This post was sponsored by Asquith, all thoughts my own.
When we talk about ideas of sustainability and how they can be applied to our purchasing habits, we’re generally need to look at three areas for any product.
We need to consider how it affects people, in terms of who is making our clothes and who is affected by overall manufacturing processes, for example those who live near conventional cotton farms who are exposed to pesticides, or those who live downriver from factories using toxic dyes and poisoning waterways in the process. We need to look at how it affects the environment and ecosystems, both in how something is manufactured and what will happen at the end of its lifecycle. And we need to ask ourselves about the economics of the product, asking questions such as ‘how long will this last?’, ‘does buying this play into hyper-consumerist culture?’, and ‘will it enable me to buy less in future?’.
With any kind of ethical or sustainable fashion purchase, these are all important factors to consider. When it comes to trying to find ethical activewear and gym gear, I think this is even more paramount. Here’s why.
Athleisure is a booming industry
The rise of the wellness movement has led to a rise in activewear that is truly set apart from previous fashion trends. Sports and fitness clothing will reach $231.7 billion worldwide by 2024, in the US alone $48 billion is being spent on activewear every year. An industry on that scale touches the lives of millions of workers and individuals who are affected by manufacturing processes, impacts innumerable global ecosystems, and is a huge amount of consumer money that can either be directed into sustainable and ethical practices, or can be used to line the pockets of billionaires.
Activewear has a plastic problem
It’s estimated that 60% of our apparel is made from synthetic fabrics, and activewear uses more man-made fibres than any other category. These fibres can’t decompose naturally, so are destined for landfill, and in the meantime shed microfibres into our water systems, adding to the global plastic pollution problem.
Our gym gear can be toxic
The use of synthetic chemicals and pesticides in the production of our clothes can poison up to 25 million farmers per year and cause a range of issues including cancer, harming reproductive and immune systems, hurting fetal development, damaging the nervous system, neurological problems, and respiratory issues. Greenpeace has found toxic chemicals including phthalates, Azo dyes, PFCS, and heavy metals such as lead and chromium in many clothes from mainstream brands, which we can then absorb through our skin (also known as dermal absorption). When sweating our absorption rate can increase by 50%, meaning that we absorb twice as many toxic chemicals when we exercise, which can seriously harm our health if we’re wearing toxic workout gear.
Good activewear is always going to be an investment, as we search for pieces that can support our bodies through whatever activity we choose whilst also being long-lasting, high quality, and comfortable enough to enable us to exercise as easily as possible. Below are my tips, formed over my time trying and testing Asquith’s pieces, for finding gym clothes that are sustainable and will do the job well. You really can have both, I promise.
Choose for your needs
What you’ll want to include in your workout kit will vary depending on the type of exercise you’re doing and the needs of your specific body. For example, I definitely have a chest that needs some support. Asquith’s crop tops are great for that, while their good vibes tops come with a built-in support bra (I still wear a sports bra underneath, and the combination really helps!).
When it comes to leggings or trousers you want to find something that fits well and doesn’t sag or fall down, there’s nothing worse than constantly have to pull your leggings up or deal with an overly baggy crotch if you want a tight fit. For me this looks like Asquith’s range of high waisted bamboo yoga leggings that I use for regular gym sessions (HIIT, weights and boxing), especially the move it leggings and flow with it leggings. On the other side I also love my pair of divine pants for dance rehearsals. They have a looser fit, and if you roll them up a little they stay put, making them perfect for contemporary dance and rolling around on the floor. It’s about figuring out what will work best for the activity you’re doing and your needs, as ultimately you want to feel comfortable and uninhibited for your exercise routine.
Choose the right fit
Often due to a desire to find tight fitting items, or lack of inclusivity on the brand’s side, people can end up with pieces that are restrictive. This can potentially stop you from doing movements properly, such as squatting or bending, but it can also restrict circulation and cause chafing, while tight sports bras can restrict breathing, all of which are not good for our health.
To counter this, make sure to measure yourself properly with a tape measure before ordering. Each Asquith item comes with a size guide that includes measurements, so you can find something to fit properly, plus they carry plus size options. Their XXL sizing can fit up to a UK size 20, and their designs are also perfect for maternity and post-partum bodies too (or if you have something like a stoma this could potentially be handy for that too). Their clothes come with looser, supportive options, as well as the tighter designs, and in fabrics with great stretch capabilities, making them ideal for many varying bodies.
Choose the right material
Synthetic options can be tempting, but they’re not necessary for a good work out. Asquith’s trademarked performance fabric blends organic cotton, sustainably sourced bamboo and a small amount of elastane for stretch. Their fabric is GOTS and Oeko-Tex certified, meaning it has a low carbon footprint and biodegradable fibres. The result is incredibly soft, breathable, long lasting, doesn’t cause chafing, and isn’t heavy on the body. You may have seen articles saying to avoid cotton items for exercise as they absorb sweat and weigh you down, but I have never had this experience with Asquith’s pieces. Their fabrics are light and breathable whilst wicking away sweat, providing stretch without losing shape, moulding to the body, and not fading or bobbling, plus they’re designed to be more durable than the high street.
In comparison synthetic fabrics are plastic based, meaning they stop sweat evaporating, keep your body temperature too high during workouts, and irritate the skin as it can’t breathe properly. Asquith’s organic and breathable sustainable activewear options provide a nicer workout experience, whilst also not shedding microplastics into the world around us.
Choose sustainable & fair practices
Like all areas of fashion, exploitation and slavery is rife within the activewear sector. However, there are brands that are producing fairly and treating staff well.
All of Asquith’s collections are made in a family-run factory in southern Turkey. The team there work a 9-5 day, receive paid holiday and are treated well. You can see photos of Alice, Asquith’s founder, alongside the workers here.
The factory also has GOTS organic certification; guaranteeing that workers are treated well and there’s no slavery in the supply chain, alongside requirements that the actual textiles, dyes and packaging are all eco-friendly, low impact, organic and post-consumer recycled or FSC certified. Asquith also doesn’t use animal products or products tested on animals.
Flexible street to studio wear is booming for a reason. Beyond the growth of wellness and personal health, most people like being comfortable and feeling good with less effort. Having pieces that can easily transition throughout the day is incredibly helpful in our increasingly busy world, and athleisure hits that spot perfectly. It’s also inherently more sustainable, as it means you get good wear out of your clothes and you can keep your wardrobe a little smaller and more functional. I think leggings are great for this, especially my move it leggings in ocean and flow with it leggings in navy. Simply switch a trainer for a nicer shoe and your tank top for something with a little more flow and you’re sorted. Whatever pieces work for you, that could also be flexible enough to make appearances in other parts of your wardrobe, is a great way to approach your closet more holistically and more sustainably.
Choose pieces that make you feel confident
Clothes literally affect our perception of the world around us and ourselves, so wearing clothes we feel good in can help us feel more confident in our daily lives. Investing in gym pieces that help us feel supported, comfortable, and good about ourselves really can give us better motivation and self-esteem to take into our exercise sessions. Whether it’s baggy or tight, monochrome or brighter colours, go for what helps you feel most at ease and happy, and you might just see that difference spill into your fitness routines too.
Plus, it’s just a lot more fun! My current favourite is the go to vest in flamingo, orange and sunset pink. It’s colourful, fun and makes me think of summer, which is exactly the kind of mental place I want to be in when I’m exercising.