🧵 The chemicals in activewear, explained


March 1, 2021

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Somehow, it’s already March. The simulation is definitely accelerating.

The big idea
lifting weights

Chemicals are used widely in activewear. Meet the startups creating natural alternatives.

Here’s a question: Is “activewear” an actual thing or just the fashion industry playing marketing jujitsu by mashing together 2 words?

As it turns out, it’s an actual thing.

But to create the sweat-wicking and quick-drying effect on your yoga gear, textile manufacturers treat the fabric with potentially hazardous chemicals.

Enter Evolved By Nature (EBN)…

… a “green chemistry” startup offering an all-natural alternative for activewear treatment. EBN has raised $51m from investors including retail giant Chanel, according to Business of Fashion.

The company’s flagship product is liquid silk — literally, liquified silk material — which is “biodegradable, sustainable… and usable in clothes, bed linens, furniture upholstery, personal care products, and skincare.”

Will it sell in the market, though?

Fashion brand Adore Me is about to find out

According to Vogue Business, the lingerie company just launched Gentrue, an activewear brand that “dips” its fabric in EBN’s liquid silk.

Gentrue will start by selling a line of leggings and tops with all of the same activewear properties we’ve come to love while not going to yoga studios during the pandemic.

The brand came out of Adore Me’s incubator program and — if successful — could pave the way for wider uptake of liquid silk.

It will be an uphill battle

The fashion industry has a long-established global supply chain that uses chemicals for all types of applications: dyeing, texture maintenance, shrinkage, antimicrobials.

However, consumer demand for environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) standards in fashion — like most industries — are on the rise.

Per Vogue, other startups attacking the problem include Green Theme Technologies, Dimpora, Huue, Checkerspot, Colorifix, and Beyond Surface Technologies.

If you see “natural activewear” become a thing in the future, it’ll probably be an actual thing and not some marketing ploy.

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Snippets
  • Amazon calls itself the Everything Store… so it makes sense that the ecomm giant now owns the right to broadcast the NFL’s Thursday Night Football game as part of the league’s new TV deals.
  • Facebook’s new app (BARS) is a TikTok clone targeting hip-hop artists. The app encourages collaboration and sharing, and can “automatically suggest rhymes” as users write out lyrics. Sure, why not?!
  • Facebook fine: This BARS app better start making some money because a judge just approved a $650m class action settlement against FB. Why? Its photo facial recognition feature was found to violate Illinois privacy laws.
  • Highlights from Warren Buffett’s annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholder letter include: 1) a 5.4% ownership in Apple (worth $120B, which Berkshire paid $31B for); and 2) an $11B writedown on the $37B acquisition it made for industrials firm Precision Castparts in 2016.
  • Very creepy: Genetics testing startup MyHeritage created a viral marketing tool called Deep Nostalgia. Users can upload old photos of loved ones and the tech “animates” them into moving images.
  • **DJ Khaled voice** Another One: The US has approved Johnson & Johnson’s single dose COVID vaccine. Elsewhere, RNA tech used to create vaccines during the pandemic are being used to tackle malaria.
Busted
hands clawing

Corporations are putting stiffer clawback provisions in place to deal with wrongdoings

One of the most controversial corporate decisions in the aftermath of the 2007-08 financial crisis was made by AIG.

The insurance giant — which lost $62B in Q4 2008 and received billions in a government bailout — announced $165m worth of bonus payments in March 2009.

Amidst public outcry, a number of high-ranking AIG executives paid back the funds.

In the decade since the crash…

… the question of “should executives still get bonuses after corporate meltdowns” persists. According to The Economist, 93% of companies in the S&P 500 have clawback policies for cash and equity bonuses in place.

However, there continue to be high-profile stories of corporations not using these clawback policies when they seem warranted:

  • Drugmakers “accused of stoking the opioid epidemic” have paid fines but largely not used clawbacks
  • Boeing paid its CEO Dennis Muilenburg a $62m bonus despite the Boeing 737 Max airplane crash tragedies

Clawbacks are hard to pull off in courts

To deal with this, corporations are delaying cash and equity bonuses. Sometimes, the period an employee must wait for a bonus begins after they leave a firm (to make sure no wrongdoing pops up after an exit).

Per The Economist, corporates are also lengthening the “misdeeds” that are eligible for clawbacks. Before, the provisions were focused on criminal conduct but — now — they also take into account potential “damage to the firm’s reputation.”

A notable example: Wells Fargo clawed back $69m (nice) from former CEO John Stumpf after internal investigations found he created a work environment that encouraged the opening of fake accounts.

Compared to 2008 — when it took the literal implosion of the global economy to take action — these measures seem sensible.

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Q&A
Angie Nwandu

How Angie Nwandu leveraged Instagram to build The Shade Room into a media empire

Let’s play a quick game. Guess which one of these Instagram accounts has the most followers: CNN, TMZ, BuzzFeed, The Shade Room.

Answer: The Shade Room, which — at 22m+ followers — has an audience nearly as big as the other 3 combined.

A bootstrapped operation

The company’s founder, Angie Nwandu, grew up in a foster home after her mother was killed by her father in a tragic episode of domestic violence.

Post-high school, she went to Loyola Marymount University and ended up on the path to become an accountant. She took a detour when she was admitted into Sundance Labs, a screenwriting incubator.

The decision cost Nwandu an accounting job…

… and she pivoted to find a source of income. Initially, she wanted to create a blog on Black-focused celebrity gossip — but to avoid web development, she pivoted to Instagram.

In 2014, she launched The Shade Room and began sharing blog post-type stories on the photo app, a fairly new use for the platform at the time. The format exploded and Nwandu built it up to 500k followers before monetizing it (primarily through ads).

Today, The Shade Room employs 20 people

It pulls in 8 figures in annual revenue, is profitable, and stretches across all social platforms. A key part of its success is a reliance on user-generated content that her team curates.

The Hustle spoke with Nwandu to find out more about the growing media empire including:

  • The different phases of her company
  • Why she prefers staying bootstrapped
  • How The Shade Room enters new platforms (e.g., Clubhouse)

Check out the full Q&A here.

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Controversy of the day
Lululemon storefront

Lululemon store (SOPA Images / Getty Images)

Lululemon founder (and former CEO) Chip Wilson has been known to make occasional off-cuff remarks.

Perhaps his biggest gaffe was in 2013. RIffing on the see-through nature of Lululemon leggings, Wilson suggested that the yoga activewear …ummm… “just don’t work for certain women’s bodies.”

Many called out the remark as body shaming — and within a month, Wilson left the board of the Vancouver-based company.

Since his exit, the company’s market cap has increased ~7x, to $41B. Wilson still owns 13%+ of the company and is worth $5B+.

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