Spring Workout Wear

Indie brands making intentionally thought-out performance pieces

Workout gear goes through a lot for you—not only soaking up sweat and grime in all corners and putting up with your body’s various contortions from downward dog to dancer’s pose, but it’s the armor we don in our commitment to self-care and health. It turns out, there are some noteworthy brands that are killing it beyond just the “look great, feel great” department and their athletic pieces reflect an underlying change of conscience in society that won’t settle for the currently disappointing status quo.

The Phluid Project

NYC’s first gender-neutral store The Phluid Project, which opened in March, wants to be a reprieve from the overtly-binary shopping experiences often forced upon customers. At 684 Broadway, gender-free brands are displayed on custom-built genderless mannequins, changing rooms are open for all, and the store hosts talks and offers free meeting space to organizations. A lot of their selects (their in-house brand included) lean toward athleisure and affordable.

ALALA

Named after the battle cry of a Greek goddess, Alala is outfitting modern-day warriors striving to achieve their own dreams, says founder Denise Lee. The activewear brand offers non-basic basics—like the reversible Kea crop top, chafe-free moto tights and mesh-and-metallic rainy day parka—made with a downtown NYC edge. “All of our fabrics are selected for their excellent hand feel and performance properties and our designs are always created to flatter a variety of different bodies,” Lee tells CH. There’s also a custom tights builder for those who can never find that “perfect” pair of leggings. And for even more #girlpower: During International Women’s Month, ALALA is donating a portion of sales proceeds from their “Legalize Equality” collection to the organization Equal Means Equal—fighting to get the Equal Rights Amendment ratified.

Knix

Knix isn’t a household name in intimates just yet—based in Toronto, its just making its US foray—but we’re calling it now. Their multi-tasking performance bras and underwear put comfort and practicality first (namely no wires); furthermore, Knix has been size-inclusive from the start (offering bottom sizes up to 22), and 70% of their bra sales are for D cups and up.

Their new, seamless Racerback Evolution sports bra mindbogglingly looks like it’s made from a single piece of fabric and feels like a second skin; after bouts of hot yoga, it still smells like…nothing. Their athletic underwear, slightly thicker than their everyday options and made from Lycra Sport fabric, and T-shirt that prevents sweat from showing through are also great additions to, just, life.

Girlfriend Collective

This is one brand that makes ethical fashion look easy. Girlfriend Collective’s surprisingly soft leggings and bras are made from recycled #1 or PET plastic (with a dash of spandex); none of their dye wastewater is dumped but treated until deemed safe; they pay 125% of the local minimum wage and provide free catered lunch and dinner to their workers; and their final product is modeled on—gasp—a wide range of sizes. Their fit guide is more than just a table with different listed numbers; interested customers can actually see how the styles fit on different shapes. Girlfriend Collective has just launched a new line of tees made from cotton industry waste—saving 682 gallons of water per shirt—and 10% of sale profits are donated to Charity Water.

“I think if you’re doing something right, you want to educate your customers on how you’re doing it and why. It’s my hope that with transparency, they can take that to other brands and make it an expectation and not the exception to the rule,” co-founder Quang Dinh, whose background is in engineering (with a concentration in sustainability), tells CH. “When I got back into the fashion business and started Girlfriend Collective with my wife Ellie, I realized the activewear industry is one of the most environmentally unfriendly in the fashion space when really activewear can easily be made from recycled plastics. We wanted to do something to make a difference by being able to produce really great activewear that’s ethically made using recycled materials in this growing fashion space.”

Lead image courtesy of ALALA, all other images courtesy of respective brands