Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Rethink. Rebuild. REDESIGN.
I have a huge respect for denim designers who are doing all they can to design the best jeans they possibly can because like we've heard before, 80% of the impact of a garment comes form the design stage! But, not all designers have the knowledge to produce circular jeans. So when I heard about the "Jeans Redesign" project from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, I knew this would be extremely useful for the ones needing a little extra guidance.
I had the chance to chat with Francois Souchet, Make Fashion Circular's Lead at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and wanted to know what his ideal / utopian vision is for the Jeans Redesign and our future denim industry.
"The way that jeans are conventionally produced today is wasteful and polluting. But it doesn’t have to be this way… With guidelines set out by over eighty denim experts and sixty plus participants now on-board, the Jeans Redesign is creating solutions for a world where jeans never become waste.
By working together we can create jeans that last longer, that can be remade into new jeans at the end of their use, and are made in ways which are better for the environment and the people that make them. This is just the start. Over time we will continue to drive momentum towards a thriving fashion industry, based on the principles of a circular economy."
Let's ditch our take - make - waste model and move towards a circular one where we design out waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use for as long as possible, and regenerate the natural world. For the fashion industry, this means rethinking and redesigning clothing so that old clothes can be used to make new, textiles are made with safe and renewable materials, and garments are worn more.
BUT HOW ARE CIRCULAR JEANS ACTUALLY DIFFERENT?
All must be able to withstand a minimum of 30 home laundries
All should have metal rivets in the jeans removed entirely or reduced to a minimum - as they are hard for recyclers to remove, large parts of the upper fabric of jeans are usually cut off and subsequently landfilled or incinerated
All must be identifiable and traceable
All must have recyclable materials which can be kept in use once a product and its components can no longer be reused or repaired.
No hazardous chemicals should be used in the manufacture of the jeans as they can cause allergic reactions and respiratory diseases etc. in the garment workers and consumers
All sounds pretty good to me 😏 but I wanted to know if these guidelines have been useful in practice, so I asked a few friends what how their participation in the project has helped them.
-> Bamboo Clothing (BAM) (brand)
Merryn Chilcott, Sustainability & Technical Manager:
“I think it has enabled us to improve our own design process - it's at this stage where you can really effect the impact of the garment because it is where you have the most influence and control. Having the guidelines, support and resources from the Jeans Redesign project helped us to know which questions to ask of our supply chain and to understand what was possible. The project has encouraged us to look at every single element and detail of the design, from the raw materials, the finish, the trims and even down to the thread, to try to find the lowest impact way to make each element work and perform how we needed it to.”
-> GAP (brand)
Michele Sizemore, The Senior Vice President of Global Product Development:
“We challenged ourselves across so many aspects of the product, from materials to manufacturing to trims and packaging. We were able to achieve our goals for a small collection of our denim; looking toward the future, we want to keep the good going across a broader range of the assortment, so we can have the greatest impact possible. For example, now that key partners in our supply chain are familiar with the certification requirements, it will be much easier for the next product development to meet the same standards on chemistry and materials.”
-> Hirdaramani (manufacturer)
Piyumi Perera, Head of Design:
“Hirdaramani has invested in sustainable manufacturing technology consistently to increase responsible production that is literally accountable, in our laundry processes and shop floor. Our involvement with jeans redesign helps us share the technical knowledge we have to a broader audience of influencers that share a similar vision driven by circular thinking.”
-> Seventy + Mochi (brand)
Amy Roberton, Creative director:
“The Jeans Redesign project has encouraged us to strengthen our efforts to consciously design waste out of our production and focus on a more circular way of working. We begin the process by selecting fabrics that have recycled fibres and are made using techniques and technologies that reduce water waste, energy consumption or the use of toxic chemicals. We then work closely with our pattern makers to reduce and reuse any cutting room scraps or wastage as part of our design to create unique pieces. Keeping in line with our ethos, we also create our pieces to be transitional through seasons and only produce in limited quantities. At every stage in the manufacturing process we’re assessing, and aiming to reduce, our impact on the planet.”
-> Triarchy (brand)
Adam Taubenfligel, Co-Founder and Designer:"The Jeans Redesign program has put in place a set of parameters that make it very easy for a brand to follow in order to make denim more responsibly. I believe that without these guidelines it would be difficult for the industry as a whole to achieve this as everyone would be focusing on different touch points. This way we are all moving toward common goal, making denim as responsibly as we can, towards an eventual goal of circularity in denim production."
With over 60+ participants on board, I am excited to see all the circular jeans replacing conventional jeans in 2021. Are you working towards circularity right now? I'd love to hear from you :) In the meantime, STAY DILIGENT FRIENDS!
* Graphics are made by Samantha Hahn