Traceability is definitely needed in order for us to know exactly where our jeans are coming from, but it’s also important that we know exactly what’s in them in order to give them a maximized second life. London-based denim brand non has launched a gender minimalist denim collection that aims to provide contemporary streetwear-inspired styles in the most responsible way possible. And I have to say, it sounds like non has done a thorough job. Featuring an 50/50 organic cotton and recycled cotton blend (my dream blend that’s currently on the market), recycled trims, and a partnership with EON to digitise all goods through their ‘circular ID’ to take responsibility for their goods throughout their lifetime.
This ‘circular ID’ is a scannable NFC tag on each garment that provides wearers with provenance and care instructions whilst next-generation recyclers can access all the data, like fabric composition, to improve end-of-life management. And I always say, is something circular if it ends with you? On that note, non offers a take-back scheme for your old jeans and jackets to be either donated to charity for reuse or recycling.
I had the chance to chat with the founder Pete Hellyer about his journey to creating non and ask him how he made his decisions along the way. Catch our chat below!
WHERE DID THE IDEA FOR NON COME FROM?
I started non during the very first lockdown in London. The forced changes allowed me to reflect on what I was doing and what I could do going forward. In the last couple of years, like many people, I have become more conscious of my own decisions and wanted to create a brand with a purpose. Two days into lockdown I was trying to find a pair of ‘sustainable’ jeans with a cleaner look, looser cuts and couldn’t… so thought I would make my own.
WAS IT YOUR MISSION TO CREATE WHAT YOU THOUGHT TO BE AN EXAMPLE OF BEST PRACTICE?
Absolutely, starting the brand from scratch meant we could consider every material, process and partner for it’s environmental and social impact alongside quality and durability.
One of the biggest challenges, especially for a small brand, was sourcing materials that fitted our goals. We developed an exclusive selvedge denim with ISKO that is 50/50 recycled and certified organic cotton, and are experimenting with higher percentages of recycled cotton for the future — without losing the right feel and most importantly durability.
WHAT WERE THE STEPS INVOLVED IN CREATING THE COLLECTION?
It was the first time I have created a collection, or brand, of my own so nearly every aspect was a learning curve. The designs came instinctively — I knew I wanted 90s inspired pieces you could skate in — and what details (like our double belt loops) I felt were missing on other jeans.
Our selvedge denim is exclusively milled by IKSO, Turkey, a leader in responsible denim production, who I was already aware of and they have been a great inspiration and partner.
All our goods are also made in Turkey by Dinateks who have been so supportive, especially as a new brand and first time designer, and really helped with the technical aspects of each garment.
The name non I had from day one — I knew I wanted to be non-waste, non-branded and non-gendered from the start and it just stuck.
WHAT COMPROMISES DID YOU HAVE TO MAKE (IF ANY)?
I really wanted to make the brand zero-plastic but found in development this was harder than I imagined. As such, our zipper tape and thread are recycled polyester which we found to be more durable but also harder to separate to recycle at the end of the garment's life. Ultimately we chose durability, designing the pieces to last, which felt more sustainable than using an element I wasn’t confident could last as long.
YOU’VE CLEARLY CONSIDERED EVERY STEP OF THE LIFE CYCLE OF A JEAN. ARE THERE ANY AREAS YOU WISH TO IMPROVE?
Removing the recycled polyester remains a goal and we’re actively experimenting in that area.
I am also keen to use as much organic Turkish cotton as possible — reducing our carbon footprint through our farming, milling and production all being in one region.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER DESIGNERS OUT THERE?
Act on instinct, play to your strengths and know your weaknesses. Don’t be afraid to fail quickly and learn, or simply ask as people are willing to help and share their expertise.
A peek into non denim’s Gender Neutral Denim Collection ⤵ You can visit non denim here!
Until next time friends, always be curious and STAY DILIGENT! 😋