Tights, stocking, pantyhose, hosiery no matter how you call them, they all have a common point: they are not sustainable. Made of thin nylon which is basically plastic they are a one-time use product which easily rips off and gets thrown away after one time wear.
They are the straw of the fashion industry: single use plastic which is polluting our planet. You could go without or use alternatives but tights are not expensive and somehow they “always have been there”. As using a straw for your cocktail every pair of tights is polluting. We want to show you some alternatives and where you can buy sustainable tights.
Hosiery comes from the Anglo-Saxon word hosen, which means to cover. In the 9th century legs where covered in something similar to bandages and from then these coverings evolved a lot.
In the 15th century there where first woven tights and in the 16th century England started importing hand-knitted stockings from Spain. But as for handbags (read our blog if you missed out on this) until this time mostly men did wear them. This changed around 1800 when industrial procedures made them easier to produce and pants more available to men. The first synthetic yarns in 1920 changed everything and made then cheaper then cotton. In 1938 Dupont introduced the first nylon stockings and from that time they never went away. More materials came but the procedure itself stays unchanged.
Tights are made to fit your body very closely. To obtain such a result they are knitted in a circular machine making them as kind of tubes. 300 to 400 needles work simultaneously to make them. The process is very fast and a leg of nylon tights can be made in a round 90 seconds. Once two legs are finished the are joined together. Dying is most of the times done after making the tights.
Nylon or spandex are the preferred materials to produce them as these fibres are flexible and easy to use when manufacturing. The problem is that nylon is a Polyamide, which means it is plastic. No way to recycle or to biodegrade.
Tights are a one-time product
Two billion tights are manufactured annually. And most of them are worn once or twice before ending in the trash.
And there is not much you can do with them as they are out of plastic. No way to recycle and as often they are in the general trash bin they will simply get burned or end up in landfill. Polluting our planet as so many products already do. To give you an idea: Only in France 104 million are thrown away every year!
Better buy sustainable tights
Now the good news: there are sustainable solutions with recycled fibres offering sustainable alternatives which are not less fashionable but much better to our planet.
There are further brands than the ones we present you here which also might do a great job. But as always we only want to present you suppliers we know and where we are sure that their offer is really ethical.
Buy sustainable tights from Swedish stockings
Created in2014 Swedish stockings wants to change the pantyhose industry. Instead of new nylon made from petroleum they use recycled nylon. Further they also work with natural fibres. The recycled material is made of old sportswear in Israel and called “Nilit Ecoyarn®” and “Econyl®” which is made in Slovenia. Further they use “Q-Nova®” made in Italy.
They are using renewable energy in production and purify water after the dying process.
The products are not only sustainable but as well comfortable made with a minimum or no sewing and with wide comfortable belts.
Manufacturing, packaging and shipping is done from Italy. Their goal is to keep on improving and to move the production closer to Sweden. Further they are working on a recycling program as even the most sustainable pair of tights will not last forever.
And when you now think that to buy sustainable tights limits your choice- wrong. Swedish stockings offer a super wide selection from pantyhose to knickers, from black to colour and from uniform to motive.
Buy Recycled Tights from Atelier Unes
A French brand we love (and personally wear a lot) is Atelier Unes. Atelier Unes pushes sustainability to the maximum. Best and most times sustainable and natural materials. Timeless pieces which fit any body and all based on a pre-order system so that they will not over-produce. They further work with questionnaires to find out what their clients want and adapt to it.
Their tights are made of recycled Q-Nova from Italy. Manufacturing is done in Italy as well. So far available in black only they did focus on the really important: making the best tights which you can wear fro really long.
That for they did make a client survey as they do for their other products and found out that black in 40 deniers is the best choice. Mixed with a wide and comfortable belt and reinforced toe section these tights will really last.
And you know what is even better? – In the price of 23€ are 2 Euros deposit, like a pledge. When you cannot wear them anymore you send them back and get back the 2€. Like this recycling can be assured. Isn’t this great?!
The tights have been on pre-sale on the crowdfunding platform Ulule in 2020 and they sold crazy 5596 pairs. The consumers are super happy – and you should try them as well, trust us!
Alternatives to Recycling
Ok we just explained what the problem if nylon is and that recycling is difficult. But what if we would not recycle but use the material differently? This is the idea of Hélène Verhelle who created the brand Povera slowdesign. Currently finishing her campaign on KissKissBankBank with an amazing result she has a completely different approach. “If we cannot recycle or biodegrade nylon, how about still using it?” – based on this idea she figured out what else to do.
And the result is great: bags, jewellery, hairbands, the possibilities and designs offered are super various.
Further she has big plans for 2021. The goal is to make a tissue with knitting the fibres of used tights. This would be a revolution and you should follow her to learn more about it- we can tell you: Big things are going to come!
Last but not least a legitimate question: What to do with the tights you already have and what to do when you cannot wear them anymore? Easy: send them to Povera and they will get a second life. Information and how to proceed here
So there is hope for a better and more sustainable way of manufacturing tights and we hope that the next time you buy sustainable ones! For you and for your planet