How often do you find yourself staring at a wardrobe full of clothes but saying, ‘I have nothing to wear!’? Until my recent wardrobe detox, I found myself in this predicament too often. I had so many clothes. Most of them were over 10 years old, didn’t fit me anymore or I had worn them so much I no longer enjoyed them or they were worn out. Putting together an outfit that looked semi-respectable was a frustrating endeavour. After donating most of my clothes to the op shop, I still sometimes find myself saying ‘I have nothing to wear’, but at least it’s not in front of a wardrobe full of clothes. I am slowly restocking my wardrobe with a minimalist perspective purchasing pieces that I will wear regularly and that can be styled a few different ways. As part of aiming to live a conscious and healthy lifestyle I’ve also been considering the ethics and environmental sustainability behind the clothes that I purchase. But what kind of fashion can you find that is actually made in an ethical and sustainable manner? Well, there’s more choice than you think. I’ve even found ethical and sustainable activewear! I live in activewear and keeping with my new minimalist wardrobe mindset, I want to show you three ways you can style an activewear outfit, ethically! These three looks are for work, play (street wear) and exercise.
Why is ethical and sustainable fashion important?
The problem: Most clothing that is cheap has been made in factories where workers have dangerous conditions, incredibly long hours and low wages. The majority of these factories also use synthetic materials (which can take up to 200 years to break down in landfill) and they have no regard for recycling. Many of these industry practices contribute to waste and global warming.
Why opt for vegan/vegetarian products?
This was really interesting to me and the answer isn’t just ‘because you should love and care for animals better’ (which is a completely valid point, but a well known position). A lot of research has suggested that using animals for fashion (eg. leather) also contributes to an unsustainable practice for our environment based on the amount of food and water that cattle and the like need to survive and the fossil fuels used in the process.
Raising livestock isn’t the only problem, it’s the impact that the toxins used in the leather tanning process are having on leather tannery workers. Studies have found that leather tannery workers are at a far greater risk of cancer, by between 20 and 50%. Additionally, it impacts the communities surrounding the leather tannery by polluting natural water sources which leads to disease in communities with little ability to address those diseases adequately.
Does it really matter if I purchase clothing unethically and unsustainably made? Won’t they be made anyway?
You might think you’re the little guy, but where each of us spends our money impacts the direction of the fashion industry. You see, until we start giving our money to companies that care about their workers and environmental issues, there won’t be a push for a change in industry practice and standards. Our money is like a vote and we can use it to show the industry what there is a demand for. If we use it to show there is demand for cheap clothes, despite the fact there have been human rights violations or environmental waste in their production, then these issue will continue. Unless there is a demand for a more ethical market and a willingness to purchase clothes that are a little more costly in order to support ethical working conditions for those who work in the factories, the supply for clothes made in an ethical manner won’t be there. Most larger corporations will only invest in a more costly venture if it’s a smart business decision ie. there is someone (like you!) who will pay for it.
Choose to make an impact
If we want to see a better world, where those who are less fortunate are treated better and our environment is cared for, then we need to prove to the fashion industry that there is a demand for ethically made and sustainably produced clothing. One way we can do this is by being aware of how our clothes are made and on that basis deciding where to purchase them from. If we support those acting ethically and with sustainable environmental practices, we will help more companies provide safer conditions for workers and it will help produce a more positive environmental impact.
How do I know if clothes are ethically made?
If your unsure what practices a brand uses, I recommend a combination of a quick google search, checking the policy page on their site and/or sending them a question via their Facebook page. In my research I also found Ethical Clothing Australia, a voluntary accreditation that Australian brands can have to make sure their supply chains are transparent and legally compliant. They have a list of accredited brands here and their about page tells you more about accreditation.
Styling Activewear in 2017
The three looks below all use the same basics – the crop and capri leggings. All items pictured can be purchased on the Ecoture website. Ecoture is an online Australian shop similar to Netaporter or ASOS but it only stocks ethically and sustainably made clothing and accessories. All of their products are also cruelty free and vegan or vegetarian (check the notes under each product). They also have a ‘Waste not, want not‘ program encouraging recycling of their worn goods by offering you Ecoture loop points when you return the goods which they then pass onto charity groups – impressive!
Ecoture Discount Code
For Eat Pray Workout readers that are interested in updating their wardrobe with ethically and sustainably made clothing, enter the code ‘eatprayworkout’ at the checkout for 20% off orders of $100+.
