But what if you expect your workout looks to be as environmentally responsible as they are comfortable?
Activewear is traditionally made using synthetic fibres like lycra (also called spandex and elastane) and polyester. Although these materials are functional and supportive, and deliver the stretch associated with sportswear, they can cause widespread environmental damage. Synthetics take a long time to break down, are resource heavy and, if dyed using harmful azo dyes, can be devastating for surrounding environments.
Thankfully, a number of brands are now designing with environmental impact in mind. Whether you plan on taking up Pilates, going to the gym or just sticking to your morning coffee “runs”, take a look at five of our favourite eco-conscious activewear brands to elevate your style and performance.
The collaboration of sister design-duo Laura May and Hannah Gibbs, Byron Bay-based Nagnata makes luxury, seasonless garments perfect for low-impact activity. The brand’s early designs were inspired by a selection of 1920s swimsuits Gibbs discovered at a California vintage market. The suits’ construction from thick, durable wool served as a starting point for Nagnata’s unique knit blends. “It was really about marrying old world and new world design,” Gibbs told RIISE. That meant also rejecting many common “new world” materials. “People don’t realise that nylons are made from petrochemicals,” Gibbs explains. “Why the fuck do you want that on your skin? It’s our responsibility as designers to make sure that the clothes aren’t harmful.”
Nagnata’s values-driven business model extends beyond environmental concerns. Since its inception in 2017, it has made inclusivity and community mindedness a priority. This year, May and Gibbs took that focus further, introducing their first genderless line, SAMA, featuring styles that aren’t exclusively masculine or feminine. This approach is clearly winning them fans: they’ve received a number of accolades including the VAMFF Honourable Mention Award for Sustainability and a double nomination for IMG Australian Fashion Laureate awards in the best emerging designer and sustainable innovation emerging designer categories.
Allbirds was already famous for merging functionality and eco-consciousness through its cult footwear range, but for the first time it has ventured into activewear. Its Natural Run collection features practical yet stylish running gear like tank tops, leggings and shorts (perfect for a marathon or brunch – no judgement). Our favourite pieces are the running tops, available in a form-fitting tank and a looser option, that both utilise eucalyptus tree fibre (Tencel lyocell) and merino wool to create a moisture wicking material.
As a certified B Corporation, the environment is front of mind in everything Allbirds does. Its packaging uses 90 per cent post-consumer recycled cardboard and its products are designed using natural or recycled materials. Plus, you’ll be able to see the exact carbon footprint of your garment before Allbirds offsets the remaining emissions through its carbon offsetting initiatives.
Known for its activewear, swimwear and wetsuits, Abysse has a vision to “produce less, produce well” by using 100 per cent recycled materials. We’re personally loving the new Kelea One-Piece, its first bodysuit perfect for land and water (meet you at the beach bar after a surf?). The quick drying and UV protective fabric is made with Econyl regenerated nylon (repurposed ghost fishing nets that pollute and kill the oceanic environment) and other nylon waste.
Abysse’s owner, Hanalei Reponty-Gudauskas, is passionate about using innovation to push boundaries and redefine fashion’s role in the sports industry. Garments are produced locally in California, and each piece uses colours inspired by her first home and love, Tahiti.
Everything these guys stand for is in the name – Pan meaning all-inclusive and Gaia meaning mother earth. They put their ethos into practice by pioneering new textile innovations such as materials using eco-friendly and recycled elements.
Pangaia’s entire plant-powered activewear collection is made from a combination of Evo (bio-based nylon), lyocell SeaCell and Roica V550. Each piece is also treated with miDori bioWick, a 100 per cent biocarbon wicking treatment made from microalgae to keep you cool and dry, absorbing unwanted moisture and helping it evaporate from the fabric. Not only are Pangaia’s products high tech; they’re also fun. Their signature bold colourways range from rosemary green to flamingo pink.
This size-inclusive (2XS–6XL) fashion label creates activewear from old plastic bottles, fishing nets and other waste, turning them into sports bras, leggings and shorts you’ll never want to throw away. All of the brand’s recycled fabrics and low-impact non-toxic dyes are fully Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified. In a bid to close the loop further, it has introduced ReGirlfriend.A new program for US customers that collects a selection of old Girlfriend pieces and upcycles them into new garments that can be worn again and again. Plus, you get a $15 site credit.