Girlfriend Collective is an activewear brand that prides itself on its sustainability. The Paloma sports bra is a compression bra made from mostly recycled materials. The bra is priced at $38, ranges from sizes XXS to 6XL, comes in a variety of colors. I was impressed by Girlfriend’s commitment to sustainability and its labor conditions. While there is still room for this brand to grow, I would recommend Girlfriend Collective as a mostly sustainable source for activewear.
The Girlfriend Collective Paloma bra is composed of 79% recycled plastic bottles (RPET) and 21% spandex. All synthetic activewear is made from plastic, and Girlfriend tries to answer this problem by using post-consumer, recycled plastic where possible, so 11 water bottles are diverted from a landfill per bra. The bra is dyed with eco-friendly dyes that attempt to limit wastewater as well. Wastewater from the dying process is cleaned and cooled before being released, and their dye mud is recycled by pavement producers.
The Paloma bra is a mostly circular product. When finished with the bra, it can be returned through the brand’s ReGirlfriend program. Consumers receive store credit for their used items when they ship them back to Girlfriend, and the brand repurposes all returned clothing into new Girlfriend apparel. Where the product loses point is its use of spandex, which cannot be recycled. In the future, the brand could invest in research towards a recyclable spandex dupe or methods to recycle spandex.
The Paloma bra starts from recycled water bottles. The bottles are separated from labels, crushed into tiny chips, and washed. The recycled plastic then undergoes polymerization and becomes a recycled yarn-like material that can then be used to produce clothing. Textiles are created in a Taiwanese facility and sent to partner facilities. The Taiwanese recycling facility is certified by the Taiwanese government, and the core manufacturing facility in Vietnam is SA8000, meaning that it certifies that employees are treated well, paid fairly, and given opportunities to organize. Girlfriend’s manufacturing is highly sustainable, but loses some points due to the wide geographic spread of its facilities, as transportation can take a huge toll on the environment.
Girlfriend Collective’s facility in Vietnam is SA8000 certified, which is an international certification that promotes worker's rights and wellbeing in factory settings. The Vietnamese facility provides many employee benefits, from fair wages to catered meals, and to free health checkups and employee health insurance. There is less information available about the working conditions in the Taiwanese recycling facility. It’s certified by Taiwan’s government regarding the proper use and disposal of plastic, but there is no information about employee wellbeing. Conditions in the Vietnam facility make me hopeful that employees in Taiwan are also being treated well, but I do have to deduct points for the lack of transparency.