Q+A W/ Founder of Girlfriend Collective, Ellie Dinh
There is no better feeling than the endorphin rush post-working out, but let’s be honest, sometimes the hardest part of the workout is actually getting to the gym. A great outfit can often provide the necessary motivation, and Girlfriend Collective is one of our favorite brands when shopping for cute + comfy workout wear. Oh, and you’ll NEVER guess what they’re made of (unless perhaps you read the title of this post).
Girlfriend’s clothing is super stretchy and soft and made out of…RECYCLED WATERBOTTLES! The brand has really inspiring business practices, as they adhere to strict ethical and sustainability standards, take body positivity seriously with sizing up to 6XL, and feature women of all sizes on their website and Instagram. Overall, it’s pretty clear we are obsessed with Girlfriend and were lucky enough to chat with the co-founder, who is also an incredibly busy and hardworking mother (she has a son, and another one on the way!). Check out our Q+A with Ellie Dinh!
by CHLOE.: Hi Ellie, Thanks so much for chatting with us. We’ll let you introduce yourself.
Ellie Dinh: Hi! I’m Ellie Dinh, the co-founder and creative director of Girlfriend Collective, and mom of Max and his soon-to-be baby sister.
bC: What were you doing before founding Girlfriend Collective, and what inspired you to create a “slow fashion” company with such strong sustainability values and practices?
ED: Before founding Girlfriend, I was a graphic designer and my husband (our other co-founder, Quang Dinh) had formerly owned a sustainable denim line. We both wanted to do something about plastic pollution, and discovered that you could make amazingly soft, sturdy recycled polyester out of post-consumer single-use water bottles. From day one, we wanted to make sure every step of the process created a new standard in the fashion industry. We want customers to feel good about their product — from how it was made, to where the materials came from, to the conditions of the workers who made their clothes.
bC: Items in your line are made from recycled plastic water bottles from Taiwan. Tell us about this process. HOW do you get your super comfy fabric, from plastic?!
ED: A lot of people don’t know this, but actually all synthetic materials (like polyester and nylon) are made from plastic — we just make ours using pre-existing materials that might otherwise clog landfills or pollute the earth. The process is really cool actually: first the bottles are sorted, cleaned, and cut into tiny little pieces; then they’re cleaned again; and then through a science-y polymerization process they’re turned into yarn that’s knit into fabric. Because our fabric is custom made we were able to tweak it to perfection and make them incredibly soft and durable!
bC: Your company believes in ethical manufacturing, and your facilities are SA8000-certified. Can you please educate our readers on what this means?
ED: SA8000 is a certification standard for factories across the globe. It guarantees vital workplace standards like health and safety, fair working hours, no discrimination, and no forced or child labor. We also have our Bluesign and Oeko-Tex certifications and our polyester is certified GRS, which is the Global Recycling Standard. We’re all about full transparency, so we recently took our followers inside our factories on our IG stories, if you want to check it out!
bC: We love your creative direction, and view on body image positivity. Tell us about your artistic vision and mission as it relates to your products, branding and the talent you employ to help tell your story?
ED: Oh, thank you so much! When we started Girlfriend, there just wasn’t an activewear brand that spoke to me and my friends, and I wanted to create that. Something that was more a community than a brand; a community of people that felt included and represented, who cared about how their clothes were made and craved something minimal, elevated, and equally fashionable and functional. We’re so lucky to have such a great community that really communicates with us and cares about the process and vision as much as we do. We’re always listening to what they want to see more (or less!) from us and strive to be transparent with them.
bC: What is next for Girlfriend Collective!? What are some short and long term goals?
ED: We have a huge year ahead of us! I can’t share too much, but we have some exciting sustainability-focused programs starting, brand new styles, and as always new colors. Our long term goal is to close the recycling loop entirely in how we create and manufacture our products, and short term we are working to get it all out as fast as possible! 🙂
bC: Have you always lived in Seattle? What do you love most about the city, and lifestyle?
ED: I was actually born and raised near Toronto, Ontario, migrated to Vancouver, BC in my early 20’s and then moved to Seattle nine years ago when I met my husband. I’ve always dreamed of living on the west coast since I was a kid. I really enjoy how active and outdoorsy the Seattle lifestyle is, but I love that everyone lives for the summer here! It’s normal to see people sunbathing in 65 degree weather, just because the sun’s out. I’ve really never seen a city celebrate sunshine as much as Seattle does.
bC: You have a full-time job leading a company, but you also have a family and child! How do you do it all? Any advice for other working moms out there?
ED: I’ve learned that “doing it all” doesn’t really exist the way we think it does. It’s an unattainable goal. My advice for working moms is to release that pressure and expectation from yourself and understand that no one has truly mastered the art of balancing motherhood and business. You have to have a lot of help (I sure do!) and make a lot of sacrifices on both sides, but ultimately it’s about simply doing the best you can each day and forgiving yourself in the moments it feels like you’re failing. Every mom, working or stay-at-home, is a hero and deserves a standing ovation just for making it through the day.
Nickname? Ellie actually is my nickname!
Favorite place on earth? Besides being at home with my family, I love Japan.
Top 3 restaurants (excluding by CHLOE. of course!)? Ba Bar, Oddfellows and The Walrus and The Carpenter (all Seattle based!).
Early bird or night owl? Early bird for sure — especially with a baby.
Choice super hero power? The ability to teleport myself anywhere I want.
Juice or smoothie? I’m eating for two so I’ll pick BOTH.
3 objects you can’t live without? My phone, a white noise machine, and lip balm.
Whatcha readin’? Nurture by Erica Chidi Cohen.