Gymshark Adapt Fleck Seamless Leggings

overall rating:

0.75

planets

Bella Manfredi
7/3/2022
No items found.

Gymshark was created by Ben Francis when he was 19 years old, in Birmingham, UK. Whilst the brand was originally a side hustle using drop shipping for supplements and stock from other companies, they started to design their own garments and took off in 2012. Gymshark’s clothes pre-2012 were all custom-made with a sewing machine and screen printer by Ben and his friends, whereas now the brand has gone global and operates in over 100 factories across the world. Business for the brand has always been conducted online, but they are aiming to open their first physical store in London in 2022! Whilst the company claims to ‘give a shit’ and be conscious about the world we live in, I find this to be too vague and would like it if the company set quantitative sustainability goals like some of its competitors. There doesn’t seem to be an abundance of information regarding sustainability on the Gymshark website, and this disappointed me as I’d prefer a brand to be more transparent instead of making a consumer dig around the website to find any sustainability information.

 

The Gymshark Adapt Fleck Seamless Leggings retail for ~£50 on the Gymshark online store, so are more affordable than the most expensive brands of leggings, but equally there are more sustainable brands offering equally competitive prices. I reviewed this product because I do own a pair and have been a Gymshark customer for years, but now I’m reconsidering supporting them on the basis of what I’ve found through my research, especially the lack of specific goals and the materials used in the leggings. There are plenty of more sustainable options for leggings, including brands like TALA.

 

Whilst the company encourages recycling of their products at textile banks (and packaging according to local rules), they have no involvement with recycling beyond this encouragement. It could be nice to see the brand implementing schemes which involve people sending back their used clothes so they could be recycled, although I realise that the brand may not have suitable facilities for this. Even so, it would be nice to see them more involved or attempting to lead the way with sustainability. There are some more positive aspects to the brand, for instance the commitment to publishing a modern slave labour statement, but there is little evidence for the implementation of schemes or how they affect workers, so it is ‘all talk’.

What it's made of:

0

I was really disappointed when I started researching the materials used in these leggings. Whilst the products the brand releases are generally cruelty free and vegan, this doesn’t make up for the lack of sustainability in the materials used. Gymshark are very transparent when it comes to listing materials, but unfortunately all three materials had issues with microplastic contamination and links to fossil fuels. The leggings are made up of nylon (79%), polyester (15%), and elastane (6%). Primarily, whilst nylon is a durable material that could extend the life of leggings and thus prevent them from being replaced prematurely, it is derived from oil/gas production and thus has links to the fossil fuel industry- this is bad as this same industry is contributing to the climate disaster which is currently consuming the world, and so using materials which rely on fossil fuels is terrible. Not only this, but nylon is non-biodegradable and so leggings thrown away ‘live forever’ and don’t decompose in landfills, and microplastic contamination can occur due to the small fibres from the garments reaching waterways and ecosystems. This compromises the idea of a liveable world that consumers and brands should be aspiring to. Whilst options for recycled nylon are becoming more readily available, there has been little commitment by Gymshark to using this- if they switched to recycled nylon, the environmental impact of their leggings would be slightly better.

 

Polyester is also non-biodegradable and is derived from oil. It is cheap to make and hence has facilitated the rise of fast fashion, as garments containing this can be cheaper and bought by consumers more frequently. It is produced in an energy intensive process that drains the carbon budget of the world and largely contributes to climate change, and the increasing demand for fast fashion will only see this worsen unless brands stop relying on the material. Again, these leggings don’t use recycled polyester, but other brands are looking into using recycled polyester or less environmentally damaging alternatives as this would reduce the amount of carbon involved; it would be promising to see Gymshark switching to more environmentally friendly alternatives too.

 

Finally, elastane adds more stretch to the leggings (similar to nylon) and shares the negative aspects of the above two materials. Additionally, its production involves known carcinogens which can cause cancer in humans, which for me is a huge concern (added to everything else!) These three materials all affect the environment negatively, whether it be due to microplastic pollution, or the requirement of fossil fuels to create them.

