—Headline, Racked.com, June 8, 2016
The U.S. garment industry's celebrated Activewear Train derailed yesterday near St. Louis, Missouri, alarming nearby residents and spilling its cargo over a nearly half-mile stretch.
No one was injured, but observers described the scene as "an unholy mess," with gym essentials such as capris, tanks, and soft scoop-neck tees strewn up and down the track.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon issued a statement declaring a state of emergency.
"This is a sad day, not just for the Show Me State but for all Americans aged 18 to 44 who depend on timely shipments of hooded vests, long-sleeve tops with thumb holes, and lightweight merino wool base layers designed to move with your body, not against it," Governor Nixon said. "We will do everything in our power to get things 'back on track' and ensure that this sort of disaster never happens again."
The cause of the derailment is still under investigation. State and local officials, as well as a team from the National Transportation Safety Board, converged on the scene as local residents gathered to survey the damage.
"It's like a Lululemon store collided with an Athleta store," said Holly Gennaro, 32, who stood watching from behind yellow police tape. "And then some firefighters came but instead of spraying water on everything, their hoses sprayed the contents of a prAna warehouse."
"I've never seen so much performance-minded apparel meant to appeal to today's younger, more fashion-conscious shopper in one place before," she added. "The number of semi-fitted linen pants with drawstring waists alone is staggering."
The accident fueled an already fiery debate over the transport of activewear, with environmental groups pushing for an end to rail delivery, particularly through environmentally sensitive areas, and industry groups countering that the nation's rail system is the safest and most efficient way to get these goods to consumers.
As workers waded through mounds of stretchy pants, packable running jackets, cute yoga tops, and skorts, a small group of demonstrators held signs and talked with reporters.
"Given our nation's crumbling infrastructure and its seemingly insatiable demand for comfortable, sporty apparel that's just as home at the gym as it is at your local coffeehouse, an accident like this one was only a matter of time," said John McClane, a local resident who's been a vocal opponent of shipping activewear by rail. "It's time to end this practice, and find newer, safer ways to get these goods to market."
A proposal to build a massive activewear pipeline from Vancouver, British Columbia, to Boulder, Colorado, has been stalled in Congress for over a year.
While the accident affected several activewear makers, Dodgeville, Wisconsin-based Lands' End felt especially hard hit.
"For years, we held off introducing our own line of athletic apparel," a Lands' End spokesperson said by phone. "We only hopped on board the Activewear Train last week."
"And now, this."