When you dig through your collection of leotards before class, do you ever think about how they're made, or what they're made from? Chances are, most dancers don't, and Audition Dancewear wants to do something about that.

The company—run by two mother-daughter duos, Kathy and Caroline Perry and Shelly and Suzanna Lathrum—has begun making leotards from recycled materials to reduce their carbon footprint and raise awareness around plastic consumption. The result is a sleek line of leos that don't sacrifice style or function, and that use four or five recycled water bottles per leo.


Kathy and Shelly met while their daughters were dancing together at Lovett Dance Center in Orange County, California. Shelly, who went to fashion school and has worked in the industry, started making dance costumes for her daughter, Suzanna, and soon ended up designing the costumes for the whole competition team. Kathy ran marketing and social media for her in exchange for free costumes, and the beginning of a partnership was formed.

The team started making leotards when they saw a gap in the industry: There were very few fashionable options for tween girls. "We found that our girls didn't want to shop their size because it was too young," says Kathy. "It was pink and it was bows, and they wanted to wear what the older girls were wearing." From there, Audition Dancewear was born.

The founders of Audition Dancewear, Kathy Perry and Shelly Lathrum, with their daughters, Caroline and Suzanna

Rachel Neville, Courtesy Audition Dancewear

It was Caroline and Suzanna who brought up the idea of eco-friendly dancewear after they saw some clothing companies advertising sustainable products online. "In the girls' generation, everyone is concerned with the environment," says Shelly, "and because of them, it's on our radar so much more." Fabrics like nylon and polyester are made of plastics, which many people don't realize when they're buying dancewear, says Caroline.

Shelly learned that one of their suppliers was selling Repreve, a fabric made from recycled water bottles that brands like Patagonia, Quiksilver and Roxy have used to make swimsuits. For Audition Dancewear's recent back-to-school collection, all the black leotards were made from Repreve, and their holiday collection debuts two new colors—teal and red. Next year, the company has plans to launch a printed line of recycled leotards.

Rachel Neville, Courtesy Audition Dancewear

Caroline and Suzanna both dance professionally—Caroline in the corps at Houston Ballet and Suzanna in Boston Ballet's second company—and they often share the leotards with their friends and colleagues. "It's important to us to get real dancers' feedback," says Shelly. So far, the response to the eco-friendly pieces has been positive. The fabric is smooth and silky, with good stretch recovery, and is as comfortable as any other leotard. "A lot of the girls at Houston Ballet are really fashionable, and they always like these when I bring them in," says Caroline. "I bring in boxes and everyone takes them."

The Repreve leotards are now Audition Dancewear's most popular sellers, available to ship worldwide, and for in-person sales in around 20 stores. In addition to adding more colors and patterns to the collection, the team is continuing to seek other ways of making their business more sustainable, like using recycled packaging to ship their products, and drawing inspiration from designers like Stella McCartney who are working to make the fashion industry greener.

"We're trying to do our little bit, whatever we can," says Kathy. "We want to leave the planet a better place."

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