Michelle Welling

The Story of Girlfriend Collective's Sustainable Activewear

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HOW DID GIRLFRIEND COLLECTIVE COME ABOUT?

It all started with our founders, Ellie and Quang Dinh, who had the idea of creating a conscious clothing brand, but it really took form after we honed in on activewear which is typically made from virgin plastic. We stumbled upon a way to make polyester entirely from recycled water bottles and we knew we had something special.

WHAT ARE GIRLFRIEND COLLECTIVE’S GOALS?

Our ultimate goal is to make the best sustainable alternative to synthetic activewear, something that combines performance, function, and fashion, and makes you feel good when you wear it. Within that, our top priorities are using recycled materials, committing to ethical manufacturing, and representing the beautiful spectrum of our customer base through our product offering and marketing.

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ARE GIRLFRIEND COLLECTIVE PRODUCTS REALLY ECO-FRIENDLY?

As eco-friendly as possible! The most eco-friendly thing you can do is wear what you already own, but if you are in the market for synthetic activewear, this is the best way to do it. All of our clothes are made from certified recycled materials, then cut-and-sewn in ethical, certified factories. 

Our signature fabric recycled is certified Standard 100 by Oeko-Tex, the world’s leader in testing fabrics to regulate harmful substances. They make sure every fabric’s origin and contents are totally up front, so you know exactly what you’re putting on your body. We even dye with eco-friendly dyes, carefully treating our wastewater before it is released, and donate the dye mud to be recycled into pavement for sidewalks and roads. 

WHAT MAKES A BRAND TRULY “SUSTAINABLE”?

There are so many factors that go into the sustainability of a brand: from the materials to the dyes to the factory. There is already so much waste on the planet, it’s vital to look at every step of the process and see where you can save resources or otherwise reduce your footprint. And then, finally, you really need to think about what happens to your product when the customer is finished with it, whether that’s in ten months or ten years. 

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HOW DO YOU TURN RECYCLED WATER BOTTLES INTO YOGA LEGGINGS?

Magic! Just kidding. It all starts at the recycling facility with post-consumer water bottles. After all of the bottles are sorted into their respective categories (#1, #2, #3, and #4 plastic), they are sent to their processing centers. Our leggings and bras are made from #1 plastic - or Polyethylene Terephthalate, also known as PET. Fun fact: All polyester (recycled or not) is derived from this type of plastic.

Each bale is weighed and logged. From there, the bales go into a steam wash to remove caps and labels. After the caps and labels are removed, the bottles are sorted by colour. We use the clear bottles for our fibers, and the coloured bottles get sent elsewhere to be processed for myriad other uses.

Once the colour sorting is done, we shred them down into tiny chips, wash them again, and place them in transport bags to be shipped to our manufacturing facility. Each bag is weighed and logged again to make sure that the output is equal to input. This ensures that we have an accurate count for how many bottles were used and can verify that they were the same bottles processed at arrival. 

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As soon as our spinning mill takes the delivery of our raw PET chips from the recycling center, the bags of chips go through another wash, and are dried. Once they dry, the chips get sent to storage silos and are sent to a machine where the chips get heated up and extruded into long thick spaghetti like strands. From there, they are chipped down to little pellets.

The pellets then get reheated and are extruded again to make superfine threads that are spun together into our yarn. From there they are spun onto large bobbins, packaged, and sent to our knitting factory, where they become super-soft, high-performance fabric.

HOW CAN CONSUMERS BE MORE ECO-FRIENDLY?

We always say the classic “reduce, reuse, recycle” is hard to beat. Use reusable containers, reduce your waste and flat-out refuse single-use plastic, and recycle everything you can. 

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CAN WE EXPECT ANY NEW PRODUCT LAUNCHES COMING UP?

So many… but we can’t say too much. Our seasonal limited colours are especially exciting this year, if we do say so ourselves. We’re always trying to come up with exciting ideas of new launches that help you stay active and help our planet at the same time. So the best thing is to follow along on our journey and see what products we’re working on!

FINALLY, WHAT DOES THE FUTURE OF GIRLFRIEND COLLECTIVE LOOK LIKE?

We’d love to be a resource for our community on ways to be more sustainable in their daily lives, from new products to education. Sustainability can feel really overwhelming at times — there is so much that needs to be done and it is very difficult in modern society to make zero waste, so many people throw their hands up and say, “This is impossible, I can’t do anything!”. But in reality, if we all did our part to change our habits and be as good to the earth as possible, we could truly make a difference. 

We’d love to be a resource to support our community in being the best they can be, and encourage people who may not be knowledgeable about sustainable practices to take their first step.