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 Nimes twill fabric, or “de-Nimes” 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 jeanes 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 a few eco friendly denim brands that infuse a lot of sass and style into everything from jeans and denim tops to handbags.
20 Super Chic Eco Friendly Denim Brands
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.
2. AG Jeans
The ‘AG’ must stand for ‘awesomely gorgeous’ because this eco friendly denim brands designs are always incredibly covetable, thanks to unique details, bang-on-trend shades, flattering cuts and soft, pliable materials. The label produces all of its sustainable 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.
3. 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 Pharrell Williams is the brains behind the brand, and when Ellen von Unwerth shoots their campaigns?
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 creations for both men and women (but mainly men, it should be said).
5. Nudie Jeans
Of all the eco friendly denim brands, Nudie may well be the most conscious of the planet. Check this out: they promote ‘slow fashion,’ by repairing your jeans free of charge so they can be used over and over again; they produce their ranges with mainly organic cotton, they also support the Fair Wear Foundation, an organisation dedicated improving the working conditions in the textile industry; and they even send old, frayed, unrepairable denim to be made into other objects!
6. 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.
RE/DONE creates jeans from Vintage Levi’s denim carries. Within its stitching, there are stories of years of wear – a history of a past life. Frayed pockets, faded coloring, torn knees, and soft denim define this brand, whose pre-loved jeans have circulated owners and changed hands over the past few decades, transforming them and giving them a life of their own. Like a fine wine, the Levi’s denim only gets better with age.
These jeans have both vintage character and modern fit. With them, you’ll never have to sacrifice personality for shape.
8. Nobody Jeans
This Aussie brand is sexy – and it knows it. Its jeans are made for the woman who’s completely unabashed about showing what she’s got in a pair of curve-hugging trousers. She may seem brazen, but the Nobody woman also has a heart, and buys the brand for its ethics.
Nobody Denim works closely with the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia (TCFUA) to maintain an ethical workplace and is accredited with Ethical Clothing Australia, which means you can be confident that they have taken steps to ensure everyone involved in making their jeans gets a fair wage and great place to work.
The much-loved ethical brand spends months finding the best factories and gives them a compliance audit to evaluate factors like fair wages, reasonable hours, and environment. The aim for a score of 90 or above for every factory. But that’s not all: their Saitex denim factory uses a unique closed system that recycles 98% of all water used. Apparently, when it comes out the other side, it’s so clean you can drink it.
10. Warp + Weft
Warp + Weft manufacturers all of its products in their family owned, eco-friendly factory where the brand has developed a proprietary cotton wrapping technique that’s completely unique, giving customers the most flattering and comfortable fit – no matter what your size!
Because denim is a notoriously polluting industry, Warp + Weft has integrated sustainable practices including solar panel energy and a cutting-edge water filtration and purification system that recycles 98% of water used in production.
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. Apparently, many of her collections were inspired by her mom Linda’s style back in the 1970’s. And can I just ask: who isn’t dying to own the denim version of the Falabella? It’s a collector’s item in the making!
Whether they’re cropped at the ankle, flared, or embellished with stars or her logo, all of Stella’s jeans are made of 98% organic cotton denim.
14. Frank and Oak
This popular sustainable brand has recently introduced denim made with sustainable Hydro-less technology, and organic Good Cotton. Their jeans also boast a Dynamic Stretch, and no matter whether you like your jeans skinny, cropped or flared, there’s definitely a pair that’s right for you.
Along with their perfectly designed swimsuits, tops and dresses, this popular eco-chic brand is now offering 46 pieces to choose from in their spanking brand new denim collection.
Of course, each item is held up to high sustainability criteria: the jeans are all made from either 100% recycled materials, deadstock fabrics or sustainably sourced fabrics. What’s more, you’ll save 1,460 gallons of water when you buy a pair of their jeans compared to other labels’, and no toxic dyes are used.
Yes, believe it or not, this classic denim brand has gone eco, thanks to their Indigood collection, which uses 28-30% recycled cotton and a foam dyeing technology that removes the need for water vats and chemical baths from the denim dyeing process, resulting in a waterless method which virtually eliminates wastewater and reduces both energy consumption and overall waste by more than 60% when compared to traditional dyeing methods.
Curious to know more about Wrangler’s move into eco-denim? You can read their story here.
Of all the eco friendly denim brands, this is probably the oldest. But according to Good On You, the brand has made strong commitments to sustainable denim production, including significantly reducing their water use. Specifically, by 2020, they aim to make 80 percent of their products using Water<Less™ technique. Levi’s have set a 25% reduction target for greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 for its direct emissions and consumed electricity, and they are also pioneer members of the Better Cotton Initiative. All good, right?
18. Ivy And Toot
Coming to you from Melbourne is this brand that upcycles vintage denim into super-chic and totally eco-friendly denim collections. The founder, Ivy, developed a strong interest in sustainable clothing when she showed her first solo collection at Fashion School and made her work entirely from recycled cotton jeans. Six years later, her label Ivy and Toot is a hit with the relaxed fashion sense of urban Aussies. If you want them to create something specific for you, drop them a line!
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 denim that “fits like a second skin” and to create these remarkably flexible jeans, only certified organic cotton and 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.
20. Calik Denim
This Turkish brand leads the green jeans industry with its unique collections that include both commercial denim designs and innovative sustainable and organic denim fabrics that are sold on to other brands. As part of their dedication to maintaining the highest ethical business practices, they only work with manufacturers that share their commitment to social responsibility. Oh, and did we mention – they design great urban styles for men and women?
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