The denim industry is regarded as having one of the worst environmental and ethical footprints within fashion. Denim is manufactured by more than 15 countries around the world. Over 2 billion pairs of jeans produced worldwide each year, which involves a huge amount of cotton, water, toxic dyestuffs and energy consumption.
According to Green peace, denim is highly eco-unfriendly. It takes 1.7 million tons of chemicals to produce 2 billion pairs of jeans every year, and the water consumption needed for production can go as high as 7,000 liters per pair of jeans.
Why circular or return of denim is important
Resources have been taken from the ground to make products, which people use, and, when they no longer want them, throw away. Take-make-waste and this is known as the linear economy. Because of the linear system global natural resources are reaching its limits. The current system is no longer working for businesses, people or the environment as sustainability is going to be the main concern.
So, principles of circular economy unlocked in outing waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating by natural systems. Circular or return of denim is now a big concern to retailers, manufacturers and to the end-users.
Sales of jeans fell in US market: Due to the change in people’s lifestyle global textile industry had witnessed a rise in Athleisure but fall in denim. According to Euromonitor, US sales of jeans fell 11% over the past five years even as overall apparel sales, driven by athleisure, rose 10%. Globally, denim sales fell by 2.3%.
The pendulum is swinging back: Euromonitor forecasts a 5% US revenue increase by 2023 for jeans, to $17.5 billion, and an 11% global increase, to $111.6 billion, in the same period. “
Increase in views for ‘sustainable’ denim: Lyst, a global fashion search platform, reports 13 searches per second for denim, making it the third most-searched item worldwide after sneakers and dresses. But consumer inquiries reflect changing demand. Lyst saw the biggest increase in views for ‘sustainable’ denim over the past year — a 193% rise that placed it ahead of searches for, say, mom jeans or skinny denim.
The return of denim is sustainable pair: As new era of sustainability that is touching every corner of the industry so the denim industry as well. The return of denim is sustainable pair of denim against conventional denim.
“People are more aware than ever of the effects [that] fashion and excessive shopping has on the environment,” says Chana Baram, Retail Analyst at Mintel.
The social movement for sustainable denim
On July 16, 2019, Ellen MacArthur Foundation launched ‘The Jeans Redesign’. The foundation was working together with a group of leading fashion brands and manufacturers. Through the Jeans Redesign, a project created by the Foundation’s Make Fashion Circular initiative, they have signed up to a new set of guidelines on garment durability, material health, recyclability, and traceability.
Leading fashion brands and manufacturers are to transform the way they produce jeans, tackling waste, pollution, and the use of harmful practices, thanks to new guidelines published by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
The action plan of big brand for denim recycle
Big brands are ahead with their brand-specific goals to re-design sustainable denim and it is like an orchestra in the fashion world all around. Some of the most significant examples are shared for denim lovers. Sixteen leading brands and manufacturers are using the guidelines to make jeans that will be available on the market by 2021.
So far, the list of participants includes some of the most established names in the industry, like Lee and Gap, as well as newer brands gaining attention for innovations in the market, including Mud Jeans and Reformation. Also, onboard are major manufacturers like Arvind Limited, Hirdaramani, Kipas and Saitex.
Wrangler original cowboy jeans: Wrangler, ‘original cowboy jeans’ marketing for promoting its new foam-dyed, water-free production process, which claims to use 60% less energy and 90% fewer chemicals than traditional methods.
Levi’s jeans are reducing water: Levi’s is focused on significantly reducing water use in denim production. By 2020, the company — which is the world’s top-selling jeans brand by retail value — aims to make 80% of its products using techniques that reduce water usage by up to 96 percent. It currently produces 67 percent of its products this way.
Uniqlo Innovation Center (JIC): Japanese company, Fast Retailing, which owns brands including Uniqlo, J Brand, Helmut Lang and Comptoir des Cotonniers, produced some 18 million pairs of jeans but claims to have reduced water usage by at least 90% compared to traditional methods. It has launched a Jeans Innovation Center (JIC) in Los Angeles, which creates denim for all its major brands. The Japanese group, which plans to manufacture 40 million jeans in 2020, is expanding this project next year.
Tommy Hilfiger released sustainable denim: PVH-owned Tommy Hilfiger, which this year released a permanent line of 100% sustainable denim, sees eco-friendly initiatives as an investment rather than a cost. Those styles saw an ‘above average sell-out’ over the last two seasons, according to Daniel Grieder, CEO of Tommy Hilfiger Global and PVH Europe. “There’s still a huge opportunity to grow and take market share,” says Grieder. While denim represents 10% of the global Tommy Hilfiger business, the executive hopes to increase the figure to at least 30% over the next few years.
The jeans redesign guidelines by Ellen Macarthur Foundation
Return of denim is to respect the health, safety, and rights of people involved in all parts of the fashion industry along with working conditions improvement in manufacturing globally. Beyond this, the Ellen Macarthur Foundation set some guidelines that provide minimum requirements in the following areas:
Durability: Jeans should withstand a minimum of 30 home laundries, while still meeting the minimum quality requirements of the brands and Garments should include labels with clear information on product care.
Material Health: Jeans should be produced using cellulose fibers from regenerative, organic or transitional farming methods.
Jeans should be free of hazardous chemicals and conventional electroplating. Stone finishing, potassium permanganate (PP), and sandblasting are prohibited.
Recyclability: Jeans should be made with a minimum of 98% cellulose fibers (by weight). Metal rivets should be designed out, or reduced to a minimum. Any additional material added to the jeans should be easy to disassemble.
Traceability: Information that confirms each element of the Guideline requirements has been met should be made easily available.
Organizations that meet the requirements will be granted permission to use the Jeans Redesign Logo on jeans produced in line with the Guidelines. The Jeans Redesign Logo use will be reassessed annually, based on compliance with reporting requirements.
Crucially the guidelines have not only had the backing of the people that design and make jeans but many of the clothing collectors and recyclers that deal with them when customers have finished wearing them.
In conclusion, the return of denim is not a choice but a responsibility. So, at present all the stakeholders across the denim industry are thriving towards building a sustainable denim industry altogether. Between 2007 and 2016, Wrangler saved over 3 billion liters of water in the finishing process alone and plans to save an additional 2.5 billion liters by 2020. After recognizing its potential to revolutionize the industry. The industry is looking forward to building a new era where the Denim industry will be more sustainable and eco-friendlier. All relevant stakeholders have an important part to play.