As a yogi, I try to make an effort toward conscious consumerism when it comes to how and where I spend my money.
Look at the tag inside your pair of aerodynamic mesh-paneled or floral print yoga pants, your moisture-wicking top or sexy crossback sports bra, or even your favorite breathable hoodie with thumb holes in the sleeves. Where was the material made?
Have you ever paused before making a purchase to consider there's a good chance you're paying for clothing that was produced cheaply in an industry that pays garment workers nearly next to nothing? In Bangladesh, workers toil from dawn to dusk on minimum wage. The garment industry accounts for a good portion of the country’s exports and employs more than three million workers, most of whom are women.
I wrote a story for The New York Times in 2011 that shed light on dangerous working conditions for garment workers there (in 2013, a garment factory collapse in Bangladesh killed more than 1000 people). Taslima Akhter, a Bangladeshi photographer, told me that even after a colossal nationwide protest in 2010, wages for garment workers only increased from an average of $25 a month to just under $45—not exactly a living wage.
Recently I received a pair of sustainable hemp pants from prAna, which are made in China, our largest source of apparel in America, accounting for 37 cents of every dollar’s worth of clothes imported to the United States. But prAna promises a commitment to sustainability—from the regulated materials they use to the partnerships they make with companies and factories, adhering to strict guidelines for safety. And because it is still illegal to grow industrial hemp in much of the U.S., prAna sources the materials for its fabric from hemp plants grown in China.
Sustainably made clothes are widely becoming much more stylish, proving there is life beyond our beloved Lycra.
Full disclosure: The prAna Annexi pant is 53% hemp, 44% recycled polyester and 3% spandex. But I say there's nothing wrong with a blend of raw and recycled materials for anyone who's looking to make their workout wardrobe more eco-friendly. Plus, not only is hemp safer for farmers to grow, but it doesn’t require chemical pesticides or fertilizers, which has a positive impact on the environment—and quite possibly our health, too.
Hemp clothing has long been seen as notoriously unsexy, despite its manufacturer's ethically minded intentions or not. But it’s starting to catch up, and sustainably made clothes are widely becoming much more stylish, accessible and affordable, proving there is life beyond our beloved Lycra.
As a woman, I want to look and feel sexy in clothes that aren't always skintight—and still be able to move my body with comfort and ease. And though I do love my spandex, I also want to avoid funding manufacturing practices that I don’t know more about—or the ones about which I would rather not know at all.
Want to join the sustainable fashion movement? Use my unique discount code MHMS17AR until May 19, and invest in your own pair of hemp pants from prAna's eco-friendly spring line.
Photo by Beth Kessler Photography