Get to Know The Eco-Friendly Activewear Brand That Puts Transparency First

Photo courtesy of Girlfriend Collective

Girlfriend Collective’s first collection is finally here!

Last summer, ads for environmentally friendly leggings began popping up all over Facebook. The brand offering them was called Girlfriend Collective, and the leggings were free, aside from the price of shipping. While this promotion strategy was met with some skepticism at first (as any promotion for “free” clothes would be), thousands of women ultimately took a chance on the mysterious new brand and paid a somewhat steep 20 dollars in shipping. Then, they waited to see what would happen.

As the leggings shipped and arrived in the mail to those who ordered, nearly all skepticism transformed into love and loyalty, as evidenced by the overwhelmingly positive feedback from women and the quick success of the promotion through word-of-mouth spread. As awareness and admiration for the leggings and the brand grew, founders, Quang and Ellie Dinh, became confident in their ability to create a successful and, more importantly, environmentally sustainable line of activewear. Now, over a year since their free leggings promotion and on the heels of their first full collection launch of leggings and sports bras in multiple style and colors, Quang and Ellie spoke to us about their company’s environmental ethos and the impact of Girlfriend Collective.

“In the fashion industry, everything is smoke and mirrors,” says Quang. “For us, as a brand, we don't want to put our head in the sand. We always want to acknowledge issues and problems in the environment and within the fashion industry itself. We know that the fashion industry is a dirty industry. [We thought,] how do we transparently solve problems so that our customers really trust us in the long run?”

That desire for transparency is expressed on the brand’s website and achieved through the meticulous detailing of every aspect of the clothing’s production process. The core fabric used in their activewear is biodegradable and created from post-consumer water bottles. The factory they work with in Taiwan, which Quang and Ellie visited themselves, is SA8000 certified, which ensures ethical treatment of employees and safe working conditions. On Girlfriend Collective’s website, the entire legal document of the SA8000 qualifications is laid out, and you can even view PDFs of the brand’s authorized certification papers and information on the Taiwan factory owners, specific recycling process, safe dye methods, and cutting and sewing procedures (14 pairs of hands are on each pair of leggings).

For Quang and Ellie, finding ethical suppliers was the most difficult part of building an environmentally sound brand. “You can find a really terrible supplier really easily; they're all over the place. Finding suppliers and owners, from the mill down to the manufacturer, that actually care about the environment and the people is really hard,” Quang explains. “Sometimes mills won't tell brands how they do things. When we were building our relationships with our suppliers, it was more of a personal one. They were willing to unveil their processes and show how they dye, how they clean their water, everything, and then further, they allowed us to share that with our customers. Building that relationship makes it easier to understand the ins and outs of how it’s all made.”

Still, Quang and Ellie acknowledge that it’s all a learning process, and they’re just getting started. “In sustainability, there are always new things popping up and ways to make products better and more eco-friendly. We're not perfect with the process, but we're here to keep growing,” Ellie says.

Currently, the brand's growth feels inevitable, especially since pre-orders for the first collection opened June 28 and immediately garnered attention from the brand’s devoted fans. The collection's reveal has been a gradual process during the pre-order phase, with new colors added every several days over the past few weeks with the goal of providing insight into which styles and colors will be most popular, as to avoid inventory waste. The site is set to officially launch for online orders at the end of the month, and the full collection will be available mid-August with sports bras for $38 and leggings from $58 to $68.

As Quang and Ellie continue to push forward with the collection, they’re already envisioning future styles, materials, and other offerings. But above all, sustainability and transparency will remain their top priority. “We want to be as eco-friendly as possible,” Quang affirms. “We’re not in this to make a quick dollar.”

Browse through the gallery below to take a look at the first drop, and shop it here.

Photo courtesy of Girlfriend Collective

Nail polish is for novices

Fashion label The Blonds is known for its high-intensity looks that you'd only wear if you wanted to stand out (and who doesn't?). For its runway shows, wild press-on nails are the beauty step that can't be missed. So, since the brand has partnered with CND since it was founded, we thought it best to get prepped for the show with Jan Arnold, CND's co-founder.

See why you should take your nail look from a zero to a 10, in the video above.

Shot by Charlotte Prager
Edited by Gretta Wilson
Produced by Alexandra Hsie
Production Assistant: Polina Buchak
Featuring Jan Arnold of CND Nails and The Blonds



Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

It would've been nice if someone said the word "fat"

Back in November, Rebel Wilson claimed to be the first plus-sized lead in a romantic comedy when she appeared on Ellen to talk about her role in Isn't It Romantic. Wilson was not only wrong, but she was—even if inadvertently—erasing the work of Black plus-size actresses like Queen Latifah and Mo'Nique, both of whom have expansive resumes that include romantic comedies.

