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For Untuckit Cofounder, Biodegradable Socks Were Just the Beginning

A year after it launched with a line of biodegradable socks and anti-plastic mission, Definite Articles is back with planet-conscious dual-gender athletic wear.

Untuckit cofounder Aaron Sanandres says what started as a pandemic passion project has the power to show industry leaders that performance clothing can kick its addiction to planet-polluting plastic. Eighteen months in the making, the new active line reflects the blood, sweat and tears that go into building new fabrics from the yarn up. That’s because all of the polyester and nylon in the Definite Articles collection is produced with Ciclo, a fiber-level additive managed by mill partner Parkdale that gives fossil-fuel synthetics the planet-friendlier properties of a natural fiber. The textile tech also improves fiber flexibility, which keeps fabrics from “leaking” so much microplastic into water and air. Ciclo-infused fibers also biodegrade faster than synthetics under with right environmental conditions.

“Every iteration was probably a month and a half to two months depending on how backed up the factory was so it’s just been a long time coming,” Sanandres said of the process of developing Definite Article’s material blends. A performance tee, for example, contains about 50 percent poly, 20 percent cotton, 25 percent Tencel and 5 percent spandex. The 100 percent recycled polyester hoodie is “actually plastic negative,” he claimed, removing more plastic from the environment than it leaves behind.

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“Our mission is to make the best performance wear on the planet with the least environmental impact possible,” he said, which means Definite Articles is “heavily dependent” on whatever’s the best option in textile technology innovation. That’s what makes Parkdale such a good partner, he added: “They’ve got a massive R&D function to keep us as the forefront of that technological growth.”

Applying Ciclo to spandex—a “totally different polymer” —will be an “overnight” gamechanger when Parkdale’s many years of research finally cracks the code, Sanandres said. That would cut the pollution leftover from a biodegraded Definite Articles garment from “minimal” to zero, he said.

The startup limits its supply chain to the Americas in keeping with its planet-minded business model. Garment production is handled at factories in California and Colombia, where Crystal SAS, a supplier to Lululemon and Nordstrom, offers batch sizes of 1,000 units per color.

The no-plastic ethos extends all the way to fulfillment, which Manifest Commerce handles in a zero-plastic warehouse with sustainable packaging. The Austin, Texas-based logistics startup “fits into the kind of supply chain we were looking for,” Sanandres said, pointing to its use of eco-friendly renewable energy.

He’s relieved that the insanity of last year’s freight fiasco seems to be in the rearview mirror after costs ran up to “$9 per shirt”—twice what it costs to even make the garment—when Untuckit was trying to get product in for Christmas, up from the “buck” it usually costs, Sanandres said. 

For now, Definite Article is keep its apparel collection closely curated. The women’s collection offers a legging, racerback tank, sports bra, jogger and hoodie in sizes XS-XL. Men’s garments, spanning S-XXL, include a performance short, crew shirt, jogger and hoodie. The performance wear collection will retail for $58-$128 when it lands on the week of Oct. 24.

Sanandres wants Definite Articles to cut through the “distrust and misinformation” around sustainable fashion and stand out in an industry awash in—what else—greenwashing. But the startup alone can’t effect the kind of change the $1.5 trillion global apparel market needs to scrub its unsavory reputation.

The tides might be starting to shift, according to Sanandres, who said he’s heard department stores are increasingly asking buyers to “actively” scout out eco-friendly brands.

“Just using recycled poly ain’t gonna cut it,” he said.