Temple Athletic Co. is a self-financed Canadian sportswear startup, trying to give health-conscious folks healthier clothes. Basil Farano, a textile industry veteran, put his vision with fellow co-founder, Phil Zullo, on Kickstarter to raise money and awareness about a dirty secret of the athleisure industry: much of the synthetic wear that people use for workout gear, and even everyday wear, is often made with chemicals.
“After working in the industry for so long, you learn about all the things that are wrong with the industry,” he says.
The fashion industry is notoriously damaging at all steps of the production chain. For a long time, however, the real costs of fast fashion have been hidden behind ‘save the earth’ slogan tees that leave behind a trail of polluted waterways and inhumane working conditions. Now the public is beginning to demand more accountability from brands, and after getting a first-hand look behind the scenes, Farano found a gap in the market: toxin-free sportswear.
Temple Athletic avoids the following chemicals and byproducts: PFC’s, Phthalates, Dimethylfomanamide (DMF), Nonylphenol Ethoxylates (NPEs), Alkylphenol Ethoxylates, Triclosan, Nanoparticle Silver & Nonylphenols (NPs).
Farano argues that toxins, often used in athletic wear, pose a health hazard to the consumer, particularly when body temperature rises and people begin to sweat. As the sweat mixes with the fabric, he explains, dangerous toxins are released that can enter an individual’s body through their open pores.
“To me, this seems absurd when you consider it’s sportswear, a product people wear to stay in shape and be healthy,” he says. “I’d like to be a part of bringing about change to the sportswear industry.”
Making the first iteration of products has not been easy, he admits. Farano spent three years trying to identify the factories he could work with. “I couldn’t believe how challenging it was to find factories who produce fabrics without dangerous toxins.”
Temple Athletics clothes are made in Canada and the United States. He uses only mills in Switzerland and Italy who follow Bluesign and Oeko-Tex standards — two standards in the textile industry that look to minimize toxic chemicals in the production process. Though not perfect, and with limitations, they’re pushing the industry towards greater transparency and accountability of its byproducts: namely, when chemicals enter waterways, and the level of toxicity in chemicals.
“All of this process makes our manufacturing costs quite expensive,” Farano confesses, slotting him in the category of Lululemon and Nike, in regards to pricing. But by selling directly to consumers, he feels that he can provide a “clean” product at a comparable price. The startup is avoiding big box stores to control costs; because using these higher standards come with a higher price tag, he wants to avoid the added margins of middlemen and retailers, by selling direct to customers.
Farano has experience in scaling a similar business: In the late ‘90s, he helped take athletic wear brand, Kappa, from zero to $35 million in sales. In the past decade, he has seen brands like Under Armour and Lululemon challenge the same market.
“They had an impact because they were taking on new areas of the business,” he says.
But, they don’t go far enough. With people becoming more conscious about what they eat a and consume, their clothing is likely to be the industry undergoing scrutiny next, he hopes.
“I felt it would only be a matter of time before people became educated as to how their sportswear was being made,” he says. “As a result, there would be a growing demand from consumers [for toxin-free alternatives], and an opportunity to have a real point of difference in the market.”
Currently, Farano and Zullo, who comes from the health and fitness industry as a trainer and a consultant, are selling their collection on Kickstarter, which Farano feels allows them to communicate closely with their customer base. The plan is, he says, that once the Kickstarter campaign is over, they’ll start selling through their company website. The goal is to offer a new capsule collection periodically throughout the year of men’s and women’s wear, focusing on staple pieces that will last.
Inspired by brands like Patagonia and Prana, Farano argues that it’s time for the industry to address some of these hidden costs.
“It’s never easy being a leader,” he says. “But I swore to myself that if I was ever to launch my own brand that it would require a real point of difference.”