Since January, I've had a certain WWD article bookmarked on my work computer about a Belgian specialty chemical firm, Devan Chemicals, that added CBD to its health and wellness textiles solutions portfolio. While the company aims to have the micro-encapsulated active ingredient applied towards sleepwear garments and beddings, I knew that it would only be a matter of time for it to be incorporated into clothing, too. Until then, I patiently waited for the inevitable PR pitch to arrive in my inbox.
Nearly eight months later, I finally did receive that pitch from a new activewear brand named Acabada. CEO and co-founder Seth Baum had actually read the very same article, and with more than 30 years of experience building brands in the apparel space, he wanted to create something entirely forward-thinking and "really built for tomorrow, not yesterday," he tells Fashionista. "And it was really that moment the light bulb went off. If we can figure out a way to put [CBD] into activewear, wouldn't that be an amazing idea?"
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So Baum, along with co-founder and Chief Creative Officer Katrina Petrillo, began to build, conceptualize and design Acabada. After meeting with Devan Chemicals, they started working with a high-end facility in Porto, Portugal, where both Baum and Petrillo would make plenty of trips to in order to oversee manufacturing. "That really was the whole beginning of this process, but there are so many moving parts," says Baum. "In traditional apparel, you see a design, you send it to a factory and they make it. This is much, much more complicated."
Since encapsulating CBD and bonding it to fabric is fairly new, especially within the apparel industry, there were a few factors to address while designing Acabada. First, once the fabric is infused with CBD — Acabada's has no THC, is lab-certified and 99.9% pure; it can total up to 25 grams per garment — it's strategically cut-and-sewn so the fabric is placed on certain parts of the wearer's body that will likely experience pain, inflammation and soreness, since CBD is believed to to relieve such symptoms. For this, Baum and Petrillo consulted with multiple doctors, chiropractors and physical therapists to address those exact areas and inform their design team. As a result, a majority of the CBD-infused fabric is placed along and around the calves, hips and back. Once the fabric and skin come into contact, the micro-capsules are triggered to release CBD.
As for Acabada's design aesthetic, Petrillo looked to major cities for inspiration. The debut collection pays homage to where the brand is based: New York City. "We kept the color palette pretty simple. Obviously, it's grounded in black and we played up a lot of textures: matte, a lot of high shine, mesh details that give a little bit of sheerness," says Petrillo. "We really wanted everything in this collection to feel versatile, from barre to bar. Wear your leggings to work out and then throw on a leather jacket and be able to continue your day and still look super fashionable." Acabada's next collection will pay tribute to Los Angeles, which will feature more color, and by next year, Petrillo and Baum plan to have a select offering of the brand's essential or signature pieces. Pop-ups will open in both NY and L.A. and the collection is also available to purchase online.
With CBD already infiltrating the beauty industry, it's no surprise that its impact has crossed over into fashion, a space that's already cashing in on cannabis. Multifunctional products with a fitness bent have also been on the rise, whether it be athleisure-inspired makeup or a versatile, bestselling exercise dress. So will people wear CBD activewear to work out? With Acabada, Baum is betting on aspirational consumers, especially if they have the budget: a sports bra is $120, leggings range from $160 to $180, and a jacket can cost up to $250. When it comes to longevity, Acabada's CBD lasts an average of 40 wears and washes. However, customers can trade in their depleted garments in exchange for a discount on future purchases. The previously worn items will then go through the brand's upcycling program.
It also depends on how they react to CBD topicals, which can be different for everyone. "If you're currently applying a CBD cream, like, say, after your workout, the same results that you're getting from applying the cream, you're actually getting from Acabada," claims Baum. (The team first tested the line's fabric in the form of accessories, like socks or arm bands.) "We think that the early consumer base is going to be people that have already started to use CBD, are familiar with CBD and get the benefits of it. This will become kind of a supplemental delivery system."