Amsterdam - The denim market remains one of the ‘dirtiest’ areas within the fashion industry, as it takes more than 7,000 litres of water to create a single pair of jeans as well as numerous dyes and potentially harmful chemicals. With over 2 billion pairs of jeans being made a year and the limitation on the available resources vastly approaching, the need to disrupt the denim industry has become essential its survival. Which is why a group of international denim brands, organisations and denim suppliers have joined forces to the Alliance for Responsible Denim (ARD).
“What is the Alliance for Responsible Denim? Essentially it is an initiative that started just over a year ago. It was launched by the Hogeschool van Amsterdam - the University of Applied Sciences in collaboration with the House of Denim, Circle Economy and Made-By. But really the family of this initiative is the core brands and suppliers,” said Gwen Cunningham, Lead of the Circle Textiles Program at Circle Economy and Sustainability Coordinator at AMFI (Amsterdam Fashion Institute) during the official launch of the Alliance as Fashion for Good in Amsterdam. “We aim to make the industry into a cleaner, smarter industry by developing new processes together.”
The Alliance for Responsible Denim aims to make the denim industry cleaner and smarter...
International brands such as G-Star, Mud Jeans, Nudie Jeans as well as local denim labels like Kings of Indigo, Kuyichi, Cool Cat, Just Brands and Imps & Elfs are among the first brands to join the initiative together with leading denim mills Bossa, Kilim Denim, Orta Anadolu, Tavex and Tejidos Royo as well as 2 yarn mills. Together they are focusing on tackling the three ecological issues facing the denim industry: water, energy and chemicals by establishing standards for resource usage and promoting the use of recycled denim. “We are looking at how to improve denim finishing to make it more sustainable. For us the way to do that is to focus on the never out of stock styles from the participating brands and look at their wash recipes and how we can improve them using new technologies and techniques,” added Cunningham.
The second main area of the Alliance for Responsible Denim focuses on post-consumer waste and how to use unwanted textiles to make new fabrics. “How do you make denim live forever through circle processes,” asked Cunningham. “This area focuses on three main things. Firstly, trying to educate brands on what is technically, sustainably and aesthetically possible with recycled content. Secondly, trying to stimulate demand for the post-consumer recycled denim by collaborating with mills, recyclers and brands to develop new prototypes using post-consumer recycled denim fibre. And lastly, helping brands to integrate and use these denim fabric prototypes in their collections.”
When the initiative was first founded the participating denim mills were given 3 main fabric briefs from the brands of what type of attributes they were looking for in recycled denim fabrics. “They received a description of what type of fabrics brands could use in their collections, looking at things like recycled content, stretch, other fibres, weight - all these kind of aspects that are important when looking at fabric,” said Helene Smits, Founder of Stating the Obvious and Circular Fashion Strategist at Circle Economy. The denim mill then went off to develop new fabrics which were presented to the brands during the event at Fashion for Good.
The denim mills created over 40 different types of fabrics consisting of different percentage of post-consumer recycled fibres, varying from 10 percent recycled fibres, 20 percent and 25 percent and up. The latter, inspired by Mud Jeans, tried to develop fabrics with as high a percentage of post-consumer recycled fibres as possible. The 20 percent group sought to find a balance between recycled fibres and virgin fibres and then 10 percent group aimed to keep the look and feel of current fabrics while mixing in a small percent of post-consumer fibres. Each of the denim fabrics shown had a card attached stating which group it belonged to, as well as what percentage of post-consumer recycled fibres it contained.
... in order to produce denim in the most sustainable way possible
Speaking to Orta Anadolu, a spokesperson said that brands had shown the most interest in a denim fabric which contained 40 percent recycled polyester and 50 percent recycled denim, as well as a new fabric made with Lenzing’s Refibra. “We will see what happens later on, after Denim Premiere Vision,” he added. “If we have good feedback from the brands we will definitely be producing more fabrics like these.” Other denim mills including Artistic Milliners were also invited to come and present their recycled denim fabrics they developed during the event in order to encourage visiting brands to use more sustainable denim fabrics in their collections.
Following the presentation of the denim fabrics, the Alliance for Responsible Denim aims to continue working with the participating brands by encouraging them to use these post-consumer recycled denim fabrics in their permanent collections as well as developing garment take back strategies. However, in order to ensure the ARD has the largest impact possible, the founding partners invited all denim brands and mills to come and join the Alliance. “I would like to invite everyone here, those who declare to adopt more post-consumer recycled denim into the industry, to sign this canvas as a symbol of their support and to mark the kick off of our campaign to grow this Alliance,” said Smits.
Most of the brands present, which include those who signed the Alliance as well as other international retailers like Asos, seem interested in seeing what impact this research initiative will have on the industry, although some of those attending stress they already are using recycled denim in their collections, such as Esprit. Others, like Tommy Hilfiger, are also interested in using more sustainable denim, including post-consumer recycled denim, but would rather develop these fabrics on their own terms, to their own specifications. However, as Dion Vijgeboom, co-founder of Mud Jeans pointed out: “The biggest challenges when it comes to using recycled denim is the technical limitations of technology. The good thing about this Alliance is that mills and brands push those boundaries forward together.”