Girlfriend Collective is a sustainable and ethically-made activewear line, and it happens to be one of Gen Z’s favorite brands. From their transparency, inclusivity, and care for the planet, it’s not hard to see why.
Thank us later, but just a head’s up that if you find yourself a contestant on Jeopardy and Alex Trebek says, “This activewear brand just gets Gen Z,” we’d be willing to bet the answer is “Who is Girlfriend Collective?”
When Ellie Dinh, co-founder of Girlfriend Collective, couldn’t find quality athletic leggings that were also ethically made, she and her husband, Quang Dinh, decided to make their own. Since launching their sustainable brand of activewear in mid-2016, the Seattle-based startup has grown to be one of the most popular brands among Gen Z consumers. Their fans, (which should be noted, aren’t limited to Gen Z, Girlfriend Collective’s products are loved by a range of ages) appreciate the brand for several reasons—all of which align to Gen Z values and are consistent throughout Gen Z’s favorite brands.
They take transparency seriously.
Girlfriend Collective takes transparency seriously. In their, “Who we are,” statement, Girlfriend makes it quite clear what they believe in and who their clothes are for. (Hint: those who care about the earth and others.) Dig a bit deeper and you’ll find that on their ‘About’ page, transparency appears in the first sentence of their brand story: “When we started Girlfriend Collective our first goal was to be as transparent as possible.”
And transparent they are. GC knows what it takes to be one of Gen Z’s favorite brands. They’ve anticipated their customer’s questions and made it easy to find the answers. Depending on the level of interest, shoppers can find short explanations about how each pair of Girlfriend Collective’s leggings start with 25 recycled post-consumer water bottles or, if they’re so inclined, customers can read the entire list of bylaws that comprise SA8000, the social accountability standard that protects workers worldwide and governs the factory that manufactures GC apparel.
Explanations don’t end at manufacturing. GC also shares how they dye their fabrics (they use only eco-friendly dyes) and what happens to the wastewater when the process ends. GC even donates the dye mud to a local pavement facility where it’s recycled into sidewalks and roads.
When it comes to Gen Z values, sustainability nears the top of the list—as it does for GC, too. According to the brand, about 10% of the estimated 14 billion pounds of trash discarded in the ocean annually is made up of abandoned, lost, or discarded fishing gear. Millions of marine animals are harmed in the process, and that’s why GC created their LITE leggings with ECONYL®, a fiber made from recycled fishing nets and other waste that would otherwise be discarded into oceans and landfills.
Their efforts are paying off. In 2020 alone, based on the clothing they’ve manufactured and sold, more than 2.5 million water bottles were recycled, and over 2 million pounds of CO2 saved.
They embrace inclusivity and authenticity—both non-negotiable Gen Z values.
Gen Z doesn’t want to see glossy photo spreads and unrealistic images of photoshopped or airbrushed models. Rather, they value complete authenticity and relatability from brands. Zers have grown tired of big-name influencers and prefer to see peers and diverse individuals represented in realistic ways. They’d rather see jeans modeled by their next door neighbor than by a runway model.
It’s no surprise then, that Girlfriend Collective checks this box, too. Their models are never airbrushed, and body types ranging from XXS to 6XL (including maternity) are featured along with images submitted by customers wearing their favorite GC gear.
They’re honest and fair.
Girlfriend Collective’s products aren’t inexpensive, nor do they claim to be. They make it clear that sustainability and quality both take time—going so far as to explain that their fabric, which is known for its softness and stability, requires time and precision. Their knitting machines only produce about 100 pairs-worth of leggings fabric in a 24-hour period.
But Zers typically don’t mind paying a premium for products that are ethically made and serve a bigger purpose. Lilli, a 19-year-old Gen Zer said, “Girlfriend Collective stands out to me because they care—not only about the environment, but their customers too. Their products are expensive, but the pair of bike shorts I have from them are the most flattering piece of clothing I own and the material has never shrunk, ripped, or stretched. The quality, while also being sustainable, is unmatched at other traditional exercise apparel stores.”
The brand recognizes the financial commitment and how personal fit is to each individual. They offer a generous 14-day ‘try it at home’ program. Here’s how they present it on their site:
We get it, sometimes you need to take things for a test drive. We let you test select pieces for 14 days so you can find your perfect fit and try things out before you commit.
During the two-week trial period, GC encourages shoppers to “Try it out, Put it to the test,’ (this includes wearing, washing, and even working out in it), and afterward, they invite customers to ‘Keep it or send it back.’
In an effort to ‘close the loop’ on creating more things the planet doesn’t need, GC has a Recycle.Reuse.ReGirlfriend initiative that collects old Girlfriend Collective Compressive leggings and upcycles them into new pieces that can be worn again and again... and again. For every Compressive item returned, the shopper gets a $15 credit toward a future purchase. Simple, easy, rewarding and an action that makes a difference—all essential checkmarks on the list of Gen Z values.
GC sets the standard for Gen Z’s favorite brands. They deliver on the promise of transparency, staying true to what they care about—the environment, people, sustainability. And they do this not just in words or in their brand story, but by their actions as well. Want to become one of Gen Z’s favorite brands? Take a page (or two, or ten) from GC’s playbook.
And while you’re at it, you can take a look at our Gen Z playbook, too.
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