Last updated: December 2015
Jeans: Champions of Sustainable Fashion?
Our penchant for hurrying the long-lived jean through its natural life-cycle is peculiar. After prematurely fading it and making artificial holes in it, we keep it in our wardrobe for a year or so, wear it a handful of times if it’s lucky, then chuck it away. Until the next more fashionable jean takes its place.
Discover our ethical shopping guide to Jeans
But amongst these blue depths of despair, there is hope!
Thanks to their continued appeal in various states of (dis)repair, and in-built longevity, jeans have the potential to become a beacon of sustainability in the fashion world. A growing movement of people prize their oldest pair of denims as a wearable chronicle of their past adventures. And there are brands popping up which challenge the overconsumption of denim in all sorts of ways.
This is a term for un-faded denim. Denim purists get an authentic distressed look by not washing their jeans at all for the first six months. The resulting marks are a true reflection of your own unique shape, movements and lifestyle. Hiut will even pay you to wear in a new pair of their raw jeans for 6 months! Denim Breaker Club members pay a deposit, then simply wear a pair of Hiut jeans for six months (without washing them!). After this time, you can return them and receive 20% of the sale by way of payment.
Both larger companies and niche jeans brands are beginning to offer life-long free repair services for their jeans. Even what appears irreparable damage can be salvaged by a denim expert - if you don’t believe it check out the Denim Doctor website! And of course denim lovers are even more enchanted by a pair of jeans displaying the scars of a life well lived. Mud Jeans, Hiut and Nudie all offer a free jeans repair service, the latter two with an in-store service.
Lease your jeans
Some jeans brands are also developing innovative new business models which challenge the notion of ‘ownership’ of garments. Mud Jeans doesn’t sell you a pair of jeans – it leases them to you.
You make monthly payments, and after 12 months it will offer you a new pair. If you choose to take a new pair, you return the old ones and continue making the monthly payments. Your returned jeans are sold on to someone who prefers a more worn-in look, or if they’re beyond re-use, they’ll be recycled into new products.
Upcycling pioneers FREITAG, who started out transforming lorry tarps into bags, have lately turned their attention to denim. They’ve developed a fabric which contains no cotton but is entirely compostable, with the single exception of a removable and re-usable button.
F-ABRIC jeans will biodegrade completely within about two months on a compost heap.
Have a go at composting. Any natural materials will biodegrade (cotton, hemp, linen etc.), but don’t put any clothes containing synthetic fibres on the heap. Also, unless you’re buying jeans like F-ABRIC which are made of 100% biodegradable materials, you’ll first need to remove the stitching and any zips, buttons or leather patches.