Jeans have been a part of the culture since James Dean and Brando strutted a pair across the silver screen in the mid 1950’s. Denim fabric is derived from cotton and we all know how much water is used on a single crop. Here are 5 denim suppliers who are leading the way in sustainability.
Let’s begin with the company who put denim on the map, Levi Strauss. From the company’s website they state “Sustainability is sewn into the fabric of everything we do — from how our clothing is made to the work we do to help protect our planet.” Levi has been a leader in sustainability since its inception in the 1800’s. In 1991 it introduced the “terms of engagement”which set the standards for workers rights, a healthy work environment and an ethical engagement with the planet. For the past 3 years, Levi has been working on bringing jeans to the market that are 100% cotton that have a hollow yarn architectures. They had polyester woven into the yarn, but after weaving into denim, they were able to dissolve it out. The result is denim that wicks away moisture and holds warm air in. Furthermore, they feel educating the public and being transparent is equally as important as it is ethically and sustainably producing jeans. In fact, in 2016 the company hosted an event with all of their competitors to share their knowledge about the best water saving practices.
G Straw Raw is the most sustainable denim company in the world. The Dutch jean company has put the planet first since the beginning. After years of researching every aspect of the denim trade, G Straw Raw has developed techniques which are eco-friendly. With help from the tech world, they have created new sustainable washing methods and the cleanest indigo dyes the denim industry has ever seen. G Straw has a core belief that jeans should be manufactured ethically and sustainable. Their Code of Conduct for suppliers has been strictly enforced for the past decade as has the attention to sustainable fabric. The company has developed an alternative to the use of cotton for denim by utilizing recycled, organic and use raw nettles, or sea waste as materials for the yarn they produce. Additionally, G Straw has banned the use of angora, and wool must meet the highest standards in the industry.
NOORISM is a New York based denim company with designer Noor Zakka at the helm. What makes this jean company uniquely sustainable is they only use upcycled denim. Upcycling is a philosophy and design principle that uses recycling, yet it takes it to the extreme by taking the whole system approach to the population’s resources and waste. In addition, upcycling redesigns the current linear system to the new circular economy and is restorative and regenerated by design. Founded in 2015, Zakka began her journey after seeing the impact that fashion had on the environment and set out to make an alternative to the cheap, fast fashion that is produced every season. Her efforts are being rewarded as she will be launching globally and there are plans to open the first NOORISM store.
Mud jeans is taking a somewhat different approach to sustainable denim. The companies program is called “Lease the Jeans” and is basically just that. You lease the jeans for 1 year after which Mud will collect and recycle them. The program is currently only available in Europe and cost 7.5 euros per month. After the recycled denim is collected, 80% of that goes into a new pair, hence saving water from thirsty cotton crops and no waste from discarded clothing. Sounds kind of perfect.
Finally, Reformation is the latest clothing company to add sustainable denim products to their already successful line. Ref jeans are currently made with deadstock and other super environmentally safe yarns. They save nearly 1500 gallons of water by eliminating wasteful and traditional methods of fmanufacturing denim and forgo toxic dyes. The California company is launching the Wet Program which donates 1000 gallons in credits for every pair sold the National Forest Foundation's clean water projects. Now, that is putting your money where your mouth is.
The denim industry needs to stop and reset itself. It shouldn’t take 1500 gallons of water to create a simple pair of jeans. With so many alternatives to cotton, we should all be looking at the bigger picture.