16 Jan, 2020
Ethical and sustainable activewear to keep you moving
From the gym to Pilates to school drop-offs and coffee with friends, activewear is everywhere.
Comfortable, relaxed and the perfect accessory to a laidback Queensland lifestyle, our obsession with taking gym wear to the streets shows no sign of slowing.
Women’s active wear is a $2 billion industry in Australia with a Victoria University study finding the average Australian woman purchases around three items of activewear per year.
But with increased awareness of the impact of fast fashion on the planet and the poor treatment of factory workers in developing countries who make most of our clothes, how do you find clothes you can sweat in that don’t damage the environment or and sustain sweatshops?
[For more on fast fashion, see our previous stories Getting started on ethical fashion and Rising and resisting.]
6 tips for choosing sustainable, ethical activewear
- Fabrics: natural fibres such as cotton (preferably organic) and bamboo, recycled nylon/polyester or custom fabrics created from products diverted from landfill such as Repreve or ECONYL.
- Dyes: Non-toxic, natural dyes.
- Sustainable supply chains that conserve natural resources and divert waste from landfill.
- Independent certifications such as GOTS (Global Organic textile Standard), WRAP (World Responsible Accredited Production) and B Corp.
- Made in Australia or ethically made elsewhere.
- Go for quality: choose well-made items that will last.
Independent brands to look out for
If you love to hit the ground running in activewear, there are some incredible Queensland and Australian sports and leisure brands making quality garments without compromising the environment or ripping off foreign workers. And most of them sell online! Check out our guide below.
One of the few brands to manufacture in Brisbane, all D+K garments are designed, cut and sewn locally, earning the brand certification by the Australian Made campaign
D+K is committed to using environmentally responsible textiles that preferably meet OEKO-TEX 100 standards, ensuring they are free from more than 100 substances harmful to human health.
The company HQ is energy self-sufficient, with extensive recycling practices all leftover fabric is put to creative use by the D+K team or local TAFE deign students.
Practical “gym to breakfast” activewear designed to flatter all shapes in blues, greys black/white and a splash of seasonal colours.
- Menâs, womenâs and maternity
- Crops, tanks, jacket, hoodies, shirts
- Tights, shorts, pants, dresses and swimwear
- Embrace range in sizes 18-24
Committed to driving change in the fashion industry from field to finished product, Byron Bay-based Bay Active clothing is designed for long-lasting wear, beyond seasonal trends.
Their gorgeous basics, activewear and yogawear are created in GOTS certified organic cotton, Australian merino, ECONYL and bamboo, all sourced from transparent ethical and certified supply chains.
Each piece of clothing purchased helps a person in need through the Buy1 Give1 (B1G1) program, empowering women in India to end the poverty cycle through the purchase of sewing machines, clothing rescued children or providing clean drinking water to villages.
Functional, comfortable yoga and leisure wear in block colours - blacks, ink, titanium and blues - designed for seamless transition from gym to swim.
- Leggings/tights, lounge wear, beach pants, shorts, yoga wear
- Crops, Tees, dresses
- Travel gear
Applying the philosophy of yoga practice to fashion, Dharma Bums clothes are designed and created to make a positive impact on the world.
Dharma Bums yoga, gym, Pilates and activewear is made from organic cotton, recycled nylon or sustainable bamboo with bio-textiles and biodegradable fabrics on the horizon.
All factories are BSCI(Business Social Accountability) accredited, which means healthy, safe working environments and fair wages for workers.
A strong focus on black and white, alongside a passion for prints, pastels and florals, with designs like “wandering spirit” and “Spring fling”. A dancewear feel with creative cut-outs.
- Various length leggings in prints and block colours
- Sports bras, sports tanks, tees, sweats and crop tops
Elle Evans Sustainable Swimwear
Turning the mass-produced ethos of the mainstream fashion industry on its head, Elle Evans Sustainable Swimwear makes swimsuits, leggings and sports bras to order, ensuring every item goes to an appreciative customer, not landfill.
All products are designed, printed and sewn in Melbourne from recycled fabrics printed with water-based, non-toxic inks.
