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01 Feb

#Workout Goals With Girlfriend Collective

I started 2018 with a strong intention to curb the use of plastics in my life — both single-use disposables (like straws and bags) and longer-life items like food storage containers and toys that my kids play with daily. Inspiring leaders in this movement, like Kate Nelson of @plasticfreemermaid, have helped immensely to sort out how to break this bad habit and form new systems that replace our old ones. The innovative husband-and-wife team behind Girlfriend Collective, a new range of gorgeous, earth-friendly workout gear, are another bright spot in this emerging community of eco-minded creatives. 

Founders Quang and Ellie Dinh call the approach to producing the Girlfriend Collective "slow fashion." There are 25 post-consumer waste water bottles in every pair of leggings they produce in their factory in Taiwan, and that's not where the sustainability stops. Every inch of production, from the entire faciilty, which has a SA8000 designation for its comittment to their employees, to the post-production waste (dye 'mud' is transferred to a pavement facility, where it's turned into paving stones for sidewalks), is thoughtfully considered and executed. What drew me to the collection was the style, but the responsible ethos is what's converted me to a life-long customer.

I was so excited to chat with Dinh to get the scoop on what sets Girlfriend Collective apart — and I guarantee that by the time you read through our interview, you'll be dialing up a pair (or three) of their eco-chic leggings for yourself, too! 

 

BIKINI: Why was recycling plastic an important part of the Girlfriend initiative? 

QUANG DINH: Because we had the choice to do so. Not to sound preachy, but recycling is a choice in our normal lives and it’s the same in the activewear world. Recycled polyester has been around for a long time now, but a lot of brands don't use it for whatever reason. But just as it is in our daily lives, you can hold onto that water bottle until you find that recycling bin or you can simply just throw it out in the next garbage can you see. I think for us, it's the right thing to do — we want to be a brand that people can believe in and know that we will always look to do the right thing.


BIKINI: Is plastic something you avoid using personally? Can you tell us about how you avoid using it? 

QD: We do try to avoid it as best as we can, especially single-use plastics like straws. Thankfully, we live in Seattle where the progressive values extend heavily into recycling and banning single-use plastics. Recycling is a religion here and it's something we take great pride in.


BIKINI: What was the biggest challenge in crafting the fabric? 

QD: As with any recycled product, it's really easy to downcycle it [plastic] to something of lesser value due to the inconsistencies of some recycling facilities. That's part of the reason why you see outdoor brands use it as a sleeping bag or puffy jacket fill because no one will ever see the quality of yarn inside your puffy jacket. For Girlfriend Collective, we wanted our product to be as good as or even better than other luxury activewear brands out there, but made from recycled materials. We wanted to show the world that you can make a really great, long-lasting product with recycled materials. The challenge is that it takes a lot of time and patience to make our fabric. It's part of the slow fashion revolution — for us, sacrificing being on time for current trends just isn’t worth it if it means sacrificing the earth.

 

BIKINI: Sustainability seems baked into every part of your business — have you had mentors in operating with ethical practices? 

QD: I studied sustainability in college and started two premium denim lines using organic family-grown cotton and fair trade cut and sew ethics in 2005, so sustainability is a huge part of our background.



BIKINI: What do you hope the Girlfriend brand offers to your customer?

QD: A lot of our customers are millennials with millennial values. They want to change the world as much as we want to, and we want to be the brand they can look to for that. We want to set a new standard of how a brand should operate with values that are truly sustainable, especially in the social/political climate that we're in.



BIKINI: What's up next?

QD: Lots of new materials and fabrics from recycled sources! We also realize that microplastics are an issue and don't want to dust it under the rug. We're developing a way for consumers to be on top of that too and we're really excited to bring solutions to the table.