- Laced with plastic and spun out of synthetic fibers, the fast-fashion favorite is a huge faux pas for the environment.
If you are anything like us, then the emergence of athleisure as a mainstream ‘look’ comes as a huge boost to the wardrobe. And self image. It legitimizes years of aversion to wear ‘something proper’ and lets you breathe (most of the times), in something that is actually comfortable. It is no longer just appropriate for the gym or a walk, but to any other social event. Even at the airport as the paps will attest.
But as is with most trends, not everyone’s thrilled about it. British columnist Alex Proud in one of his pieces for The Telegraph wrote how ‘half the population looks like they’ve just been to the gym and forgotten to change.’ But of course, the others criticisms are a lot more worrying, for they don’t refer to the sartorial aspect of the line, but the environmental. Fact is that athleisure as a clothing line despite its comfort and functionality is very flawed. And we’re not even getting into the unethical labour side of the fast fashion movement.
British columnist Alex Proud in one of his pieces for The Telegraph wrote how half the population looks like they’ve just been to the gym and forgotten to change.
Most athleisure outfits, whether they’re your famed yoga pants, T-shirts, sweatshirts, tank tops or shorts are made of synthetic fabric. They’re designed to stretch unnaturally, dry quickly and flatter your body – nothing that the humble cotton or hemp can do. Synthetic fibres such as nylon, rayon, polyester, spandex etc are either made of inorganic substances or a mixture of organic products with added chemicals. When washed, these clothes shed tiny plastic particles called ‘microfibres’ (which are one fifth the width of human hair) that enter our drains and eventually end up in the sea, contaminating the oceans and endangering marine life.
When washed, these clothes shed tiny plastic particles called ‘microfibres’ (which are one fifth the width of human hair) that enter our drains and eventually end up in the sea, contaminating the oceans and endangering marine life.
According to the researchers at the University of Florida, more than 70 per cent of the micro plastics in the ocean come from synthetic clothing. Every time you wash a piece of synthetic clothing, you are sending plastic into the sea. Our washing machines and filtration systems are not equipped to filter these tiny particles, thus sending them into the sea to be consumed by fish and eventually, us. According to global non-profit organization Textile Exchange, 60 per cent of the world’s clothes are made of petrochemicals that contain microfibers.
They’re designed to stretch unnaturally, dry quickly and flatter your body – nothing that the humble cotton or hemp can do.
What can you do?
- Upcycle discarded athleisure clothing to make bags or other articles
- Wash synthetic clothes on shorter cycles in the washing machine and cut down the number of washes
- If you’re washing them by hand, avoid too much scrubbing, just dip them in the water without vigorously rinsing
- Avoid washing in hot water as that tends to scrub off the fibres
- Install a filter in your washing machine that can collect the microfibers. You could empty these into an eco brick (plastic-filled bottles that replace mud bricks to make sustainable building material) with the rest of your plastic waste.
- Lastly, go back to stretching (and living) in organic clothing – which incidentally is the preferred choice of wardrobe traditionally – ask any yogi.
We’re a team that is unlearning modern-day, convenient living to be able to lead an environmentally ethical life, and in the process sharing our insights with our readers.