Elle Evans uses ECONYLÂ® regenerated fabrics made from nylon waste like fishing nets, fabric scraps and industrial plastic sourced from oceans and landfill.
Think retro, tropical leafy designs or block prints in single shoulder one-pieces and leggings. Hues include blues, yellows, orchid prints and caravan annexe-inspired tones.
- Womenâs teens and kids
- Shorts, bike shorts, leggings
- Tanks, sports bras and swimwear
Based in Bondi, First Base manufactures street-inspired sportswear designed for active lifestyles.
Committed to sourcing from factories that operate ethically, First Base is WRAP (World Responsible Accredited Product) compliant which ensures safe and fair conditions for workers.
Products are made from GOTS certified organic cotton, ECONYLÂ® nylon and bamboo. First Base has partnered with Carbon Neutral Australia to plant 1672 trees to help offset their carbon emissions.
Street-inspired, urban activewear with wide leg pants, bold stripes and basketball style tanks.
- Track pants, leggings, sports shoes
- Tanks, tees, crops, windbreakers, hoodies and swimwear
Exploring their extensive range, it’s easy to see how founders Katia and Vera have transformed a passion for RNB and aerobics into an activewear brand with serious street cred.
Designed for people who genuinely want to “sweat it out”, Nimble Activewear uses signature COMPRESSLITE™ and MOVELITE™ fabrics made from post-consumer recycled plastic products. In fact, they’ve recycled a whopping 806,031 plastic bottles since 2015.
NImble Activewear also supports i=Change, with $1 from every online purchase supporting charities around the world.
Block colours of black, white, green, blue, grey, mauve and pink with a handful of signature prints in lattice, pebble and spot styles, designed for action.
- Leggings, shorts
- Tanks, tees, sports bras, long sleeved crews
Kusaga Athletic is on a mission to disrupt the way apparel is produced in Australia and across the world. A Queensland start-up based on a circular economy model, Kusaga Athletics has developed a series of custom plant-based fabrics, each with a range of certifications.
A 2016 Kickstarter program to launch the “greenest tee on the planet” resulted in the development of ECOLITEÂ® fabric, a blend of natural fibres that is biodegradable, compostable and sustainable.
B Corp Certified, Kusaga ethical sportswear, activewear and lifestyle apparel is designed to “leave no trace”. Products tend to sell out quickly but there’s a limited range of styles and sizes available on their website including The Greatest Tee in some men’s and women’s sizes.
Functional, breathable gym gear and casual tees in black, grey, orange and red blocks.
- Tees, singlets and vests for men and women
- The Greenest Tee - 100% plant based and compostable
Native Swimwear is an ethical, luxurious swimwear and resort wear label based on the Sunshine Coast and selling globally.
The first Aboriginal fashion label to be showcased at New York Fashion Week, Native Swimwear features authentic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prints, sharing the artist’s dreamtime stories with the world. The award-winning label is 100% Aboriginal owned.
Their gorgeous, vibrant pieces are made from quality sustainable fabrics: swimwear is sewn from regenerated nylon waste and recycled plastic, while their 100% silk resort wear is also eco-friendly.
Style Individual mix and match tops and bottoms or strappy one-pieces in vibrant, hand-painted designs such as “Rainbow serpent' and “Snake Vine”. Designed and cut to flatten and flatter.
- Dresses, kaftans, playsuits, sarongs and kimonos
Other options and activewear on a budget
Other noteworthy suppliers of certified active wear include adventure brands Kathmandu and Patagonia, which both have ranges for gym/leisure.
Popular activewear brand, Lorna Jane is also investing in more sustainable practices, with all garments made by a dedicated Australian-owned manufacturing group that is a WRAP certified business.
If you’re on a budget, try to choose well-made clothing made from sustainable fabrics such as cotton or bamboo, or go for Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) tagged products that support sustainable farming practices. Aim to buy only items that you love and will want to wear until they fall apart.
While buying second hand activewear is not usually recommended for obvious reasons, swapping with friends or family may also be an option.