Sustainability & Fashion

Mon 06 Jan 2020

As we reflect on what we want to achieve in 2020, the biggest impact for me has been an increase in the word “sustainability”. This is by no means a new word, but it is certainly gaining momentum and especially in the fashion world.

For me it started with the BBC showing Stacey Dooleys documentary “Fashion’s Dirty Secrets” (if you haven’t already seen this, then it’s a must!) and having worked as a buyer in the industry this documentary resonated with me. Even more so when I discussed this with my Dad, who was a civil engineer working on water resources throughout his career. He had worked in Uzbekistan on the Aral Sea Basin, and remembers it before it started shrinking due to irrigation for cotton production.

It made me sit back and think about fast fashion and what the throw away culture of clothing is doing to the environment. It has also made me consider my appointments with clients and how best to inform them on wardrobe edits, and other services that I can offer. This year I have organised “swap & style” events, which will be bigger and better in 2020, I have tried out designer clothes rental, which I will do a blog post on for more detail, I have helped clients rework items in their wardrobes to give them a new lease of life and sold on preloved items to give others an injection of newness without buying new, which in turn saved those pieces going to landfill. There is so much more we can do, and I am definitely learning new things daily, so my aim here is to give you the information that I find and hope that you take a little bit of inspiration from it. 

Denim is one of the biggest problems in terms of manufacturing processes for the environment. 

“If you need a new pair of jeans, by buying second hand, you are saving the equivalent greenhouse gases of driving a car more than 129km.”

This is a crazy amount of greenhouse gas when you think about it, and the amount of water used to create a pair of jeans is even scarier. It takes over 1800 gallons of water to produce the cotton to make just one pair of blue jeans, and that is not taking into account the wash processes that the garment goes through to finish them. Cotton farming irrigation was the main reason for the disappearance of the Aral Sea. You can easily find second hand jeans in charity shops, however, if you want to buy new ones, then there are lots of retailers who are using different initiatives to improve the environmental impact the manufacturing of jeans has.

Here are some for you to look through: 

Re/Done - 

Founded in 2014 as a premium jeans site that repurposes vintage Levi’s jeans 

E.L.V Denim - 

  • Take discarded denim and reworks it into new covetable styles. 
  • Designed and manufactured in East London. 
  • Prioritises minimising waste, water and energy footprint 

What they say: 

Sustainability is at the core of our brand ethos.  We operate from an ideal of ‘no waste’ and we create our jeans using discarded denim which otherwise could be destined for landfill.  By using discarded denim there is zero environmental impact in the material used to make our jeans.  

It takes 9,990 litres of water to make ONE pair of new jeans, which is more than the average person drinks in 13 years.  At E.L.V. Denim we only use 9 litres. 

We design and manufacture our entire collection in East London, minimising our waste, water and energy footprints. 

As well as operating an environmentally sustainable policy, we also operate a socially sustainable policy.  We only work with local ateliers and factories who match these values. 

Nudie Jeans - 

  • Made from 100% organic cotton 
  • Transparent company that offers free repair services, resells secondhand products and also recycles worn out products. 

Mud Jeans - 

  • Ultimate goal is a world without waste 
  • Their jeans are made up of 40% post consumer recycled cotton, which is the highest percentage out there. 
  • Take back your jeans for recycling 

What they say: 

MUD Jeans aims to make good quality, ethical jeans available to more people. Our jeans already hit about every box on the ethical checklist, but then we took it a step further. In 2013, MUD Jeans launched the pioneering lease system. This system ensures that we keep hold of our valuable fibres and that every garment comes back to us and gets recycled. Repairs are provided for free and the customers can keep the jeans for as long as they want, with a Repair Service provided for free. Or they can swap them for a new pair after the one-year rental term is complete. It resulted in global media awareness and Bert sharing the MUD Jeans story worldwide. 

Tomorrow Denim - 

Founded in Copenhagen in 2017, Tomorrow is the world’s first sustainable denim brand certified by both the Nordic Swan Ecolabel and the EU Ecolabel. They use organic cotton & pre-consumer recycled cotton. 

DL1961 - 

  • New York based brand
  • Uses innovative, water efficient fibres, every pair is made from ethically sourced cotton, while solar panel power factory operations and natural indigo dyes used are derived from plants.

Monkee Jeans - 

All organic, all ethically produced and all fairly made 

Gap -

  • Have created Washwell water-saving process. 
  • 20% less water than a conventional wash 
  • 248 million litres of water saved since 2016 
  • Enough to fill 496 million water bottles 

There doesn’t appear to be a huge selection of the Washwell denim, and what there is seems to be reduced in price quite considerably. This makes me think that the Gap customer is unaware of the benefits of this range and the changes it could be making. 

I have worn Nudie jeans for over 15 years now, and love them for a skinny fit. My go to was the Long John, but will definitely be giving the Breezy Britt a try. I also love the leasing concept that Mud Jeans have created and I am going to look into that further, and will let you know how that goes. The biggest problem with all of these higher end denim brands is the price, however, there are some bargains to be had during sale periods, so get shopping now and invest! If we all take a step away from the high street cheaper denim, then the retailers are going to have to work harder to improve their offering, which in turn is a step in the right direction for the environment. 

  • Lots of high street retailers are moving towards organic cotton; 
  • And Other Stories jeans, for example, are all organic cotton. 
  • If you search organic cotton on the Topshop website, then they also have quite a good offer.  
  • H&M have a conscious collection, and their jeans are made partly from recycled cotton.  
  • New Look has marked various items as New Look Kind: clothes that are responsibly sourced and friendlier to the planet. 

Be savvy with your jeans shopping and you will feel better. I am also here to help, and can do the leg work for you, so please get in touch for more ways that I can assist you. 

Thanks for reading and I hope you have gained something from this post. 

Nerys x

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