Vera Yan (left) and Katia Santilli visit the Taiwanese factory regularly ©Joken Jang/Nimble
Vera Yan (left) and Katia Santilli visit the Taiwanese factory regularly ©Joken Jang/Nimble

Case study: Nimble's aim is to re-use plastic

The company’s high ethical and environmental standards turn plastic bottle waste into clothing.

Born in Sydney’s iconic Bondi Beach, Australian activewear maker Nimble puts environmental responsibility at its core, and in the last year has prevented at least half a million plastic bottles becoming landfill thanks to its Compresslite fabric.

Nimble Activewear, the creation of former schoolmates Vera Yan and Katia Santilli who pooled their collective finance and merchandising experience, was launched in 2014, and its annual revenue is already AU$4m (US$2.8m). With the global athleisure market forecast to grow to US$512bn by 2023 according to analyst Research and Markets, start-ups that offer a clear difference may earn a sure footing. “The fashion industry is thought to be the second most polluting industry in the world,” says Yan. “Nimble is proud to be taking big steps to change this.”

The majority of the Nimble range features its signature Compresslite fabric, a durable lightweight compression blend, manufactured in a Taiwanese fabric knitting mill. “The recycled bottles are melted down and turned into chips, then into a yarn,” explains Santilli. “The yarn is then knitted up with Spandex to make our core compression fabric.”

Yan and Santilli say the process by which the fabric is made uses fewer carbon emissions compared with traditional manufacturing methods. “Producing polyester from recycled materials emits 54.6% less carbon dioxide compared to using virgin materials,” says Yan.  

Environmental benefits also come from the brand’s short supply chain, where 80% of garments are produced from raw material to finished product within a 50km radius in Taiwan, reducing wastage, packaging and transportation, keeping its carbon footprint as small as possible. 

It also creates shorter lead times to get new products to the consumer, says Yan, which is important with new styles and prints launched each month. Despite the many additions to the range, Yan and Santilli insist that their products are designed to last, with prints fade-resistant and durable enough to retain their shape. It seems plastic can live forever.


Fair play

“We ensure we hold ourselves to high ethical standards,” says Santilli. They visit their Taiwanese factory every four to six months: this helps to ensure that conditions and pay for employees comply with international standards. Visits have the twin benefit of allowing the pair to check the production process and construction of garments is of the best quality. “There are also external parties who monitor the work conditions,” says Santilli.

Additionally, the company employs a team in Taiwan to supervise its manufacturing process. 

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