Styling Activewear for the Gym
First things first, activewear needs to be practical – in my opinion pretty is a bonus! Luckily this set covers both. I LOVE this crop top and the matching leggings – how gorgeous is the tiger print? It reflects just how I want to feel when exercising – strong and on the move! Both pieces feel adequately supportive too.
The story behind this ethically made activewear
These are by a brand called Naja, who employs single mothers or female heads of households in Columbia, paying above-market wages and providing health and child education benefits. In addition, through its Underwear for Hope program, Naja employs women in the slums of Colombia to make lingerie bags that complete each Naja purchase. This program allows marginalised women, who would otherwise have difficulty finding employment opportunities, to work from home and become their own ‘micro-entrepreneurs’.
Add versatile ethically made sneakers by Australian company Etiko
The sneakers pictured here are great for low intensity weights training or walking (I probably wouldn’t run long distances in them). Made by family-run Australian brand Etiko they use fair trade (first non-food brand in Australia to gain fair trade certification) and responsibly sourced materials to create products that empower the farmers and workers in their supply chain.
Pair it with ethically made studs
I don’t wear much jewellery when I workout, but because I go makeup free to the gym I like to have studs on. These big black and white concrete patterned studs are perfect to give your outfit that extra edge, without causing any problems whilst you workout. Made by a brand called deconstruct, they are produced using a minimum of 40% pre-consumer recycled materials, whilst organics and textiles are sourced from artisans in developing countries.
Don’t forget you’re ethically made gym bag!
Then there’s the gym bag. I opt for a backpack for the gym now because I am normally holding Finn in one hand and his nappy bag in the other so a back pack makes me look slightly less like a pack horse. Plus when you can get them this gorgeous who wouldn’t?! This backpack isn’t too bulky, it doesn’t look like a school kid owns it and it fits everything I need for the gym – a water bottle, iPod and speakers, snacks, note pad and pen, a small towel and toiletries.
Styling Activewear Street Style
What is street style?
Street style is casual – think things you would wear to the shops or to see friends for coffee. Street style in activewear is all about feeling like you’re in your PJs, without looking like you are! This is what I live in because a) it’s comfortable and b) I can usually take off a layer and I’m ready to work out – which means one less excuse to stop me from going to the gym.
Pair with tights with big or baggy items
Here, I’ve paired my gym outfit with a large oversize long sleeve tee (this one can be worn as a skirt too!), an organic white cotton scarf and switched the backpack for a more structured but large bag that adds both a touch of elegance and sass. How gorgeous is the hot pink interior of the bag!?For earrings, off come the studs, on go the dingle dangles. These dingle dangles are particularly cool – made from recycled bike inner tubes! Some people are so creative.
Hair out, sunnies on – you’re good to go! NB: these sunglasses are ones I already owned and to my knowledge (based on the price), they are not ethically made – however they were recycled – purchased from an op shop and borrowed from a friend!
Styling Activewear for Work
This is probably the hardest one, but it’s not impossible. It would probably depend on your industry as to whether you could get away with this outfit. For instance, I would be pushing it to wear this to work as a lawyer if I was seeing clients, but it would be perfectly acceptable for me as a health blogger to attend a meeting in this. If you’re unsure – ask that person that always gives you the blunt honest truth about how you look (hi, sis!). I’ve paired my crop and tights with a blouse, low heels, a grey bag and long copper earrings all from Ecoture and a jacket I had at home (not sure where it’s from it is about 10 years old!). Ideally you would opt for full length tights for this look. I chose short because my wardrobe already had a few long pairs and I didn’t need any more. I also didn’t style them with the long either because I wanted to show you that you don’t need a lot of things to create different looks. I love the touch of gold detailing in the bag and shirt – it’s these things that dress it up enough to make it acceptable as workwear.
How amazing is the back on this crop top and blouse!!
An awareness and change of mindset
Though I don’t yet have a completely organic, ethical and sustainable wardrobe or home, I am more aware and thoughtful when I pull out my purse than ever before. My wardrobe detox really made me think about what I want to restock it with and after being gifted these clothes and discovering Ecoture, I am glad to find a simple solution to how I can support ethical and sustainable clothing, without having to worry about where my money is going or what negative affects it may have on myself, the lives of others or the environment. Small changes to my purchases overtime will have huge positive impacts in some of the big issues our world faces today. What impacts will your purchases have from now on?