By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
Here’s a bit of fashion history for you: did you know that American favourite, the blue jean, actually has its roots deeply embedded in Europe? Yep, that’s right: Europeans invented the jean, make no mistake. Even the words we use to describe blue jeans are just corruptions of European words: denim was traditionally coloured in a blue shade with indigo dye, on sturdy Serge de Nîmes twill fabric, or “de-Nîmes” for short (of course, that’s ‘denim’ now to me and you). As for “jeans,” this word evolved based on a cotton/linen blend fabric produced in Genoa as far back as the 16th century – which is called Gênes in French.
Jeans made their way over to the USA with mass immigration from Europe’s working class, and this traditional Euro-workwear was happily adopted in the ‘new country’. Since that time, the rise of the ethical fashion movement has pointed out how harmful denim dyes can be for the environment, and how much water, land and energy is wasted making jeans during the manufacturing processes.
Today, more and more denim-based brands are using recycled materials like plastic bottles or upcycled old denim to create new fashions, or are finding ways to dramatically reduce the water and carbon footprint of making jeans. It sounds pretty smug and self-righteous, right? But modern eco-denim can be super-sassy and sexy, as you shall soon see!
Here are 20 eco friendly denim brands that infuse a lot of sass and style into everything from jeans and denim tops to handbags.
1. Joe’s Jeans
Joe’s Jeans put the rock’n’roll back into denim. The brand is all about attitude and sass, except when it comes to the environment, that is. In which case, Joe’s gets all responsible and uses production methods that consume way less water and energy than most jeans brands – plus it avoids all those nasty, toxic dyes that pollute water, harm workers and kill fish.
The ‘AG’ must stand for ‘Aie! Gorgeous!’ because the design of these denim based collections is always incredibly covetable, thanks to its unique details, bang-on-trend shades, flattering cuts and soft, pliable materials. The label produces all of its denim by using Ozone Technology, a process that significantly reduces water consumption, the use of chemicals, and energy. The brand is also devoted to making a positive change by partnering with Water, a charity dedicated to bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations.
Monkee Genes brand is truly a role model for ethical brands. This label has transformed itself from a normal, capitalist, for-profit company to a trading charity called Stop taking the Pennies with the objectives of showing how ethical jeans can not only support buttocks, but communities too. All net profits go into an environmental awareness campaign working with schools, colleges and universities.
4. G-Star Raw
G-Star fully understands the need to reduce the use of conventional, water-guzzling, DDT dependent cotton. So, in addition to using Bionic Yarn in their G-Star Raw line, their RAW sustainable program uses organic cotton, with its reduced levels of fertilisers and pesticides, as a base for a range of new products that contribute towards a more sustainable future without compromising for one single second on quality, comfort or style. Well, how could they not be stylish when Pharell Williams is behind the brand?
This super sexy brand is kind of the Chanel of jeans – it really is top of the range. But unlike Chanel, Kuyichi actually cares about the environment and uses recycled cotton, plastic bottles, and more alternative materials such as hemp and tencel to makes its cool, curve-hugging creations.
6. Nudie Jeans
Nudie promotes ‘slow fashion,’ by repairing your jeans free of charge so they can be used over and over again. This brand is seriously eco-conscious, and it produces its range with organic cotton and supports the Fair Wear Foundation, an organisation dedicated improving the working conditions in the textile industry.
7. MUD Jeans
Holland based MUD Jeans use only eco-certified cotton to make their denim clothing, and no children or sweatshop workers are involved in any part of their production process. In fact, they insist on paying fair prices right down to the cotton farmers, but that’s not all: the brand encourages people to lease their jeans instead of buying them. This way ‘jeans-sharing’ can benefit multiple users. If only more brands did that…it would be like having an eternally new wardrobe, but with a way lower ecological footprint.
8. Nobody Jeans
The huge Swedish retailer H&M has teamed up with Spanish denim consultants Jeanologia to create a stylish collection of denim wear for men, women and children that boasts more sustainable materials and a cleaner manufacturing processes. The line was created with 56% less water and around 58% less energy when compared to other denim lines, which is great, but it also has the ability to make your whole family look incredibly cool.
10. Sonas Denim
Sonas Denim is one undeniably chic line of jeans that’s not only environmentally friendly, it’s kind to animals, too. All their designs are cruelty-free and 10% of net profits are used to build an animal sanctuary. It won’t surprise to know that it was founded by Dublin native Gerry Kelly and his wife Christine Garcia, an animal rights lawyer who has saved more than 100 dogs from death row.
The New Denim Project is a fresh new textile project within a three generation textile manufacturing factory established since 1956, that takes denim waste, turns it back into fibre and then spins it into new yarns to weave premium eco-luxe fabrics. These upcycled denim cut-offs are collected from vast denim mills, promoting zero-waste fabric collections, that are 100% sustainable both environmentally and socially.
Swedish high street fashion chain Lindex’s denim collections are produced using less water, less energy and fewer chemicals. Their jeans are also made from organic cotton and some of the models even feature studs, zippers and buttons that are made using sustainable processes.
13. Stella McCartney
Ok, obviously she’s not only about the denim. But when she does jeans…oh my! She does it better than just about anyone. Who isn’t dying to own the denim version of the Falabella?
It’s a kind of silly name for a brand, but we’ve kind of developed an ‘obsessionn’ with this sweet little Etsy shop that upcycles old denim by tearing the cloth into strips and crocheting them into these totally awesome bags. Check them out!
15. IOU Project
The IOU Project is pushing the boundaries of transparent fashion by putting consumers as close as possible to the craftswomen and craftsmen who make their clothes. When you buy a pair of jeans online, you’ll get a tracking code that lets you access who your denim is being made by and where the specific fabric came from. Not only that, but a percentage of the profits go directly back to the craftsmen and designers.
Skunkfunk is all about sustainability, right from their transportation choices to the use of recycled plastic and organic cotton in its clothing. Want to know more? No problem: the label provides detailed facts and figures on where and with what materials your denim is created, so you can rest assured your purchase is as green as blue jeans can be.
17. Ivy And Toot
18. Second Denim
Do you love the look of denim but find it a bit restrictive to wear? Well, imagine a pair of jeans so comfy, you could do yoga in them. Yep, for real: Second Denim actually makes yoga jeans! The Montreal-based brand makes jeans that “fit like a second skin” and to create their remarkably flexible jeans, only certified organic cotton and a bit of Lycra is used. Second Denim also employs an environmentally-friendly washing technique that cuts water use by 50% and uses only non-toxic, chemical-free dyes to create its range of rinses and colors. As if that weren’t enough, the brand also re-uses its denim rinses (many manufacturers throw it out after one use) and uses recycled leather, buttons and rivets. Good karma, indeed.