Kuyichi was one of the very first sustainable denim brands I found in my research and have been consistently keeping an eye on ever since. I am always curious to know how different brands approach sustainability because with its definition constantly changing and evolving, there are so many creative approaches to it. I had the chance to ask Kuyichi what their idea of running a sustainable denim brand looks like.
WHAT IS YOUR APPROACH TO DESIGNING A SUSTAINABLE PRODUCT AND YOUR BUSINESS AS A WHOLE?
We have kept the same kind of approach from the beginning. We want to give a low-impact alternative. Organic cotton is where it all began. We use solely GOTS certified organic cotton. But we broadened our focus a long time ago by choosing other low impact materials, such as recycled and innovative fibres.
But the materials aren’t the only thing we focus on. We have been working on better working conditions for our workers and improving our production processes from the beginning. This is a continuous process because improvments can always be made! We’re happy to see that slowly but steadily the whole industry is also going in the right direction.
We also constantly work on the perfect fit. Because you make something as sustainable as you want, but if a product does not have the right fit or look, nobody wants it. In denim, the difference between a good and a bad fit all comes down to the details. So, we put a lot of time and effort into getting everything right. It’s one of the reasons why we love denim.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE IMPROVEMENTS YOU HAVE MADE IN THE PAST COUPLE OF YEARS?
The last couple of years were mostly focused on deepening our supplier relationships on the basis of trust and the shared goal to innovate. One of the focus points was working on wash recipes for our denim styles. By trial and error, we started to build knowledge at our suppliers on how we can improve. Trying out how we could get to the same look and feel with less water, less energy and fewer (and better) chemicals - with the help of better machines.
We have also made big steps towards more circularity. We have increased the amount of recycled fibres in our pure goods. Trying out different kinds of recycling. Using cutting waste and even worn and discarded jeans to integrate into our new products.
WHAT AREAS ARE YOU LOOKING TO IMPROVE NOW?
Currently, we’re working on integrating circularity deeper into our company. We want to take responsibility to where our products end up after they’re worn with love. But for that, you will have to be a little bit more patient.
HAVE YOU EVER TRIED A NEW FABRIC, TRIM, PROCESS, ETC. TO FIND OUT THAT IT IS NOT AS SUSTAINABLE AS YOU THOUGHT AT FIRST?
In 2016 we have said goodbye to leather patches on our jeans. But it was difficult to find a good replacement. We started with a jacron patch, made from a washable paper. From an environmental and animal welfare perspective, this was a blessing, but we found out that after a lot of washes it became ugly. Not so durable and with that not really sustainable. Another patch followed that performed better, but we were still not quite there yet. Now we have found an environmentally even lower impact patch made mainly from corn. It stays perfect and even has a more leather-like feeling. So, in the end, we got there.
YOU RECENTLY COMMITTED TO 100% TRANSPARENCY, COULD YOU TELL US THE STEPS KUYICHI IS TAKING TO ACCOMPLISH THIS?
We believe that transparency is a key part of a sustainable business. If you’re open about what you do, you also become accountable. We do that by showing our suppliers proudly on our website and keeping this up to date. For every product we map deep down the supply chain. We’re now working on mapping the raw materials back to their origin.
Every year we also publish a sustainability report in which you can see what we have accomplished and follow our progress. But transparency is also about being honest. No brand can be 100% sustainable and fair. All we can do is showing that we try the best we can to do better.
WHAT IS KUYICHI MOST PROUD ABOUT?
That even though our journey has been like a rollercoaster, we have never let any problems get in the way of what we wanted to achieve. If you have the right drive, you can move mountains.
I couldn't have said it better myself. "If you have the right drive, you can move mountains." So let's put passion in the driver seat and move those mountains. Stay tuned for more on the circular economy next week and in the meantime, STAY DILIGENT FRIENDS!