At Because, we've always championed the brands that are working towards sustainable goals, whether that's Omer Asim's unorthodox decision to create one collection a year or FLORAL STREET's scents bottled up in fully recyclable packaging. And just when we thought we couldn't talk about it enough, that all has been said and done, a wake-up call arrived in the form of undergarments reminding us that innovation is just around the corner (or under you).

Pretty Polly, the British go-to for undergarments and hosiery since 1919 (when else could a brand name with PRETTY have been born?!), have just released their Eco-Wear range of biodegradable lingerie. From seamfree bras and croptops to leggings and opaque tights, the entire line is biodegradable and recyclable – yes, you read that right, just like your biodegradable coffee filters and banana peels, the Eco-Wear underwear also breaks down when disposed of correctly. To understand just how this feat works, we spoke with Caroline Wright, Hosiery Product Manager at Pretty Polly with over 20 years of experience in the hosiery industry. 

From conception to launch, how long did it take to create the Eco-Wear range?
The whole process took just less than a year, although at times it seemed longer!

Could you tell us more about the process involved in creating biodegradable underwear and the challenges that arose?
The availability of biodegradable polyamide yarn in the market is very limited, so it took some time to identify the best yarn to use and knit prototype garments.  The properties of the yarn are different to the ones we would normally use, so we had to take this into account. We then had to wear trials to ensure that the products fit beautifully and were comfortable to wear all day.  Packaging was also a key component of the development process, it had to be biodegradable and we wanted that to be obvious to whoever buys the product. We had a great team of a graphic designer, photographer and models to produce packaging that showcases the product really wonderfully.

When we think of sustainability, we don't often think about the waste created from undergarments. What is the current landscape of sustainability in this underwear/hosiery industry? Do you think strides are being made?
Sustainability is currently the biggest issue facing the industry and strides are being made, but it is difficult.  Hosiery is traditionally made from nylon, an oil based product, and the options for replacing it are unfortunately limited at the moment. There are biodegradable and recycled materials available for both underwear and hosiery, but there is a price premium to pay for these, so the industry is having to deal with trying to make sustainability affordable.

What was the motivation behind launching an eco-friendly range?
At Pretty Polly we believe we have a responsibility to try to reduce the impact we are having on the environment by offering consumers a sustainable alternative. The introduction of Eco-Wear is only the first step. We are examining everything we do to see where we can make changes that make our products and our supply chain more environmentally friendly, and our plan is to increase the proportion of our brand that is sustainable each season.

Underwear and hosiery can often be treated similar to single-use plastic – a rip, ladder or laundry mishap prompting people to throw it away and buy a new one. Do you have any advice on how we can avoid this and improve the longevity of our items?
The best way to improve the longevity of hosiery and underwear is by looking after them properly.  Ideally hosiery and lingerie should be gently hand-washed, and if it is machine washed, it should be in a lingerie bag to protect it and prevent it getting tangled up with the rest of the washing. It's also important to take care when putting products on and taking them off again. There are lots of things you can do with your tights when you've finished with them, instead of throwing them away. They make good storage for veg like onions, they're great in the garden for tying plants up and old opaques make great dusters!

Do you think we'll see more hosiery and lingerie brands using similar sustainable methods and materials in the future?
There is definitely a growing trend in the market towards sustainability, but at the moment availability and price of materials is a limiting factor.

Shop from Pretty Polly and more hosiery below:


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