To help you find workout gear that's as functional as it is stylish, we're trying out the latest products and letting you know how they fare when we put them to the test.
Lately, it seems like you can't look at a single-use plastic straw without feeling at least a twinge of shame for the way that humans treat the planet, and for good reason: Americans toss an estimated 500 million straws a day, and most of them end up in the ocean. Experts predict that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Many of us are starting to question the impact that our favorite items will have on the environment, and that includes our clothing.
When Girlfriend Collective sought to design their latest line of leggings, called LITE, they wanted to ensure they could do something to help the ocean plastic epidemic, says Quang Dinh, co-founder of Girlfriend Collective. The brand is known for their leggings made from recycled water bottles, which blew up on Facebook after a free product giveaway went viral. Customers dug the recycled element, but wanted a fabric lighter, thinner, and stretchier than the polyester-spandex leggings, which tend to get hot during intense workouts, Dinh says. "I knew that nylon was a great fiber for a product like this and sought out recycled nylon," he says.
But making a recycled nylon fabric was challenging, and they spent a year and a half perfecting it. "Recycled nylon is a harder to find because the raw material isn’t as prevalent as water bottles," Dinh says. "It took us a while to find and learn what yarn makers were serious about sustainability in recycled nylon." They ended up finding a partner in Italy who helped them take discarded fishing nets and nylon waste from the ocean and turn it into fabric, called ECONYL. The question is, can this recycled material hold up just as well as other wicking fabrics during a workout?
I wore the leggings during my usual workout, a run in the park and strength-training circuit, and to a vinyasa yoga class. Compared to the polyester Girlfriend Collective leggings I've tried, these are way cooler and better at wicking sweat. And despite being made of literal trash, the fabric is highly technical, and really moves with your body, so if you usually do activities that require lots of stretching, like yoga or dance, these would be great.
The LITE leggings are very, well, light and they go on smoothly. Often just putting leggings on can be a workout, but these felt really good. (They're comfy enough to sleep in, IMO.) The fabric is thin and breathable, and the compression is barely there. Some people might actually find that they need a little more coverage, or want more of a "hugging" sensation around their legs and butt, though I'm a fan of the relaxed fit. Kim Truong, health writer at Refinery29, wore them to do a cardio and weight-lifting workout and agreed that they were super comfortable. "They were a lot easier to move around in than I thought they'd be, because they felt like tight spandex when I first put them on," she told me.
All of the Girlfriend Collective leggings that I've tried tend to be cut high, which Kim and I liked, but some might find that the fabric bunches around the crotch area. They're available in sizes XXS-XXXL, and I found that they tend to run big, so you might want to size down. One annoying thing that I couldn't get past was that these have one tiny pocket in the back of the waistband, which is kind of hard to access — so I might just wear these to phone-less workouts.
So, should you get these leggings?
Yeah, you probably should. They're environmentally responsible, functional for lots of types of workouts, and comfortable — what more would you want from your workout clothes? They cost $68, which is way less than many comparable styles from other brands, and a portion of the sales goes to Healthy Seas, an organization that helps clean up and save marine life. So, they'll help your workouts and your conscience.
*Girlfriend Collective provided Refinery29 with the product for testing purposes.