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February 22, 2021

How Ethical is Your Denim? – Part Two: Sustainable Brands You Should Know

From worker exploitation to pollution to a massive water footprint, the impact of denim production is in need of change – and that’s where we as consumers can make a difference.

Many of us know that buying fast fashion has a negative impact on the environment and employees, it only encourages these companies to keep their status quo. But if we make informed choices and buy from sustainable and ethical companies, we can help to transform the denim industry for the better. Last week, we published a feature taking a look at the ethics and sustainability of the denim industry, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t highlight the brands that are doing it right. 

So, here’s our top five sustainable denim brands aiming to make a real difference!

Outland Denim 

Outland Denim is an Australian-based denim company that is founded on anti-exploitation practices. In the late 2000s, founding CEO James Bartle became an advocate of women who had been exploited by the global human trafficking industry, discovering that safe and stable employment was a major barrier for women who had been rescued and reintegrated into their communities. This became the foundations of Outland Denim: providing a secure avenue of training, employment, and career progression for vulnerable women.

Their manufacturing process began in Cambodia and now employs over one hundred members of staff from a variety of vulnerable backgrounds, all of whom receive a living wage, education, and holistic training. The company also focuses on sustainability within their supply chain, using up to 86% less water, 57% less energy, and 83% less chemicals than standard denim manufacturing. Outland Denim’s commitment to transparency means that you know exactly what goes on behind the scenes, guaranteeing that your purchases are supporting the right practices.

‘Without sustainability, what hope do we have to offer our sons and daughters for the future?
JAMES BARTLE, FOUNDING CEO OF OUTLAND DENIM.

Kuyichi

Kuyichi began in 2000 in Peru, where the founders were exploring the cotton industry as part of their NGO work with Solidaridad. The pollution and poverty caused by this industry inspired the NGO to work towards organic cotton, but the cost was too high for most buyers; this led to the decision to make their own brand to revitalise the cotton and denim industries. Kuyichi became the first brand in the world to manufacture 100% organic denim, working with a fair and transparent supply chain to ensure that all employees are treated fairly.

Like Citizens of Humanity, Kuyichi produces high-quality denim garments for long-lasting wear, reducing the need for fast fashion purchasing. They’re is also big believers in recycling, working with a variety of partners to use old, recycled denim in new clothes, as well as recycled polyester in their materials: shredding and re-spinning plastic bottles to make polyester yarn saves over 75% of greenhouse gas emissions, simultaneously reducing the plastic pollution of our environments.  

ARMEDANGELS

ARMEDANGELS is a fashion brand committed to sustainability: from helping their cotton suppliers in India to convert to organic cotton, to organising their product transport around the lowest carbon footprint, each aspect of their operations is carefully considered and deliberately offset. While it’s impossible to reduce a company’s carbon footprint to zero, ARMEDANGELS works with ClimatePartner to offset their emissions via a biomass project, where harvest waste is used in a biogas plant to generate energy.  Armedangels also ensures that anyone working in their supply chain is treated fairly, designing their high standards with the help of organisations like Fairtrade and the Fair Wear Foundation.

With their Detox Denim products, consumers can buy 100% organic cotton denim, reducing chemical use from cultivation to manufacturing. The alternative processes also save water and is better for your skin, making the purchase a win-win for consumers and the environment. ARMEDANGELS are also in the process of creating a ‘circular t-shirt’, using old t-shirts sent in from consumers to create new stock. When ‘trash is the resource’, fashion can become truly circular, reducing the amount of fast fashion ending up in landfill for good.

Fair Fashion instead of Fast Fashion. That’s what we live for.
ARMEDANGELS.

Jeanerica

Founded by two Scandi fashion veterans, Jeanerica is a minimalist brand boasting Italian-made organic cotton jeans. Lena Patriksson and Jonas Clason built the brand to focus on doing ‘one product the best you can’, featuring limited but classic styles. With just a few fits and no rips or embellishments, Jeanerica offers simple wardrobe staples with environmental consciousness.

As discussed in our Part One of our series about the denim industry, the pollution of the industry can be immense: chemicals used in cultivation of cotton crops compound with those used in manufacturing and dying the material, leading to industrial waste in waterways. By using organic cotton, Jeanerica limits the amount of chemicals going into their jeans because synthetic agricultural chemicals, like fertilisers and pesticides, are absent from the building blocks of the garments.

Citizens Of Humanity

Citizens of Humanity is an LA-based, ‘vertically integrated’ denim brand – this means that their products are manufactured within their sewing and laundry facilities, rather than being outsourced to other buildings (or countries!). This allows them to have all-encompassing quality control, with each pair of jeans worked on by at least forty skilled craftspeople before becoming available to consumers.

The emphasis on high quality is not only good for the consumer, but also the environment: when a garment is comfortable, long-lasting, and of high quality, consumers have to buy less, even when that garment breaks. People are much more likely to repair a good quality pair of jeans than a cheap pair, disrupting the fast fashion pipeline from factory to landfill. Citizens of Humanity also use automated cutting machines to reduce waste and use their deadstock (unusable materials) to make washable cotton face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic, committing wholeheartedly to creating a circular economy.

If you missed our first article and want to learn what makes the denim industry so unethical, check out our Part One here.

If you liked this series, you might like to read about Petit Pli, a children’s fashion brand disrupting fast fashion with their clothes that grow with your child!


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