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SailGP announces new plastic-free sportswear

What does the launch mean for the future of sustainable fashion? And, more importantly, do consumers want it? 

Ask anyone, and they’ll probably tell you that sustainability is fashion’s new black. Eco-consciousness – authentic or not – has become the trendiest accessory of late, and brands are hitching a ride on the sustainability train anyway they can.

But amongst all the green-washing and false information, the fashion industry has also been one of the most disappointing proprietors of conscious consumption in recent years.

Too often, brands with terrible track-records launch empty sustainability campaigns and services, like ASOS’ so-called ‘circular collection’, or fast-fashion giant Shein’s constant attempts at green-washing.

That’s why, when a brand takes significant steps to re-work their production line, it’s worth talking about.

Mover is the latest fashion retailer to offer a conscious collection that doesn’t forfeit innovation.

The Swiss company, based in Lausanne, is the first to market 100% plastic free sportswear. Now, its teamed up with one of the world’s fastest growing sports leagues, SailGP, to produce the world’s first plastic free technical sportswear.

The news comes after SailGP conducted a survey of 1,500 people that found 72% of shoppers prefer ‘plastic-free’ performance wear over plastic-based alternatives.

It’s a demand that’s been unmet until now. In part because of the lack of understanding and education around sustainable clothes.

SailGP’s survey also found that 54% of respondents were unaware of the health and environmental impacts of chemicals used in synthetic clothing, while some were even unaware that their clothes contained any plastics at all.

Mover’s collaboration with SailGP will see a capsule collection available to purchase now, and the future development of high-performance sportswear for athletes to trial in a sailing environment.

The collection, which has been in the making for 2 years, is made from 100% natural fibres, bypassing the elastane usually found in technical sportswear.

This is the biggest challenge for brands wanting to make clothing that is both functional, and sustainable, and forced SailGP to rethink manufacturing methods from the get-go.

Knitting light-weight merino wool and cotton in specific tensions and patterns has provided the elasticity and compression typically expected of high-performance sportswear.

Since the 1960s, plastic (elastane) has been used in the production of socks, underwear and sportswear. It’s what gives athletic garments their stretchy and breathable quality.

Other companies in the sportswear space, like British-based gym-wear brand Tala, have made efforts toward better sustainability through the use of recycled materials. But experts say harmful microplastics are still emitted into water and soils systems through this process.

‘There is plastic in our water, our air, our soil and now in our bodies. That plastic is carrying toxic chemicals – regardless of whether it is recycled or virgin,’ explained Siân Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet, which also collaborated with Mover and SailGP on the launch.

Given these nuances, SailGP has certainly had its work cut out in developing the collection, not least because of sailing’s nature itself.

‘Skiing and sailing are two of the most difficult sports to [create garments for] with 100 percent natural fibres, because of the resistance to water or extreme temperatures’

But Nicolas Rochat, founder and CEO of Mover, says the design changes have worked out for the best in every sense of the word.

‘In terms of performance’, he told Vogue, ‘what we gain by not using elastane is odour control, antistatic, thermo-regulation, natural dirt and stain resistance and comfort under various temperature ranges. In terms of pollution, it is a no-brainer.’

It makes sense. Decades of marketing around sports-wear have duped us into believing plastic is a necessary evil, providing the sweat-resistant, flexible fabrics we’re used to.

But ‘imagine running or practising yoga wearing a plastic bag’ said Sutherland. It’s a fair point; I’d rather not.

So what does the launch mean for the future of sportswear as a wider industry?

SailGP chief purpose officer Fiona Morgan hopes the launch will inspire other brands to speak with suppliers about developing plastic-free garments. And it’s worth remembering that sport is one of the biggest industries available to consumers, with billions in fans and revenue every year.

Igniting a change and shift in mindset within this community has incredible potential to advance sustainable efforts across the globe.