For the last time: These are the best leggings ever

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Sophie Ross is In The Know’s shopping contributor. Follow her on Twitter here.

One of the (arguably) more pleasant curveballs thrown this year is the sudden rise of “comfort first” fashion. With the COVID-19 pandemic sending many of us into a seemingly never-ending loop of couch naps, Netflix spirals and Zoom meetings, our current work “uniforms” probably aren’t the ones we’ll be wearing if we ever get back into the office. (Of course, the impact this shift has had on the fashion industry is staggering.)

While matching tie-dye loungewear certainly had its moment, I’m beginning to see endless online discussions about the best, coziest and most versatile leggings now that the world is slowly opening back up. And boy, have I had this answer ready for years. 

I first discovered Girlfriend Collective when its “Free Leggings” campaign went viral in 2016. Upon the brand’s launch, it was — quite literally, as the name implies — giving away free pairs of their signature leggings, banking on the fact that word-of-mouth marketing would earn lost revenue back in spades. And no, it wasn’t a scam. (“This brand is so sure you’ll love these leggings, it’s giving them away for free,” wrote Refinery29 at the time.)

Girlfriend Collective’s big bet paid off. I’ve personally told everyone who will listen about my favorite leggings after receiving my free pair. (In the end, I paid $20 for shipping, compared to the $68 retail price.)

Shop: Girlfriend Collective Compressive High-Rise Leggings, $68

Credit: Girlfriend Collective

And so the love story began. I only ever wanted to wear my black compressive high-rise pair of free leggings. The high waist goes up to my ribcage, sitting snug during workouts or keeping me comfortable (and comfortably sucked in) during boozy brunches, rather than feeling too-tight on my stomach. The leggings don’t ride up or make me feel self-conscious about a potential “camel toe” situation, so I can wear them with short workout tanks or cropped sweatshirts. Plus, they’re machine-washable, dryer-friendly and the lining is super soft.

At five-foot-five, I find the full-length inseam perfect. The hem on the legs hits right where it should on my ankle, rather than bunching up and forcing me to get them hemmed (which I’ve done in the past for my ex-favorite leggings, which I’m aware is ridiculous).

In fact, I’m currently wearing the leggings I received from the campaign four years ago as I write this. And no, this story isn’t sponsored. 

While the product is great, the best part of Girlfriend Collective is its commitment to sustainability. Low waste principles are a core value of the brand and have been since launch. But Girlfriend Collective doesn’t just talk the talk — the brand walks the walks. You can see for yourself on the brand’s website, where it provides full transparency into the manufacturing processes. As the brand says, “So many companies tout transparency, but only offer flashy headlines instead of substance.”

Girlfriend Collective produces its clothing in a fair-trade factory in Vietnam using upcycled materials like recycled fishing nets and cotton-industry leftovers to weave into garments. In fact, every pair of leggings contains fabric made of 25 recycled water bottles. (The brand’s recently launched sports bras contains ten water bottles per pair.)

In its production process, the brand uses “100 percent post-consumer water bottles” sans labels, crushing the plastic into “billions of miniscule chips” creating “soft, recycled yarn.” Anything that diverts plastic away from landfills is a “yes” in my book. And when the final product is this good, how could you say no?

Consumers are choosing ethically responsible brands now more than ever, both in terms of sustainability and working conditions. Predictably, Girlfriend Collective is making good choices behind the scenes — and seams. The brand sources its upcycled yarn from a zero waste, zero-emission factory in Japan. Not only that, but the brand’s SA8000-certified facility in Hanoi, Vietnam has safe worker conditions, fair wages and “zero forced or child labor.” Additionally, the brand’s uses 100 percent recycled and recyclable packaging.

Since its 2016 launch, Girlfriend Collective has expanded its leggings selection to include seamless pairs ($68), maternity leggings ($88), and styles with pockets ($78). Pockets! After originally offering only leggings, the brand now has other options. You can purchase sustainably-made sports bras ($38), unitards ($88), skorts ($58), bike shorts ($48) and more in the brand’s signature minimalist color palette and majorly inclusive size range (XXS–6XL). Girlfriend Collective even sells matching scrunchies ($6). 

While the viral leggings giveaway is long gone, you can be confident you’re making a worthwhile investment when buying a pair. Take it from the woman who’s essentially refused to take hers off for four years and counting.

If you enjoyed this article, check out ITK style contributor Paige DeSorbo’s breakdown of her 5 essential fall looks.

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