For nearly 150 years, denim jeans have been the strong force in fashion – practically everyone has a pair everywhere.
It is tough and varied, but it is also a major contributor to the unenviable fashion reputation as one of the most polluting industries in the world.
A British charity, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, is now hoping to change that by encouraging clothing companies to subscribe to “jeans redesign guidelines” – and they can change jeans design as we know it.
For example, the list says that “metal nails should be designed” or “minimized.” Metal nails were the basis of the patented design by Levi Strauss in 1873. It was known as the “XX” pants, and was later called the 501. Nails were originally used to reinforce jeans in areas that could be torn apart, but modern sewing made them Purely decorative.
Many of the world’s best jeans are manufactured in Japan. credit: Chris McGrath / Getty Images Positive / Getty Images
The new guidelines, which are part of the Make Fashion Circular charity initiative, stipulate that jeans must withstand at least 30 home washes, and are made of “cellulose fibers from innovative, transitional or transitional cultivation methods”, and to be free of chemicals Dangerous. Sand blasting, stone finishing and the use of potassium permanganate (oxidizing agent that fades denim) is also prohibited.
“The idea is to extend the life of your jeans for as long as possible” and (to make) everyone in the supply chain start to ask, “How can this product be redesigned in his second life?” Francois Sochi, head of the Make Fashion Circular team, said in a telephone interview. “How do I reduce my impact on the environment and do it ethically?”
A brief history of blue jeans
The history of modern blue jeans begins in 1853, when a Bavarian immigrant named Levi Strauss brought jeans to America.
After moving to San Francisco to open his own dry goods company, Strauss began supplying the textile with a Nevada tailor named Jacob Davis. The fabric proved popular among workers, cowboys and miners, as it was better suited than traditional work clothes to withstand extreme conditions. Davis went on to specialize in denim shorts, and later created a pair of brass pin nails in flies and flies.
A piece of denim reveals practice stitches. credit: DON EMMERT / AFP / AFP / Getty Images
The pants evolved over the next century, shifting from blue-collar clothes to navy fashions, then to signs of a youth revolt and anxiety, pop culture and bicnic. They enjoyed the endorsement of celebrities such as John Wayne, Marlon Brando, Marilyn Monroe and James Dean, but also Elvis, Paul Newman, Jefferson Airlines, Marvin Jay and Brooke Shields (in her famous book Calvin Kleins around 1980), Tupac and Farrell.
In their transformation, blue jeans virtually maintained the equal appeal. They have been reinvented as luxury items, and at about the same time, in a fast fashion. By doing this, they have also taken a large slice of apparel manufacturing – and ironically, since it was initially created as long-term clothing, it becomes semi-disposable goods.
The Italian factory has been making silk for centuries
“What was supposed to be one of the most enduring elements in our safes is now something we buy and manufacture at frankly annoying sizes,” said Anika Kozlowski, associate professor of fashion design, ethics and sustainability at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. . “Which has led to major environmental impacts.”
High environmental cost
Traditionally, jeans are made from cotton. Although natural and biodegradable, the fibers come from one of the “thirst” crops in the world. In addition to the water needed to grow cotton, more is then used for dyeing, rinsing and finishing to achieve the classic denim look, which comes from weaving cotton threads dyed with fabric (warp) with white cotton (weft).
This process involves blasting abrasive materials at high speed through the air compressor to clean and shape the denim surface. It can have very harmful effects on both the environment and the workers who make jeans. Sandblasting has been shown to cause cellulosis, an incurable lung disease that is often fatal.
A model walks on the runway during New York Fashion Week in February 2019. credit: Sean Zani / Getty Images North America / Getty Images by John John / Reese
“Taking steps towards a more environmentally conscious supply chain is becoming almost imperative,” Kozlowski said. “There are a lot of issues with the sector as it currently exists.”
H&M, GAP, C&A, Lee Jeans and Reformation are some of the brands that have pledged to join Jeans Redesign. More is expected to follow, with the first clothes being created using store hitting guidelines next year.
Levy did not sign, but the company – and other big names including Wrangler’s and G-Star Raw – took steps to reduce their environmental impact, either by reducing water use, developing more sustainable blends or working with smaller factories to manufacture ensuring ethical cultivation and processing methods. .
Balmain creation model presented in March 2018 in Paris. credit: Francois Guillot / Agence France-Presse / AFP / Getty Images
New technologies help brands repair their production and supply chains. The Spanish Mill of Tejidos Roy, for example, created a water-free dye system, along with Indigo Mill Designs and the Gaston College Textile Technology Center in the U.S., which uses 100% less water for dyeing, 89% less chemicals and 65 % Less energy.
“But this is still a small niche for the entire sector,” said Dio Kurazawa, head of denim at WGSN and co-founder of The Bear Scouts, a platform that connects brands with sustainable manufacturers. “Many companies did not commit to change as often as needed, despite the existence of innovation. Part of it is due to costs, and part to lack of will.”
More work is needed to reduce the environmental cost of denim, according to a market from Make Make Circular. “Jeans was a clear entry point for such an endeavor,” he said. “The denim sector has already made a few efforts towards improving its manufacturing process. He is aware of his own problems. Our guidelines want to build on this, to create better compatibility across the supply chain.”
One of the most exclusive sewing companies in the world
Brands participating in Jeans Redesign will need to provide annual reports to show their progress. But Kurazawa and Kozlowski doubt the long-term impact of the program.
“Personally, I do not think the rules will change much,” Kurazawa said. “Industrialized countries need help with infrastructure and wage payments for factory workers. Initiatives, such guidelines, have few results (in a way) that are measurable in this sense.”
Kozlowski said that while the initiative is laudable, more supervision is required.
She said: “I think the push for the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to achieve sustainability is great, but the problem is that there is no governing body that guarantees that the standards are actually applied.” “The supply chain is global, so it is very difficult to impose control.”