Here Are 8 Workout Brands That Don't Use Sweatshop Labor

Photo: Courtesy of Alternative Apparel.
It’s a sad day when Beyoncé’s Ivy Park range is under investigation for unethical production practices. Sad indeed, but not all leggings-buying has to come to a halt while investigations into that brand are ongoing.

In a widely discussed report by The Sun, it’s been alleged that Ivy Park is made in Sri Lankan sweatshops, where seamstresses working 9.75 hour shifts five days a week make the equivalent of only $6.18 a day. One factory worker told The Sun she made 18,500 rupees a month ($277), which is about half the average wage in Sri Lanka. Considering each item of Ivy Park clothing sells for between $20 and $230, you can see the clear disparity.

Ivy Park is under further investigation, and a Topshop spokesperson told The Sun, “Ivy Park has a rigorous ethical trading program. We are proud of our sustained efforts in terms of factory inspections and audits, and our teams work very closely with our suppliers and their factories to ensure compliance.” Additionally, it’s been reported by WWD that all Ivy Park-affiliated factory workers, among those in the Sri Lankan factory, are paid above the country’s minimum wage. Regardless, those are some pretty heavy accusations for a brand built on the idea of empowering women — especially as it’s not the first time Topshop has been outed for using sweatshop labor.

If anything, all this controversy about labor rights should have you thinking about how one of the most-worn items in your closet is affecting the world at large. Change begins with the consumer, so if you want to be an advocate for ethical production, put your money where your values are. It is possible to shop, even on a budget, for stylish activewear that’s clearly produced using fair work standards and sustainable resourcing — here are eight brands we're loving right now.
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Photo: Courtesy of Alternative Apparel.
Alternative Apparel
Alternative Apparel is a “fabric first” company, and over 70% of its clothing range is made from sustainable materials. As the name would suggest, Alternative has a different approach to clothing production, and is definitely a solid alternative to fast-fashion sweatshop brands, especially with its low-key chic, is-that-Madewell? aesthetic. Using pima cotton and alpaca from Peru (sourced from sustainable farms), Alternative produces its ranges in factories in Guatemala and the Dominican Republic that adhere to the stringent Fair Labor Association (FLA) Workplace Code of Conduct. It’s also staunch about using non-toxic, low-impact dyes and keeping toxic substances off the production line.

Alternative Apparel Powder Puff Eco-Jersey T-Shirt, $38, available at Alternative Apparel.
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Photo: Courtesy of Patagonia.
If you’re looking for it, Patagonia’s most likely got it, with one of the most extensive inventories of not only activewear, but active equipment for the outdoors. Patagonia is well known for its ethical practices, employing its own social responsibility team, third-party auditors, and the Fair Labor Association to maintain fair working standards in all its factories. To that end, Patagonia doesn’t employ child labor, and all its workers are paid at least minimum legal wages. The company also adheres to the Bluesign Standard for Sustainability, meaning that its use of resources like water and its work conditions are under constant scrutiny. Additionally, Patagonia has initiatives like Common Threads, which is devoted to the recycling of old clothes, and even has an environmental “internship” program which allows staff to take two months off to volunteer with an environmental group of their choosing.

Patagonia Cordelisse Bra, $49, available at Patagonia.
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Photo: Courtesy of LVR.
Designed and handmade in L.A., LVR puts earth-friendliness first. Founded by two animal-lovers — Eric Clarke and his wife Anastasia — in 2010, LVR only works with dye houses and factories that comply with ethical standards and it uses organic, sustainable cotton and hemp; recycled polyester and bamboo rayon; and low-impact, non-toxic dyes to make a collection of basics that are gym-ready, but also cool enough for anytime else. LVR also has ongoing charity partnerships, donating a portion of its sales to ARCAS, a wildlife sanctuary in Guatemala, as well as making monthly donations to L.A.’s Downtown Women’s Center.

LVR Organic Raw Pullover, $62, available at LVR.
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Photo: Courtesy of Pact.
Pact is basics done right. If you’re looking for some simple leggings and tanks to work out in at super reasonable prices ($29.99 for a pair of full-length, black leggings), then you’re going to love this brand. Pact states that it makes “clothes that don’t hurt people,” and doesn't use sweatshops or child labor. Its farms, too, are organic and eschew toxic pesticides in favor of non-GMO cottons. Pact is also certified by OCS (Organic Content Standard), GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard), and Fair Trade USA, so you know it is for real.

Pact Super Soft Organic Leggings, $34.99, available at Pact.
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Photo: Courtesy of Nau.
Nau says, “Sustainability isn’t a feature, an extra, a nice to have or marketing copy.” Indeed, its sustainability practice is in the details: Donating 2% of every sale to projects like The Conservation Alliance, Ashoka, People For Bikes, The Breakthrough Institute, Mercy Corps and Eco Trust, Nau is committed to affecting change (while also providing simple, well-made workout gear that you'll want to wear). Meanwhile, all its products are made using sustainable materials, with an emphasis on wool, organic cotton, recycled polyester, and recycled and responsibly sourced down.

Nau Slight Shirt, $145, available at Nau.
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Photo: Courtesy of Synergy Organic Clothing.
Synergy Organic Clothing
Synergy Organic Clothing is wonderful not just because of its ethical standards, but because it mashes together yoga and fashion for some seriously covetable activewear. But back to the important stuff: All of Synergy’s products are fair trade and organic. Synergy allows its over 150 Nepalese workers the chance to work from home and earn a living wage, plus yearly bonuses. It’s also a Green America Certified business, which means its textiles are spun with organic fibers and employ non-toxic dying methods. Synergy also partners with the San Lorenzo River Alliance and the Waterwheel Foundation to protect local and international communities.

Synergy Organic Clothing Snake Print Yoga Bra, $42 $29, available at Synergy Organic Clothing.
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Photo: Courtesy of Threads 4 Thought.
Threads 4 Thought
The lifestyle and clothing label is motivated by a mission of sustainability, and it supports International Rescue Committee’s New Roots program, a humanitarian effort dealing with emergency response and refugee resettlement. Threads uses non-GMO, organic cotton; recycled polyester; and Lenzing modal (which is made from the pulp of Beech trees that are trimmed, but never cut down). Threads also only uses socially responsible manufacturing practices, and all its factories and workplaces adhere to Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP). It's part of the the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and Fair Trade USA, which promotes a market-based approach to humanitarianism, giving farmers and workers sustainable business models under fair conditions.

Threads 4 Thought
Keana Cropped Pant, $60, available at Threads 4 Thought.
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Photo: Courtesy of PrAna.
For yoga and climbing enthusiasts, Prana is a go-to for ethical activewear. With a selection of prints that are made to appeal to the wanderlusty sort, its exercise gear is full of boho patterns and earth tones. Prana is also a Bluesign partner, a member of the Fair Labor Association, and uses organic cotton and hemp, recycled polyester, and other sustainable textiles for its clothing, most of which is made in the U.S. The company has a serious traceability standard, too, which means it holds itself accountable for its sourcing.

Prana Boost Printed Top $65, available at Prana.

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