Among the pleathery, lightly bondage-y tops and bottoms from new activewear company Acabada are the Rivington shrug ($150) and the Delancey jumpsuit ($275), both named for streets in New York City, where the brand is based. Fine, whatever, I could see women wearing these things to Pilates in the West Village. What makes this luxury activewear brand distinct from the rest is that these clothes are also drugs.
According to Acabada’s website, this is “the world’s first ever CBD infused activewear collection.” CBD — a non-psychoactive cannabinoid thought to have various medicinal properties — has become an increasingly popular add-on to coffee, candy, sprays, lotions, and cookies among brands looking to charge a bit more for their products, which, I admit, is my first thought upon perusing the Acabada site.
Under each product’s size and fit are listed the muscle groups targeted by the CBD sewn (?) into the fabric: in the Delancey’s case, for instance, you have 18 grams of CBD targeting the quads, calves, hamstrings, and back. If it works as promised, each item’s CBD, which is known to have pain- and inflammation-reducing properties, could perhaps target the areas affected by exercise. But that’s a big if. Popular as it is, CBD remains under-regulated and often overhyped.
Robert Carson, a pediatric neurologist at Vanderbilt University who studies the use of CBD in treating kids with epilepsy, is similarly wary. “My first feeling is this is crazy,” he says. “But, in actually thinking about it, and it kind of pains me to say it, this could be plausible.” Carson makes the comparison to lidocaine patches (used for pain relief) or scopolamine patches (used for seasickness) — topical medicines can be (and are) transmitted via material worn on the skin. Still, while the delivery system is credible, Carson says there are other factors which complicate this particular product.
As stated by Baum, the highest CBD content among the Acabada garments is 25 grams, and many have fewer than that. Carson says it might be helpful to think of this amount in its liquid equivalent — and 25 grams equals less than an ounce. (For reference, a standard shot glass = 1.5 fluid ounces.) (I, too, am picturing dumping a shot on a new pair of leggings.) “Getting that much oil into a garment seems possible,” says Carson, “but how much of that can get into the skin?”
In order to know how much CBD is actually transmitted per workout, per person — and whether there’s any demonstrable effect — would require controlled, scientific study, which Acabada seems unlikely to pursue. The risk is too high, says Carson: “We see this with drug companies all the time — they spend millions and millions on a product, do a clinical trial, and it’s a failure, and then they’re done.”
Being tested would mean having to prove their product “works,” but as it stands, Acabada will likely focus on finding enthusiastic spokespeople who can speak to the difference their CBD clothing made in their workout routines. They can also count on repeat customers: Acabada states that their products’ CBD content lasts, on average, 40 uses, which, for someone who works out twice a week, amounts to five months. Who can afford to buy a brand-new CBD sports bra every five months?
Some other questions: is the CBD sweat-activated, or activity-dependent? What if you work out four times a year — will they really last ten years, or is there an expiration date? Can you wash your drug clothes, or does that suck out some of the CBD? Don’t you most need pain relief after the exercise, when you’d presumably take your CBD workout wear off? Isn’t this what Icy Hot is for? Or even better, Tiger Balm? Would the Delancey jumpsuit look cute on me? I may never know.