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Most of the stuff on the market is cheaply made of conventional, insecticide-heavy cotton, petrol-laced polyester/nylon or toxically tanned leather. Who's got a leg up on leggings?
Cheap but not so cheerful, this Canadian chain has been criticized for manufacturing in Bangladesh and failing to contribute to the trust fund set up for victims of the Rana Plaza collapse. Western chains are also failing to chip in for repairs to 1,106 bangladeshi factories just revealed to have safety problems. Besides using pesticide-intensive cotton, some of Reitman’s leggings are primarily made of nondescript rayon – not great when non-profit org Canopy says 70 million trees are cut every year for fabrics like rayon, viscose and modal, taking down Indonesian rainforests and the Canadian boreal.
Yes, its ads are grating, and founder Dov Charney seems to be back after being turfed early this year following a string of alleged sexual harassment lawsuits. But AA is one of the only large clothing chains weaving, cutting and sewing its own clothing in the US of A in factories employing decently paid workers with solid benefits. Its Winter Leggings would be ideal if the company made them with some organic cotton or recycled fibres rather than conventional cotton. Just side-step their plasticy leggings made entirely from fossil-fuel-based, energy-intensive nylon.
These two BC-based neo-hippy designers have all kinds of eclectic options to take you from summer festivals to fall protests to toasty yoga studios. Both Nomads (pictured) and Mahadevi use a combination of hemp, soy, rayon from bamboo and organic cotton (starting from $45/$55). And both manufacture “ethically” offshore in China, though MahaDevi still has a few Canadian-made options. Nomadshempwear.com, Mahadevidesign.com
Both of these brands feature colourful Canadian-made options out of bamboo and certified organic cotton blends. BCer Lilikoi (pictured) offers a variety of bright solids as well as fun patterns silk-screened with water-based inks. Fifteen per cent of profits from the Honey Bee print ($44) goes to Pollinator Partnership. Voilà’s Metis designer, Andréanne Dandeneau, keeps Canadian legs particularly cozy in winter with Toronto-woven, winnipeg-sewn organic fair trade bamboo fleece available in a few rich warm hues, as well as Haida prints ($89). Yes, it takes chems to dissolve fast-growing bamboo into rayon (true for all rayon), but I’d much rather support these conscientious Canadians than questionable mall options. lilikoiclothing.com, voilaandreanne.com
What I love about Toronto-based MIIK (pictured) is that it uses certified organic bamboo processed in a closed loop without dumping chems, and the fibres are milled, dyed (in navy, grey or black) and sewn right here in the GTA. Super-durable with control-top options, leggings, like Voilà’s, are OEKO-Tex certified – no dodgy chems on the surface ($69, miik.ca). Plus it’s signed onto canopy’s forest-friendly fashion pledge. Fig mills, dyes (in black/navy) and sews its warmer, certified organic cotton leggings close by in Montreal, keeping its carbon footprint down ($80, figclothing.com not all lines are organic).