Love/Hate Athleta

I’d heard my FSIL laud Athleta’s leggings so I poked my head into their store when I was at a local mall. I left with an insanely comfy cardigan that I later figured out was magnetic. I’ve worn it several times since then and love it. Hell, I’m wearing it as I type this.

If you buy something in store, you get a reusable tote bag instead of a regular shopping bag. Another big plus but it also acts as free advertising for them so take that how you will.

Later, I realized some things about Athleta and their history that made me question how great this brand truly was. I love some of their products but some of their history is genuinely troubling. Here are some of the things that contribute to my love/hate relationship with this brand.

Their Sizing

Athleta actually has a pretty generous sizing. It’s unusual for me to walk into a store and walk out with a size XL dress that looks good on me. While most of their extended sizes aren’t stocked in the stores, their return policy is very generous. It still omits the far end of the fat spectrum but many stores don’t bother to include any of us so it’s a nice change.

Their parent company is reprehensible

In 2014, Gap Inc. received the Public Eye Award which are given out to companies with the worst human rights and environmental records. They have had factories permit abuse of workers, child labor, and ignored basic safety regulations.

How does Old Navy sell shirts for just $5? At the expense of workers and our planet.

They have ethically made and/or sustainable clothing

I’m fat so finding something that’s comfortable, flattering, affordable, and good for my conscience is nigh impossible. The fact that Athleta has sustainable and ethically made options in my size is refreshing. While not cheap, they’re not obscene either.

However, nothing is marked as both sustainable and ethically made. You must pick one or the other. Those options only make up a small percentage of what’s available on the website so what about the rest of their stock? Was it made using the deplorable labor practices from this 2013 article? How bad is it for the environment?

The prices

I can readily accept I’ll have to pay more for clothing that is ethically and/or sustainably made. It’s the nature of the beast. However, since only a portion of Athleta’s offerings fall into this category, why is everything else so expensive?

This dress, which I bought on a whim and love, costs $89. It has the sustainable sticker, it’s comfy AF, and looks great. It’s a minimalist’s dream dress in a lot of ways. This dress is incredibly similar except for the hem, slightly longer sleeves, and pockets. It’s also $89 but does sweet FA for your conscience. Since this dress probably cost them less to make, why is it the same price?

Here’s another example. This dress is purple and has spaghetti straps whereas this dress is gray and has short sleeves. They have the same name and the same price. Why does one get the stamp and the other doesn’t? How much more work would it have been to make sure the other dress from the same product line didn’t hurt the planet?

By charging the same price for garments with one being made kindly and the other not, one of them generates a significant markup. They can pretend to be doing some good and still scam customers

Conclusion

Striving to live more minimally means consuming mindfully and knowing yourself. I know I love some of their products but I also know it’s a problematic brand. If/when I buy from them again, I will only buy their fair trade or sustainable products. By putting my dollars toward their more conscious products, I’m letting my dollars say what I want the company to hear. I can also check Poshmark and do some thrifting. It doesn’t count if I buy the bad brand secondhand, right?

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