Jeans are a wardrobe staple, and it would be hard to find a designer that doesn’t feature denim in one form or another in its collection.
Denim’s ubiquity makes for a problem, though. Historically, the material has come with a high environmental cost.
A step inside a denim garment factory gives some sense of the amount of natural, and not-so-natural, resources that get gobbled up to make a pair of jeans. Sand (for distressing denim), chemicals and dyes are all used in vast quantities, and can harm garment workers’ health. That’s before you start looking at the huge amount of pesticides and water used in the production of cotton destined for denim in the first place.
And so beneath the comfort and style of a perfectly slouchy pair of boyfriend jeans can lie a whole world of environmental and social issues. But take heart, because a host of brands are now producing guilt-free luxe denim.
Take Italians AG Jeans. When the label isn’t collaborating with Alexa Chung or wrapping their wares around the limbs of campaign stars like Daria Werbowy, they’re cladding something else entirely: homes and cars. Each week the brand sends its excess scraps – some 1,300lb to 1,400lb a week – off to be repurposed as insulation material. They’ve also cut their factories’ water use in half by installing water conservation technology.
Swedes Nudie only use organic cotton to cut down their chemical use. They also offer free repairs to maximise the life of their denim and when customers are ready for a fresh pair of jeans, they take them in and offer a discounted new purchase. The company has been awarded Positive Luxury’s Butterfly Mark for sticking to its principles.
MiH is another high-end denim house which has been busy innovating, not just with its collections, but also with its store design. Step inside one of its shops and you’ll be met with what look like marble store fittings, which are actually made of recycled yoghurt pots. MiH tapped London-based design duo Matteo Fogale and Laetitia de Allegri for the move, which as well as reducing use of natural materials gives the stores “a seventies, home-y feel,” says Fogale.
Denim’s place in our closets isn’t going away anytime soon, but these brands can ensure the next pair of jeans you add to your wardrobe come with a conscience as well as cool-factor.