first dance clothes producer to use Econyl nylon. They are also a partner of the Healthy Seas Initiative and donate a portion of their sales to the organization. Healthy Seas works with volunteer divers and stakeholders of the fishing sector to collect fishing nets from the ocean that have become waste and help ensure they become Econyl nylon. Econyl is owned by the Italian company Aquafil, who is also one of the founding partners of Healthy Seas. Dansez’s values are clearly in quality and design, but they appear to be quite invested in sustainability as well. It is worth pointing out that the way the material in a given piece is described has many variations. They never actually say that Econyl regenerated nylon is used when a specific product is viewed, and it is up to the customer to put that together by looking at their brand statements. Fabric details are usually a given for a product, so this was a bit strange to see. It would be much more effective if every product that uses Econyl said that in its description area, in addition to how much of the product is made of this material. With a tagline of “planet friendly dancewear” I would expect them to be much more transparent about what the products are composed of and how they treat their workers.