The Glide. A sensation conceived from paradox. Heart pounding, blood pumping, wind whipping through your hair, it's the thrilling moment on a board that allows space to simply be; to exist in the relaxed detachment from effort, when time is slowed to a pace where one can cohabitate with conundrum, and be truly present with style and ease in the midst of rapid fluidity.
Video: Connor Guest
Style is what transcends surfing and skating from a sport to an art form. The surrounding lifestyle has birthed an industry with a similarly inspired counter-culture platform for self expression. Boardsport business revolves around apparel and goods that reject conformity, while embracing a healthy supply of playful days spent outdoors rather than in an office.
One might assume that this industry, with a foundation in rebellion and and an outdoors obsession, would be on the frontlines of the sustainable fashion revolution. Especially to peak the interest of their rapidly increasing female demographic, as women have been the driving force behind the environmental movement as early as 1899. However, this does not seem to be the case. The large majority of surf lifestyle companies are still selling fast-fashion products made of synthetic materials toxic to our planet, mass-producing overseas in factories with poor working conditions (oppressing women) and remaining ambivalent to the mountains of waste created by the rapid turnover.
If you're a guy with a conscience, you're in luck. You've got multiple options for forward-thinking ready-to-wear. Newer men's brands like Outerknown, Vissla, and Banks Journal all pride themselves in their efforts for the environment, using organic natural fibers or recycled nylon made from fishing nets, and sponsoring surfers who also take a stand for the environment.
Though, there are a few major ethical trail blazers of women's sports gear. Companies Patagonia and Prana are forging the path by employing Fair Trade factories and utilizing fabrics like hemp, recycled wool and organic cotton in their activewear. Notably, Patagonia has put sustainability at the center of its business model since day one, striving for innovation of natural wetsuit technology, offering repairs to encourage reuse over replacement, and is now using their corporate resources to fight back against the government's attempts at exploiting protected, public lands.
But the question remains - what does the impact-minded, Millennial female wear when she's not hiking, camping or going to yoga?
Women of our generation are multifaceted, forward-thinking individuals, with an array of interests and passions. We are sexy, intellectual, athletic, chill, driven, creative, tomboys one day and ultra feminine the next. Above all, we are conscious. Case and point: Elise Crigar. This firey female is shattering stereotypes and expectations as an advocate for women in the realms of skateboarding, fashion, art and design, redefining what makes a creative woman thrive. "I feel that women should wear what they are comfortable in. Knowing that the clothing was made by women that are given the fair amount of support and working conditions makes wearing the clothing that much more comfortable."
Someone missed the memo. Women who surf and skate care how their clothes are made. So where does the core ethos of style come into play in women's sustainable surf apparel? What does this lifestyle genre of fashion that supposedly represents us have to offer in our equally weighted demand for aesthetic and ethical production?
With those questions in mind, I developed a list of responsible practices called the "Conscious Collab Checklist" to determine what qualifies a business as "conscious." If our dollar is our vote, and corporations are watching, then where we buy our surf and skate goods is a form of activism called Purchase Power.
Every time we give our money to businesses who make decisions in favor of the environment, we shift the direction of our future. As ocean dwellers and seaside occupants, we can no longer afford to stand by and watch our sacred playgrounds be destroyed. We are simply out of time. Being a conscious consumer means we hold the power to support the development of new values in a fast-changing social climate. Fashion is dictated by trends, and we decide the trends. It is our responsibility to make sustainability a permanent trend that drives those industry standards forward.
- CHECKLIST -
The term "collab" applies to more than just creatives and companies, it also refers to the collaboration between consumer and creator to support one another in their artful pursuits. This year, I made the commitment to only support brands that check a minimum of three boxes. Elise and I were digging the styles and practices of these fashion brands and board crafts - here's why:
BANKS JOURNAL - Total: 5 Boxes Checked | Independently Owned | Small Runs/Not Mass Produced | Recycled Materials | Natural or Organic Materials | Authentic + Artful Contribution
The Banks mission is to merge style and understated functionality with a sustainable approach to design and development. Even though this brand is technically for the guys, we found the fits (even pants) were perfect for women too. Carefully constructed tees using high quality, organic fabrics make this range suitable for longer lasting goods that are classic and timeless. Their use of jacquard technique features stripes actually woven into the fabric, creating texture and durability that won't fade. Not to mention they're right there with us on the gender neutrality front, featuring a woman in their latest marketing campaign. Banks' clean lines, slight retro vibe, and attention to detail have us hooked. Check out more at Banksjournal.com
VITAMIN A SWIM - Total: 9 Boxes Checked | Made Locally | Independently Owned | Small Runs/Not Mass Produced | Natural or Organic Materials | Transparency in Business Practices | Give Back to Cause / Organization / Community | Marketing Celebrates Women | Authentic + Artful Contribution | Made with Intention
In short, this brand is OG. Designer and Founder Amahlia Stevens grew up hiking, snowboarding and swimming in Southern California, with a love of nature in her DNA. In 2000, she worked on a design project with Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia and a pioneer in the eco movement. During that time, she learned how Yvon was redefining the outdoor industry by creating technical fabrics from recycled plastic bottles, and she decided to create something similar for swimwear. However, when Amahlia began to research the options, she was told by fabric suppliers that there was “no market” for swimwear made from recycled fibers - so she decided to design it herself. For 3 years Amahlia worked with the top mills in Italy, Canada, and California before finally perfecting the process and introducing EcoLux, the first premium swim fabric made from recycled nylon that combines sustainability and technology, to fit like a sexy, second skin. Today, her vision is quickly becoming industry standard.
