The rise of yoga in mainstream America has sprouted a host of companies eager to help people downward dog. Here at Garage Grown Gear we set out to find the best yoga gear from independent companies. We sought quality first and foremost, but also wanted to highlight companies that step beyond themselves to help others and the environment on local and global scales.
Drum roll for …
the top 10 independent brands making the best yoga gear …
Teeki yoga pants stand out for their wildly creative designs, but it’s actually what’s inside them that caught our attention. These USA made yoga pants are created from recycled plastic bottles—which is awesome! Curious how it works? The company’s eco-conscious bottle-to-clothing approach includes a 5-step process: Plastic PET containers are collected from recycling centers and then organized by type and color. Those plastics are stripped of their labels and caps, and then washed, crushed, and chopped up. The shreds are melted into pellets. Those pellets are melted (again) and pressed into fiber that’s further manipulated into bales. Baled fiber can then be processed into fabric. Each pair of pants is created with 79 percent of recycled plastic. Teeki also practices environmentally friendly, zero-waste printing, so neither water nor the ground is contaminated. Lastly, these hipster pants are made locally. Can we get an applause?
This Victorian-era inspired fitness apparel collection offers up exquisitely stylized, classy sports bras, leggings and capris. Founder of Nina.B.Roze, Nina Berenboym was born in Odessa, Ukraine, and moved to Los Angeles in 1992. With a natural draw towards the arts—at that time, painting and ballet—she ultimately decided to focus on fashion design. Her athletic and dance experiences led her to cultivate a brand that focuses on the female’s active lifestyle and self care. Thanks Nina, for celebrating living well and being beautiful! “Styles are designed with intricate details and shapes that accentuate a woman’s body while technical fabrics are chosen for durability, moisture management and superb fit. While the collection is functional for an athlete, it’s versatile for everyday wear. Whether you’re in yoga class, pilates or a brunch with your girlfriends, ‘Sport Your Pretty’ wherever you go.” – ninabroze.com
This yoga bag company produces mat bags with hand-woven textiles from impoverished Maya women living in Guatemalan communities. I AM was launched by the brother-sister-team Jessie and William Baxter after a Kickstarter campaign in October 2011 that had an unusual finale.
With five days remaining and $28,000 left to raise, the two got creative in their marketing. They created a website and YouTube video called Don’tLetWillDie.com, and William vowed to stay on a treadmill until I AM reached its Kickstarter goal. A live feed held him to his promise. After 50 non-stop hours on a treadmill the company raised the funds it needed to launch.
The idea for I AM came when the brother and sister team met in Guatemala after quitting their jobs to travel “in search of change.” Among the Maya communities they grew to know, the idea for the company came to life. Now, their central goal is to create sustainable and high wage weaving work for more that 10,000 Maya women.
“We’re part of a growing movement revolutionizing the way people approach business. We believe that by adopting the structures and efficiencies of traditional for-profit enterprises, but switching the target—from profit to impact—we can change the world.” –theiamidea.com
Yoga-Paws offers an ingenious away-from-home solution that eliminates the need to carry a yoga mat. Instead, yogis wear non-slip mini-mats on their hands and feet. Started in 2003, the company’s family team—mother Gail and daughter Jamie—wanted to provide an “anywhere” solution for their practice.
Yoga props, especially yoga blocks, come pretty standard at most studios. They greatly help with otherwise out-of-reach poses. But what’s not so common is a yoga block that’s equal parts tool and work of art.
The creation of Bompa Blocks came from a bond between artist, Ashley James and her grandfather, architect and wood contractor, Bompa. Together they created a line of natural wood yoga blocks that exalt the system of nature, bringing harmony to lifestyle and yoga practice.
Bompa Blocks are one-of-a-kind, made-to-order pieces. From chocolate-colored walnut to spalted maple, each block is as unique as the texture of the wood from which it is built.
Yes! We found just-long-enough, stretchy-not-squeezing yoga shorts. The Lotus provides just enough leg and behind coverage but gets rid of unnecessary fabric—which is great for heated or sun-filled classes. Based in Denver, Colorado, Soybu first created its stylish active-lifestyle apparel in 1998.
“Our vision is simple—to empower women in their busy, active everyday lives so they will look and feel feminine, stylish and comfortable. All day. Everyday. Our performance apparel is creatively designed to move seamlessly between the activities of everyday without sacrificing quality or style. We blend eco-friendly fibers into our long-lasting apparel with minimal impact on the environment, always keeping our planet in mind.” – soybu.com
The Denver-based yoga mat company Mondo-Mehndi creates a super thick, cushiony, long mat—one your knees and palms will love. You may recall, we shared the company’s profile story, “How carpal tunnel led to Mehndi custom yoga mats,” in April.
Beyond the pillow-y feel, the mats showcase eye-catching, one-of-a-kind artisan designs that are hand drawn by founder and artist Dawn Skipp. Each design—Ganesha, Joy, Koi, and Peacock—incorporates symbology into the floral patterns.
Dawn also offers guidance on color resonance—in other words, how different colors inspire us—with 15 varieties of mat hues to choose from.
Mondo-Mehndi is truly a unique, customizable yoga mat with a great story about how it was founded.
“Spreading your toes is the best thing you can do for your feet. Why? Spreading your toes helps strengthen the feet, increase blood circulation and align mistreated toes. That’s why we design our socks and sandals with five toes like your feet, to help you spread ‘em…You might think ToeSox look funny, but we’re just imitating nature’s marvelous design of the foot. Regular socks draw your toes together making them act as one unit, like a hoof, and…you’re not a horse.” – toesox.com
Duly noted, we are not horses. But point well taken. Based in San Diego, grippy yoga ToeSox are designed with the intention to promote foot health, the body’s natural movement, and health-conscious lifestyle. Additionally, the company supports many community efforts including a Sunday summer yoga series and a beagle rescue non-profit.
If you haven’t yet tried downward dog in socks, go ahead, give it a try.
Guys, have you found your top-choice yoga pants? Now you can leave the pajamas at home: Choclo makes colorful yet masculine, durable, and streamlined shorts and pants for a comfy practice. On a mission to improve the lives of children, the Choclo Project incorporates artwork that’s created by kids into its designs, and then provides those communities with a portion of the sales. To date, the company sponsors Nuevo Futuro, Amantani, Mundo de Ninos, and Milagro School Peru.
“Choclo believes that there is nothing more important for a child than being creative. The major goal is to provide these children with the opportunity and an environment in which to express themselves…This concept not only gives the children a feeling of freedom as they tap into their imagination, but we hope it will give the kids ideas of a positive way to make a living and change their lives.”— chocloproject.com
In April of this year Columbia Sportswear bought prAna for $190 million. So while this company is no longer independent, we still wanted to include them in this list. Here’s why:
Still based in its original town of Carlsbad, California, Beaver Theodosakis and his wife Pam started the company in their garage in 1992. Yep, their garage! The couple grew their company slowly and intentionally, in order to focus on minimizing its environmental impact. In the beginning, they hand-sewed the apparel and used homemade recycled paper to create the clothing tags. They shipped items in fruit boxes that they collected from the town’s grocery store.
This company typifies the word “grown” in Garage Grown Gear. It’s found a way to tread the rocky path from innovator to icon. And, hey, that deserves kuddos too.
In our search for the best yoga gear, we likely missed a couple brands worthy of recognition (we always do when putting together our Top 10 lists). What yoga brands do you love? Why?