With this leotard, Imperfect Pointes has practically achieved what any dancer is looking for regarding durable fabric and flattering design. In addition to this, they are encouraging all members of the dance industry to look beyond these factors and pay more attention to social and environmental sustainability. Their use of ECONYL for this leotard and all of their products is not completely environmentally friendly, but it is still a good choice compared to conventional nylon. This decision could be much more impactful if they pointed the customer to a washing bag that does not let microplastics into the water system. I would also appreciate a certification to verify the fair labor practices they mention. Overall, I was impressed by the thoroughness of their business model from the production of fabric to disposal. They have taken note of the disposability among other dancewear brands and are consciously trying to differentiate themselves by making use of materials already in existence, focusing on local production, and not cutting ties with a product once it has been purchased. The price is a little on the expensive end, but is not excessive or unrealistic. I am confident that those dollars would actually be going towards positive change instead of just increasing profits for a big brand.
A leotard such as this would normally be made of nylon, but Imperfect Pointes has chosen to use ECONYL regenerated nylon instead. This was a good decision, as conventional nylon is fairly damaging to the environment. The production of nylon requires crude oil, which is turned into a plastic that is treated with chemicals, formed into fibers, and woven into fabric. This creates a strong material, but one that is also not biodegradable. This process releasees the harmful greenhouse gas nitrous oxide, and uses a serious amount of water and energy. The water often pollutes the surrounding environment and the use of energy causes further environmental degradation and global warming. This is where ECONYL comes in to decrease the severity of these impacts. ECONYL takes nylon waste such as fabric scraps and fishing nets and converts it into new nylon fabric that is identical to the original. This leotard is made of 100% ECONYL regenerated nylon. This alternative to conventional nylon is not perfect, but it is still the better option. As opposed to drilling for more oil to make nylon from scratch, nylon can be extracted from existing products that are serving no positive purpose anymore. This encourages us to use what is already in existence and engage in a closed loop system. Similar to traditional nylon, though, ECONYL does release microplastics when it is washed. These end up in the ocean and harm aquatic life. There are washing bags such as the one made by guppyfriend that trap microplastics from going into the water system and then flowing into the ocean, but Imperfect Pointes does not point to this as a solution. This additional information for the customer would help make their choice to use ECONYL as environmentally friendly as possible.
The first step in creating ECONYL nylon is collecting nylon waste, which usually includes fishing nets, fabric scraps, carpet flooring, and industrial plastic. These objects are sorted and cleaned so that the nylon can be extracted from it. After it is regenerated and purified it is ready to be turned back into nylon that is the same as the original. It can finally be made into yarns and polymers and is available for anyone to use. Beyond the fact that the quality of the nylon has not deteriorated during this process, another benefit is that it can be recycled infinitely and still not decrease in quality. Now that the fabric has been accounted for, this leotard is ready to be made by Imperfect Pointes in a small family run factory in Yorkshire, UK. The leotard is also designed not too far away in Manchester by the founder, Helen Banks, and her daughter Layla. This local emphasis is likely to minimize their environmental impacts. The website states that they know this product is made under safe working conditions by people who are earning a proper wage. The company does not have any certifications to verify these claims of social responsibility. They do share pictures of the facility, which leads me to believe that this is the truth, but a certification would increase my confidence. Once the leotard has been made, it is shipped in 100% reusable and recyclable packaging materials, which are also compostable. When composted, it will break down in three to four months, as opposed to the 100’s of years a regular plastic mailer would take. The leotard is also packaged with tissue paper and stickers that are made of soy-based ink and printed on acid-free paper certified by FSC, the Forest Stewardship Council. This certification includes rigorous forest management standards that help ensure our forest products are not significantly damaging our forest areas.
The Marseille leotard is made by Imperfect Pointes, a fairly new dancewear company founded by Helen Banks. She has a history in fashion, and her experience working in fast fashion opened her eyes to the wastefulness of clothes and impact they have on the planet. She was also disturbed by the working conditions of this industry. This is what inspired the creation of this brand and the values behind it. Imperfect Pointes has three major goals: to create a place with diversity and representation, not add to landfills and keep plastic waste out of the oceans, and encourage the ballet community to make a change in terms of sustainability. They strive to go against the norm among dance brands that many new styles need to be released each season, in addition to the constant use of nylon. This shows in their seemingly timeless designs and use of ECONYL. Helen also completed a Sustainable Business Certificate at the University of Cambridge to help her journey in creating a sustainable dancewear brand. The company has even applied their opportunity for change to their product names. Each one is named after plastic pollution hot-spots in the Mediterranean, with the goal of highlighting this issue further. Another innovative part of their design is a repair and reuse program. Their products are built to be fairly durable, but if they ever need some mending they can be sent back to Imperfect Pointes and repaired for free. If a product is no longer needed for the customer, the company will take it back and redistribute it to organizations supporting ballet in disadvantaged regions.