Denim Brands to Know About

materials sustainable fashion Sep 23, 2022

It’s one of the most iconic fabrics in the history of fashion and almost everyone has a piece in their closet. Denim comes in a plethora of different washes and can be made into almost any piece of clothing, but the denim industry has a huge environmental impact.

Two areas where we see some of the biggest impacts are raw materials and dyeing and finishing. While the issues associated with both run deep (I’ll include some extra resources at the bottom), there are a few things we really need to take a closer look at. For raw materials, we need brands to make the transition away from virgin synthetics and switch to preferred materials. The indigo used to dye denim is normally a synthetic variation of genuine indigo, but most synthetic indigo is incredibly toxic to people and the environment. The textile industry can do better and there are some brands who are leading the charge to change the denim industry. Let’s see if your favorite brand made the list!

Nudie Jeans

We refer to Nudie Jeans a lot - you’ve probably seen them mentioned a few times in some of our other posts, but we really love the work they’re doing!

Primarily using organic cotton, Nudie Jeans creates denim products that are high quality and support the shift to a more sustainable agriculture system. They do use some synthetic materials across their lines, but they still strive to bring the best options to their customers. Using recycled polyester, or rPET, their denim still has the strength and durability that people expect from them. And while we’re sure they’d prefer to move on from synthetics altogether, they win on traceability and transparency, for sure. Have a look at their product pages… We love a company that’s doing good work like this, and is always out to improve!

Nudie Jeans also does a lot of work on the production side of things - so much so that we can’t dive into everything here, but I recommend you check out their production page and watch Derek’s YouTube video breaking it down!

If you’re looking to pick up a pair for yourself, check out the Tuff Tony in Wavy Blues, made with 80% organic cotton and 20% pre-consumer Nudie Jeans recycled cotton. This is a rigid fit with little stretch, so refer to the size guide to ensure you’re getting the right size! Don’t forget about the Clean Eileen in Cinnamon - made from 100% organic cotton, this is the perfect pair of jeans for fall.

Image Credit: Nudie Jeans 

Reformation

Known as one of the trendiest sustainable fashion brands, Reformation (or Ref for short) has a wide selection of denim products. 

Ref has been doing some exciting things on the materials end of the business and we love that they lean into collaborations with solution providers. Tencel (by Lenzing) is one of those collaborations they use throughout a number of product categories, but we hope more collabs are on the horizon. Recycled cotton is also in the line-up, but it doesn’t look like it’s GRS certified - Ref, something that can change!? Overall, Ref has a goal of using 100% recycled, regenerative, or renewable materials by 2025. We’re cheering them on every step of the way!

A new collection they’ve launched for denim products is circular denim. Made from post-industrial fabric scraps, these items are giving waste a new life. Using a blend of regenerative, organic, and recycled cotton, this collection is a great example of how brands can repurpose their waste. We’re hoping post-consumer recycled goods are right around the corner.

If you’re interested in this collection, I recommend taking a peek at the Milo Utility Overalls. If you’ve always dreamt of having a farm, like me, these will definitely satisfy your farmer-chic fantasy. If you’re not afraid of pattern, check out the Mod High Rise Straight Jeans. Made from 60% organic cotton and 40% Tencel, these are the funky jeans you’ve been missing.

Afends

Australian-based clothing company, Afends, focuses on alternative, skate-inspired fashion while keeping environmental and social impacts as a top priority. While the other two companies we mentioned have leaned heavily on cotton, Afends directs its attention to hemp. While hemp has a number of benefits (Afends has them listed here), it is a great alternative material for denim. We hope in the future that Afends gets certified organic hemp (once the standard is written, approved, and adopted), but for now, we’ll keep cheering from the sidelines. 

As one of my favorite fibers, hemp is incredibly durable. It rarely breaks down (it just breaks IN!) and it maintains its shape, even after years of wearing the item. Even though Afends focuses on hemp, we’re really excited for their most recent collab with Jeanologia to reduce impacts from the washing and finishing stages of production. 

If you’re looking for a great hemp option, check out the Hemp Denim Baggy Jeans - the side slit is a standout feature! With fall right around the corner, you may need some new jackets. Have a look at the Unisex Organic Denim Jacket, the wash is a super unique color and will surely bring something new to your closet.

Image Credit: Afends

Levi’s

This one may be a little surprising because perhaps you didn’t know how seriously Levi’s takes sustainability and worker well-being. Or maybe you saw Stand.Earth’s campaign “Too Dirty to Wear”? Well, Levi’s has made great strides since then and in their latest sustainability report, Levi’s has put more of a focus on preferred materials like organic cotton and has continued to address their water impacts (remember Water<Less anyone!?)

Derek did a video breakdown of all the sustainability effort Levi’s is putting in. Check it out here.

We continue to be impressed with the sustainability culture in the brand and one additional area that deserves some recognition is their recommerce platform, SecondHand. Recommerce has become a favorite among people who want to support sustainability while also keeping price in mind. Levi’s offers a wide variety of product categories on their used site and you’re sure to find something you’ll love.

Resources 

So, what are some things you should know about the denim industry? Here are a few interesting reads and videos that shed some light on the impacts of denim production:

If you would like more information on third-party solution providers, sign up for the Academy! Send us an email at [email protected] and we’ll get you more information on this unique option.

What are some of your favorite denim brands? Did we forget to mention one? Share your thoughts with us in our LinkedIn Group - we hope to see you there!

Thanks for joining me and I’ll catch you next week!

McKenzie

#keeplearning #sustainablefashion #denim

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