How it's made:

1.25

Gymshark have committed to using sustainable cotton from 100% sustainable sources, but little information can be found about this on their website and thus it’s hard to validate whether they’re actually doing this or not (and also there is no cotton in these specific leggings). Additionally, the brand has become a member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, which appears promising but actually doesn’t commit them to much, as Amazon and ASOS are also members… this could be greenwashing to some extent, but the pledge to use sustainable cotton is a positive element of their production, which I have given them points for. In terms of recycling the product, I have already raised a concern with the fact that Gymshark doesn’t make a conscious effort to get people to recycle their clothes back to the company themselves, but it is good that they can be recycled elsewhere (and the brand does encourage this). Despite this, it would be nice to see them engaged in recycling schemes as I mentioned earlier. They also use recyclable packaging and have reduced the number of tags on products to reduce waste: other than these small changes, I haven’t seen enough to be convinced that the brand is trying to pave the way for sustainability. To an extent I think companies should be aiming to have recyclable packaging and reduced waste at a minimum, and that this shouldn’t be celebrated (not that all companies do, which is why I’ve still given this element of the review 1 planet).

 

Gymshark has chosen to switch from their localised UK-based methods of production to outsourcing and thus has a large supply chain which transcends national boundaries. They split their supply chain into three tiers: Tier 1 is manufacturing of apparel, Tier 2 is production of trims and fabric, and Tier 3 is production of raw materials needed. I found there to be a lack of information available on Tier 3 locations and production, which suggested to me that the brand may be trying to hide something. If they don’t have something to hide, making this information easier to access would be beneficial. There was not much information online about how Gymshark produces its materials, and so I can assume that they use the industry standards which are energy intensive and derived from fossil fuels.

Who makes it:

1

As mentioned above, the brand has over 100 factories operating across the globe, with the largest number in a single country 14 in China; Bangladesh is where these leggings are from, and there are 8 factories there. There were ~820 employees globally as of 2021, with ~680 in the UK; traditionally the Gymshark HQ has also been in the UK. Whilst Gymshark do publish a list of factories that they use online, it is not very accessible to the average consumer who may not have time to scour it. Additionally, it does not include much information about the actual conditions that workers face in these factories, and this information could be useful. The brand does release a modern day slavery statement, but more attention is paid to Tier 1 and Tier 2 than Tier 3. I think it is in the interest of the brand to be more transparent, as they have a responsibility to the consumer to provide accurate information which can be used to help them inform purchasing decisions. Other supplier locations include Taiwan, Cambodia, Vietnam, Turkey and Italy- many of these countries are known for lax labour laws, which concerns me because workers may be paid poorly and factory conditions may be inadequate.

 

The company list ways in which they help their workers, for instance in the pandemic they provided free online workouts and mental health meditations. However, there is little indication that this applies to their factory workers across the globe, and it may be restricted to certain groups. In a similar vein, the brand committed to providing free PPE to workers in accordance with UK law: this is good but there is no suggestion that this is extended across all of their centres and factories, perhaps only the European ones.

 

Finally, the brand does have some more positive aspects regarding recognising gender representation and the needs of their women workers (ie access to childcare to allow them to work), and they have pledged to work with factories to secure this. Also, Gymshark are partnered with Fair Labour Association and audit their Tier 1 and Tier 2 workplaces, and this is promising! It is imperfect as factories still exist in countries which have lax laws cheapening and surrounding labour and factory conditions, and Tier 3 (raw material) suppliers are neglected. In the future I would like to see this partnership extended, and I would like Gymshark to start auditing their Tier 3 workplaces as well. Information could then be published online so that consumers have access to it, increasing the transparency of the company. Despite there being some positive elements of Gymshark’s ‘who makes it’, there still needs to be more work done to increase the transparency of workers in Tier 3 factories.

 

 

 

Based on this review, I am reconsidering purchasing Gymshark products until I see more evidence for more specific, quantitative goals surrounding sustainability. Whilst I recognise that partnerships with labour associations and sustainability alliances is good, more needs to be done in practice to ensure that Gymshark aren’t just greenwashing and presenting themselves in a positive light whilst doing the bare minimum. There are some positive aspects of the brand, such as the attention paid to the needs of women workers, but there is also a large list of things the brand can improve on: transparency, inclusion of Tier 3 factories in audits, use of recycled materials rather than harmful ones, and so on.