Tools of the Trade: Quang and Ellie Dinh

The Girlfriend Collective founders give used water bottles a workout.

Screen Shot 2018-08-31 at 8.47.04 AMTen thousand—that’s how many orders Ellie and Quang Dinh received the day their activewear brand, Girlfriend Collective, soft-launched last April. They offered one item: high-waisted black leggings made from recycled water bottles, about 25 per pair. Think big-name sportswear fit and style but without sheerness and at a lower price.

“We want to make clothes that not only support a better world but encourage women who care about the world to support each other,” says Ellie. When the full line launches next month, the Seattle-based company will have diverted almost 7 million used water bottles from landfills.

To become fabric, the bottles are washed, sorted by color, shredded, rewashed and sent to a yarn mill for weaving. The result not only looks good but is lightweight, soft and supportive. And while the Dinhs have kept costs down, that’s not the conversation they want to have. “We want people to stop asking how much sustainable fashion costs and start asking how much our world is worth,” says Ellie.

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This article originally appeared in Delta Sky. April 2017.