This series of posts are all being published on the ethical high street website as well at www.ethicalhighstreet.co.uk. The website is definitely worth a visit.
Apologies for the delay between posts on this topic, as with everyone this time of year seems to eat your time up – but not in a bad so I can’t complain about it. Anyway, next on my list of sportswear brands in my wardrobe would be Sweaty Betty. Now Sweaty Betty is a relative newcomer to the market and every item I own from them has gathered positive comments, in fact for around a year I had what can only be described as an addiction to Sweaty Betty items 🙂 Luckily the Wartime Wardrobe Challenge has helped me kick that one but their items are some of the ones I wear most often now.
Launched in 1998 Sweaty Betty now has stores around the UK which are friendly, welcoming places to shop. The staff have always been the right kind of helpful and enthusiastic about the products, plus they do free classes instore. I haven’t been to one, in Edinburgh they seem to be on the nights I am already doing something, but in one of the episodes of the spikesandheels programmes, Bangs goes to one and is very complimentary about it. Along with the reviews I have read elsewhere they sound like good quality.
I emailed Sweaty Betty the same questions as the other companies and initially my email went unanswered. I followed it up with another email three weeks later and did get a response this time. In the intervening time I had found the brief information they have written online about their factories and it is brief and hidden away on the terms and conditions page. See this link here (maybe if we all click on it they will realise this should really be housed under FAQs at a minimum or indeed Credentials but maybe that’s just me):
In the response I received a copy of their Ethical Code of Practice and while I haven’t read hundreds of these codes it has all the normal points you would expect and that frankly we take for granted e.g. “Child labour shall not be used.”,”Living wages are paid.” and “Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining are respected.” However, within the code there is no explanation as to how this code will be checked against factory practices. To that end I responded by asking some follow up questions asking how Sweaty Betty checks their code is adhered to. They responded that they travel out to visit the factories they deal with twice a year, they also have agents who work with their factories to ensure their standards are being met. They are not always able to check factories before they work with them but try to ensure they visit them as swiftly as they can afterwards. If they are not happy with anything they see at their factories they look to terminate business with them.
I firmly believe that while this is a useful starting point Sweaty Betty could and should be doing more. For example signing up to independent auditing, fostering long term agreements with factories – working with them to improve conditions – and giving much more information on their factories and the conditions in which their clothes are made. It would also be great to see an investment in organic sportswear or to see them take a forward looking role in exploring natural materials to work with. Time to tell you my thoughts on one of my many Sweaty Betty items.
I have many Sweaty Betty pieces now two long sleeved tops, a pair of shorts, a pair of trousers, a vest top and a running bumbag. This means it was quite difficult to pick one to review but I thought I might review my long sleeved top given to me as a gift last Christmas. Again while this was bought to wear running it has also seen action on the horse riding front and the cycling front. In fact it is one of my favourite colder days riding tops. It is warm and comfortable to wear but wicks away the sweat well meaning you don’t overheat.
It is very flattering and I do receive compliments on this one. It doesn’t ride up when I run or cycle and it doesn’t budge even when riding (you do a surprising amount of movement while riding). I have to also give it points for the quality as while it is not made from particularly sustainable materials it still looks as though I bought it yesterday even though it has been worn throughout two winters now. A great layer to wear in the colder months or to use to warm up after a race.
Sweaty Betty is excellent at designing sportswear that you want to wear and I believe that wearing something that flatters your body shape and (crucially) works well for the sport/exercise you are doing boosts your self-confidence. As mentioned above they hold free classes at their boutiques, their catalogues feature real sports people doing their sport and the assistants in the shops all seem enthusiastic about fitness and wear the gear. These are all positive aspects about the company that I am keen on.
However, until I see more evidence of Sweaty Betty taking a more transparent approach to their supply chain and using more innovative and sustainable materials within their clothing ranges I will not be purchasing more Sweaty Betty gear. I will continue to look at their website, email the company and generally keep an eye on them as I think they do a lot of positive activity in other areas. Given the lasting quality of their gear from a buying-less perspective I may never need buy another piece of sportswear!