Vitamin A also reduces their environmental footprint by employing waterless digital printing technology and incorporating other sustainable materials into their beachwear like linen, organic cotton, recycled cotton, Tencel®, and polyester fiber made from recycled plastic bottles. They produce their fabric and swimwear locally, which dramatically reduces emissions for shipping and transportation of raw materials. They take the time to get to know the people who produce their goods, and are proud knowing that their manufacturing team maintains a high standard of ethics and environmental responsibility. Vitamin A also partners with and donates a percentage of sales towards environmental organizations that protect and preserve clean water, in a mission to live, work and swim happy and healthy. Check out more at Vitaminaswim.com
ARBOR COLLECTIVE - Total: 9 Boxes Checked | Made Locally | Independently Owned | Small Runs/Not Mass Produced | Made by Hand | Natural or Organic Materials | Transparency in Business Practices | Give Back to Cause / Organization / Community | Authentic + Artful Contribution | Made with Intention
In 1998, Arbor was born after years of repurposing old snowboards into skates to bomb hills when snow and surf was hard to find. Today they are crafting some of the most elegant handmade skateboards on the market from sustainably sourced wood, using eco friendly water-based sanding sealers, and salvaging by-product and scraps wherever possible. They also are the innovators of The Sucrose Initiative - Arbor’s stand alone wheel program. The mission is to introduce alternative, environmentally friendly components into their urethane formulas that improve performance, while reducing the petroleum footprint of the urethane, and the environmental impact of slides and long term wear. The Sucrose makes their wheels more resistant to deterioration, hence, they last longer than competitive wheels designed for similar performance. Their apparel line also integrates organic materials and all items are made in the USA. But I've saved the best for last - since day one, Arbor Collective has donated to groups that protect and restore forests through a program called “Returning Roots.” Their donations primarily go to preserving the Koa forests of Hawaii, which allows them to give back to the planet, and to the people and place that gave us board sport culture. The native Hawaiians invented surfing as early as 1,000 years ago, on boards made from Koa wood, inspiring the evolution of the sports we love today. The Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative is their principal Returning Roots partner isn't just about planting trees, they are regenerating entire forests from the ground up. As of today, they’ve planted over 300,000 Koa trees, on 800 acres of former forestland, with the full range of native understory plants. The Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative is helping Arbor to do their part in the protection of forests, while they strike an important balance with their use of sustainably sourced materials. Check out more at Arborcollective.com
BING SURFBOARDS - Total: 10 Boxes Checked | Made Locally | Independently Owned | Small Runs / Not Mass Produced | Made by Hand | Transparency in Business Practices | Give back to cause / organization / community | Family Run | Marketing Celebrates Women | Authentic + Artful Contribution | Made with Intention
In 1958 Bing Copeland and Rick Stoner sailed to New Zealand where they introduced modern surfing and surfboards to the Kiwis. 60 years later, award-winning shaper Matt Calavani has inherited the historical Bing Surfboards name and has continued to build boards with the same integrity as day one. Committed to tradition and the highest quality crafts, Matt and the team have initiated a solution to create the most sublime surfing experience while also keeping the toxic polyurethane foam waste created in the shaping bay out of landfills. They've teamed up with Monarch Green, a company based in Newport Beach that collects foam dust and repurposes it into products that assist in the recovery of oil spills. Over the last year plus, the Bing factory has had thousands of pounds of polyurethane foam dust collected and converted into products used on small and large scale oil, petrochemical, and hydrocarbon based spills. They've also been an active supporter of the grassroots initiative to save San Onofre State Beach from deadly nuclear waste, and donated a custom shape to raffle at the Help Kira Fight Surf Contest held to generate donations for a local 16 year old surfer battling a brain tumor. It's their efforts on a local, community level, as well as on a global scale, supporting and elevating their female team riders Mele Saili, Lauren Hill, and Karson Lewis, that make Bing a brand we love. Check out more at Bingsurf.com
In an age where the impact of climate change is now visible and dramatically affecting quality of life, our generation is more aware than ever of the dangers of over consumption on the health of our planet. As we venture on our unique paths to individual expression, it is vital that we be selective of how much we buy and who we buy from, in hopes that one day the term "sustainable" won't be a trend, it will just be the standard.
We love Banks' androgynous vibe, equally prioritizing sustainability and style, and that Vitamin A creates beautifully and consciously crafted swim designs fit for surfing or lounging. But when it comes to a full line of consciously created lifestyle apparel for the multifaceted Millennial, we're still waiting for women's surf brands to get on board.