Wilson's comment isn't the first example of white women taking up a little too much space in the fat acceptance ethos. It's actually quite common. But there is a reason why women like Wilson—women who are blonde, pretty, successful, and white—get put front and center in calls for body positivity. In the same way that feminism—the movement from which body positivity was born—has often failed to address how gender intersects with other identities like race and class; so, too, has body positivity been championed as a cause for otherwise privileged women. And that's why it's no surprise that Isn't It Romantic, which aspires to be both a spot-on mockery of rom-coms and a celebration of body positivity, is actually a perfect example of how very white both the movie genre and the body positivity movement tend to be.

In the film, Wilson plays Natalie, an architect based in New York, who is single and plus-sized—the archetypal rom-com underdog. Very early on in the movie, she endures the double humiliation of both being hit by a runaway food cart and then accosted by its owner for not stopping it with her "cement truck"-like body. At work, Natalie is similarly disrespected: The office manager hands off troubleshooting tasks to Natalie; another colleague always tasks Natalie to throw out his trash; her assistant Whitney (Betty Gilpin) won't stop watching movies (rom-coms, naturally) while in the office; and Natalie is so afraid to present her ideas for more innovative parking garage designs that she isn't even widely known in the firm as an architect, and is treated like an intern.

But is Natalie just a doormat? Or is it that she isn't asking for what she wants? And isn't very nice about not getting it? If Natalie's life is any example, the bar on suffering is set pretty low for white women. In her personal life, Natalie lives alone with her dog, and seems to be pretty well-off, financially; her best friend is actually her slacker assistant, Whitney, and she's close with another coworker, Josh (Adam Devine), who gives Natalie constant emotional support. She's decidedly anti-romantic, having been told by her mother from a young age that there's no such thing as real-life fairy tales; she's level-headed and practical. But also, she's filled with self-loathing. This leads her to be crass, sarcastic, and disconnected from people. And it was this last part that was hard for me. As a fat Black woman who grew up broke, does not have an assistant, and would get fired if I didn't do my job well, it was hard, if not impossible, to root for her.

For Natalie, though, everything changes when she bangs her head while fighting off a mugger. Her mundane life is tinted through rosy rom-com glasses. Suddenly, all the things that sucked about her life are gone, and everything is beautiful and perfect. But was her life so bad before? It didn't really seem to be.

And yet, looking around the theater at the mostly white, female audience, I accepted that my feelings didn't seem to be shared. But that almost seems to be by design; this feels like a movie for a white, female audience. There is only one person of color in the movie who even has a name: It's Isabelle (Priyanka Chopra), who shows up about halfway through the film—after everything has been rom-com filtered—as a yoga ambassador and swimsuit model. But a name is all Isabella has. A supporting character at best, she doesn't have any connection to anyone other than her white boyfriend, and is sketchily drawn. We learn nothing of her familial or ethnic background, and, even when she is shown at her wedding, there is nobody from her family celebrating with her. This huge oversight is particularly bizarre, given that Natalie has already bemoaned the lack of diversity in romantic films.

Another huge oversight? The presence of the word "fat." I don't think I heard it used a single time. Natalie only references her weight indirectly, by commenting on the appearance of straight-sized women; when talking about her own body, the word "fat" is replaced with "girl like me." But by ignoring this aspect of herself, and refusing to address it head-on, Natalie is succumbing to the same fatphobia that shapes her world, whether she identifies it as being a problem or not.

Before her life becomes a rom-com, Natalie feels invisible at work and in the world. Some of this is certainly her fault, but fatphobia is also at play. Fatphobia chips away at the humanity of fat people from different angles. It means that Natalie gets used to being dehumanized; she doesn't expect others to have empathy for her when she's physically hurt, because they don't value her body. And it's no coincidence that Natalie's fantasy world includes a magically bigger apartment with unlimited clothing options, because discrimination against fat people isn't just a matter aesthetics and preferences—it affects everything from our ability to dress ourselves to our ability to make and save money, since there's a price to pay for being fat, even if it's just having to pay more to travel. Just as much as gender and race intersect with fat bodies, so, too, do economics and class.

I knew I could count on a plus-sized white comedian to take down a genre of films that prioritized thin women. But I ventured to see if Wilson could go further than that, and challenge what it means to be white and well-off and fat in the process; it isn't just about taking down rom-coms but about doing so in a way that isn't just a mouthpiece for white feminist values. But, in the end, that isn't what happened. Isn't It Romantic is fine, but it needed to do more than target an audience of girls who are 10 to 30 pounds overweight and still too jolted by the word "fat" to ever apply it to themselves, so they go for acceptable alternatives, like curvy, plus-sized—or thicc, if they're hip. But I'm not afraid to say I'm fat, I'm just disappointed I will be waiting even longer to see a realistic reflection of that experience onscreen.

Isn't It Romantic is in theaters now.