Updated: Jan 16, 2020
Last week I was in Amsterdam during the Denim Week, with Kingpins Transformers, Kingpins Professional and Denim Days, the city turned indigo.
I am by no means a denim connoisseur so I am happy to say that I learned some exciting new things and left with some interesting and some concerning insights that I would like to share with you.
But first, did you know… 1 pair of jeans requires around 9.000 litres of water to produce!!!
What defines denim?
Is it the indigo, the well-known twill weaving pattern, the 5 pockets, 100% cotton, all of the above of something else altogether? The answer seems to be different depending on the person you talk to: you have the purists who believe that raw, indigo dyed, 100% cotton, 15oz, 5 pocket denim is the only way to go and on the other side you see developments with recycled content, Tencel, new ways of dying with Smart Indigo or foam, ecological washings, laser treatments, stretch,…
So I ask you: what defines denim for you?
Views on recycling
You might have figured out that I am quite passionate about using recycled materials instead of virgin materials, including organic. You save a huge amount of resources like water, CO2, land use, water and air pollution and energy using waste material instead of virgin materials.
As you can see on the graph below, the HIGG Index for recycled cotton is infinitely better than any material out there including organic, as this still requires a lot of water.
Within the industry, there seems to be this idea that you can’t use more than 20% recycled cotton in denim. Why? They claim the performance is below par and the consumer doesn’t want it.
I would like to challenge this!! Ok, maybe I am a bit prejudiced BUT… with ReDenim by ReBlend, we have created a 100% recycled denim material, yes that’s right: 100% recycled!! It is composed of 70% post-consumer waste and 30% recycled PET from plastic bottles, helping to solve 2 large problems we are facing in the world today. ReDenim has been dyed with SMARTINDIGO technology, one of the most sustainable ways of dying in cooperation with our partner ItalDenim.
The indigo is fixed on the yarn with Kitosan (Kitosan is a natural polymer obtained from food waste. Specifically the one we are sourcing for our applications comes from recycled shrimps shells.) instead of the synthetic PVA (polyvinyl Alcohol, a synthetic polymer), starch and fixation agents, which will end up creating microplastic particles into the water.
Other brands like the Belgian based HNST (pronounced Honest) have come a long way as well using around 50% recycled fibres and the remainder is cotton and Tencel, dyed with the same process as described above, ecological washings and all details have been thought through carefully.
MUDJeans is also working on developing 100% recycled denim.
So there you have it, 50% and more of recycled cotton is definitely possible, as it already exist!
What do you as a consumer want and expect?
Some of the large denim producers were also sharing their views of the market and Alberto from Candiani stated that the consumer thinks that organic cotton makes their jeans sustainable, and they don’t really care about anything else.
If this is true, then we need to change this. We need to educate people that organic is simply not enough!
There was also clear consensus amongst the gurus in the room about the fact that organic is by no means the best option.
Denim produced in poor conditions in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and others is incredibly damaging for both people and planet. If you are not aware of this yet: please watch the documentary River Blue!
There are a lot brands out there doing a great job already, so next time when you want to buy a new pair of jeans please consider in addition to the ones already mentioned above: G-Star RAW, Nudie Jeans, Kings of Indigo, Wrangler Indigood foam dye collection, ArmedAngels,…
The New Definition of Denim
That leaves me with this: how would you like to see denim evolving in the near future? The entire industry needs to do better: reduce production, reduce water use and pollution, make sure fair wages and equality are upheld and much more.
Please remember to ask questions and push your favourite brands to do better. Only buy what you truly need, buy good quality, use it and keep using it over and over again and repair it when it’s broken… This is the best way to contribute to a better planet!
I recommend watching these videos about the future of denim and get inspired about what the industry is working on and how they see the future:
Cotton and Beyond: https://youtu.be/pLEcdmHEzg4
Closing The Loop: https://youtu.be/hXx2qecCjhQ
Future Thinking: https://youtu.be/xCenPGMUI74
I am curious to know your ideas and experiences, so please let me know!
If you are interested in ReDenim by ReBlend denim or other fabrics, please don’t hesitate to contact me!