There is certainly an emerging scene of more sustainable dancewear options, including this leotard by Rezonance Athletics. This is great progress to see, but the key phrase here is “more sustainable”. Many of the alternative materials to traditional nylon and polyester were around 10 years before they were implemented into leotards and other dance apparel. The few companies who have chosen to use this recycled fabric have made some good first steps, but there is room to grow in their thoroughness of sustainability. The continued use of elastane is a major issue here, as its own environmental effects almost counteract the issues being minimized by the use of alternative fabric. If we want to make a lasting positive impact, goals cannot only be accomplished partially. It should be completely possible, too, because there are other forms of elastane available. In terms of social responsibility, the company’s emphasis on local production facilities takes away some of the problems with long-distance transportation. There could be more information on who exactly is constructing this product, and some meaningful certifications would help back their claims of ethical and sustainable practices. This is also the cheapest leotard they produce, at $79. Although it may be more financially accessible than the $85 and $92 options, it can still be a lot to ask of the average dancer. This is a good product and brand to support when compared to the bigger dancewear companies that do not have any sustainability initiatives. I would feel more comfortable doing this if they replaced the elastane and were more transparent around their production process. I believe some relatively minor adjustments could make Rezonance Athletics a standard for other companies to follow.
As with many of the more modern styles of leotard, the sleek scoop leotard is composed of three major parts. These include the bottom (pictured in black), top (pictured in green), and bust lining. Usually the top and bottom portions would be made of nylon, an environmentally damaging material. In the past nylon has been praised for its strong yet stretchy nature, but this is where its benefits end. The production of nylon uses coal and petroleum, and once the material is created it is not biodegradable. Nylon manufacturing releases nitrous oxide, which is 300 times more harmful than the well-known greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. It is also an energy-intensive process that requires massive amounts of water. Once the water is used it can become an environmental contaminant and pollutant. There are some emerging alternatives to traditional nylon that address these negative impacts by being made of old fishing nets and fabric. The material used in this leotard is Reco nylon, a recycled nylon that uses pre-consumer fabric scraps. The portion of this leotard that would normally use nylon is 80% recycled nylon instead. The implementation of Reco nylon as opposed to regular nylon emits nine times less carbon dioxide, requires 88% less water, and 100% of the electricity used in production comes from renewable sources.
The other major material in this leotard is polyester, which has its own set of environmental issues when used conventionally. Similar to nylon, polyester comes from petroleum and is not biodegradable, in addition to using great amounts of energy and water. Polyester dyes are toxic to humans and the waste water from factories is difficult to treat, so it ends up polluting the areas it flows to. For these reasons, Rezonance Athletics chose to use Repreve recycled polyester. This material is created by taking plastic water bottles that would usually go to the landfill or ocean and making polyester. This reduces the need for fossil fuels and takes around 35% less energy to produce. 78% of what I am assuming is the top part of this leotard is made of recycled polyester. The other 20% and 22% of the leotard that is not Reco nylon or Repreve polyester is elastane. Elastane uses toxic chemicals, serious amounts of energy, and raw materials such as petroleum. It is not biodegradable but does not last long once the consumer buys it. There are alternatives to elastane, including Lycra T400, which is made of dextrose derived from corn. This company has done a good job of replacing traditional nylon and polyester, and this last step of using a different type of elastane would certainly benefit their sustainability efforts.
From the Rezonance Athletics website, it definitely seems like they are committed to some level of social sustainability in the production process. They describe working with factories based in New York City, which is where the company is headquartered as well. The goal is to make small batch, high quality items, and each one is handmade by experienced seamstresses. They place quality at the forefront of their priorities, and believe ethical production practices go hand-in-hand with this. Because of this, they carefully pick factories to work with that “will uphold our high ethical standards regarding wage and working conditions”. They do not require these factories to have any specific certifications, though. One of their favorite factories, Atelier Amelia, is a women-owned and operated production house located in New York City. Any information about other facilities they partner with are not given. There are also no social responsibility certifications mentioned, but the consumer’s confidence is increased by the one factory disclose. The most detail available is about the production of the recycled nylon and polyester. To make Reco nylon, reclaimed material from waste generated in textile facilities is selected and then re-melted. This produces the recycled PA6 polymer. This polymer is then extruded and converted back into fibers at a spinning plant. The recycled nylon yarn is now ready to be made into a leotard. This process is approved by the Global Recycle Standard, which can be applied to any product that consists of at least 20% recycled material. This certification definitely carries some weight, as each stage of production from recycling to selling the fabric to the manufacturer needs to be certified. Repreve polyester is also produced from waste. Recycled plastic bottles and post-industrial waste is collected from around the world, including waste from the Repreve facility. This material is chopped, ground, washed, melted, and reformulated into chips. The chips are melted into a polymer and shaped into filaments that become the Repreve fiber and then yarn. Finally, the yarn is knitted into polyester fabric. The process of creating the individual components of this leotard are fairly clear, but it would be nice to know a bit more about the actual construction and any transportation that needs to happen. The website does recommend using a guppyfriend washing bag for the leotard so that microplastics are not released into the water system, as even recycled materials can cause harm in the washing process.
The sleek scoop leotard is sold by Rezonance Athletics. The company launched in February 2020 and was founded by four individuals, most of whom have a history as professional ballet dancers. Their experience combines knowledge of the dance world with fashion design, ethics and sustainability, and business development. They believe sustainability is crucial to preserving the planet but noticed a gap between dance/athletic wear and environmentally-friendly products. Due to this, their mission is to produce un-compromised dancewear that is also good for the earth. They do a fine job of sharing some information such as who is sewing together this leotard, but they also say all of their fabrics are either made from recycled water bottles or pre-consumer fabric scraps. This is true of the nylon and polyester, but they do not use an alternative elastane material. They also do not point this out to the consumer or discuss any goals to replace the elastane that makes up about a fifth of the leotard. This statement could be misleading to the average buyer who likely takes that as fact and does not look into the details of their various fabrics. Reco nylon is owned by Nurel, a European polymer and fiber producer based in Spain. They are ISO 14001 and 50001 certified, which addresses planning for environmental impacts and the toxicity of products. These standards are purchased, so their trustworthiness could be questionable. Nurel does perform Life Cycle Assessments and uses the Environmental Product Declaration to analyze the environmental impact at each production step of the nylon material. Repreve polyester is made by Unifi, a global textile solutions company. They have recycled over 25 billion plastic water bottles to turn into polyester fabric. They also have a recycled content certification from SCS Global Services and their own U Trust verification to certify recycled content claims.