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Circular Sportswear Is Next on Sustainable Fashion’s Checklist

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Circular design principles continue to infiltrate the fashion industry as fast fashion giants and emerging labels alike turn their attention to sustainable activewear.

Despite recent criticism over its decision to send its discarded clothing to Swedish incinerators, H&M continues to stride forward on its mission to accelerate the circular fashion movement.

The fast fashion brand has expanded its Conscious Collection to include an activewear line made from recycled fibers, more specifically, polyester and elastane.

“By bringing together the functional and feminine, the aim is to give customers a stylish, conscious sports collection. And not just through the fabrics — we utilized a new knitting technique that creates seamless garments while using less yarn or fabric waste. Blending function with sustainable thinking and fashion in this way is the way forward,” said Petra Smeds, Head Designer of sportswear for H&M.

The new line includes a range of tights, sports bras, hoodies and tops for training, running and yoga. In addition to its use of recycled fibers, H&M said it used a color palette of green tones, black and beige to further highlight the line’s emphasis on nature and sustainability.

“Moving towards full circularity will be the key to our future success. At H&M we have set a vision to become 100 percent circular, which means that we will have a circular approach to how products are made and used covering our whole value chain from design to expanding the lifespan of our products through different ways of prolonging use and recycling,” said Cecilia Strömblad Brännsten, Circular Economy Lead for H&M.


Meanwhile, Helen Newcombe, founder of Britain-based Davy J, has been recognized with a Women of the Future Award for her chic solution to solving the expanding problem of marine waste: swimwear.

Launched in March 2017, the brand wholeheartedly embraces circular design principles. Newcombe’s line is made from 100 percent regenerated nylon yarn derived from spent and ghost fishing nets. An average of 640,000 tons of fishing nets (one-tenth of all marine litter) are left in the oceans every year. For every ton of waste nets collected, there is enough nylon regenerated to create more than 10,000 swimsuits.

In addition to using marine waste to produce its products, the brand aims to build a closed-loop resource system. At end of useful life, Davy J encourages consumers to return their products to the brand to be fed back into the supply chain. The company has set a target of achieving 60 percent closed-loop recycling by 2020.

“She is using her business to deliver a much bigger message to the world — that of building a circular economy and being mindful of the environment and resources,” judges said during the award presentation. “Helen’s work proves that profit doesn’t necessarily have to come at an environmental price.”


UK-based GRN Sportwear is yet another example of an activewear brand utilizing alternative materials to drive sustainability in the apparel industry.

Founded in 2014, the brand’s line of t-shirts and cycling jerseys are made from a range of sustainable and recycled materials. For every one of its cycling jerseys, GRN Sportwear is able to divert seven plastic bottles from landfill. And the company’s shorts and tri-suits are made with Renew Prime Fabric, which is made entirely of waste nylon products, such as fishing nets, carpets and fabrics. The fabric contains 80 percent Econyl® and 20 percent Lycra. For its t-shirts, GRN relies on pesticide-free bamboo, which it processes at a factory certified by OEKO-TEX, an independent testing and certification system for raw, semi-finished and finished textile products at all processing levels.

“Prior to our launch it was difficult, if not impossible, to find sustainable and ethically made sportswear for swimming, running, cycling and triathlon athletes. We decided to offer an alternative; sports clothing that was technically advanced and ethically sourced,” said Pete Lillie, Co-Founder of GRN Sportwear.

In addition to its sustainable sourcing policies, GRN Sportwear manufactures all of its products in-country to ensure high standards of social sustainability and fairness.

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