On 25 September 2014, AMFI organised the Beyond Green Talks to spark discussion about sustainability within the denim industry. Two brands, Kings of Indigo and MUD Jeans spoke to students about their green jeans.
Leonie Zijlstra from K.O.I shared that her brand’s jeans are made to have a life expectancy of 20-35 years. Better yet, when these jeans are ready for a new life, the best yarns will be reused to produce new jeans. Encouraging customers to bring back their old jeans is a concept quite common to jeans brands, but often there’s no next step in this hand-in system. By reusing the materials to create new fashion, customers get more involved with sustainable processes when they see the final upcycled jeans.
K.O.I uses organic and recycled cotton, including hangtags made from recycled materials. The denim is washed with natural indigo dye using ozone technology, using less water and reducing the chemicals required. After dyeing, the jeans are finished with a laser technique for a used look, as opposed to using chemicals or sandblasting.
Owner of MUD Jeans Bert van Son introduced a totally new recycling business model. Lease-A-Jeans is a new consumption philosophy where you pay to lease your jeans instead of own them. The brand disagrees with a linear consumption system, where old clothes get burned and new resources get used to make new products. His lease model stimulates participation in a circular system, something still relatively unfamiliar to the fashion industry at-large. MUD jeans begin their lives in Turkey and are laundered in Italy, but are known to gradually achieve a unique distressed look through the ways in which they’re worn.
Both brands admit that they’re not yet the most sustainable denim brands in the world, as there are still many ways in which methods could be improved. Both MUD Jeans and K.O.I reduce water and try to produce as locally as possible in Europe. The MUD collection also includes a hoodie of 45% recycled cotton and 55% viscose. A few students asked if the brands were open to working with different materials, like hemp, to make a blend instead of viscose. Hemp is useful in blends as the pure fibre is too rough. The hemp used in clothes is called fibre hemp or industrial hemp. Research shows steam explosion technology can be used to refine hemp and other natural fibres to use 100% hemp, instead of less sustainable blends.
The real challenge is to find consumers that not only are curious about innovation in sustainable fashion, but consumers that are willing to pay to be a part of the change. For second-year Fashion & Management students, these Talks were the ultimate chance to get inspired for their own upcoming Blue Fair project at the end of October: to set up an innovative denim brand which stays true to a sustainable cradle-to-cradle concept.
Text by second-year Fashion & Management student Nienke IJtsma