Jeans have been a staple of our wardrobes for decades. In the UK alone around 70 million pairs of jeans are sold a year. Many of these will be bought from fast fashion brands, where production is rapid and the jeans are only intended to last for one season.
Denim is one of the most polluting sectors in the fashion industry, but why is this?
The base of all denim is a cotton twill - cotton yarns that are weaved together to create fabric. Mass-produced cotton is often problematic as it's grown intensively using large amounts of water and pesticides in countries where rainfall is low, and farmers are paid very little for their crops.
Mass-produced denim often also contains elastane, which makes the fabric stretchy and comfier to wear. This makes the denim harder to dispose of because elastane is made from plastics that cannot be separated from the cotton, meaning this denim will contribute to the 300,000 tonnes of clothes that end up in landfill each year.
Dying and Distressing
The dye used in mass-produced jeans is often full of dangerous chemicals which is harmful to the people who dye the denim. The dye is also often dumped untreated into water systems, killing fish and plant life and effecting the livelihoods of people in the area.
Dying is not the only process that is destructive in the finishing process. Distressed jeans are sand blasted or rubbed with pumice stones, (this is why you will sometimes find stones in the pockets of your new jeans), then treated with the highly toxic potassium permanganate, which is used to lighten the treated areas. The sand, stone and chemicals can contaminate water, and sand blasting can harm the lungs of the workers. The very process of mining for the stones and sand is in itself unsustainable.
Can Denim Ever Be Sustainable?
A number of the brands we work with are working hard to create denim that can be produced with minimal impact on people and the planet.
Detox Denim by ARMEDANGELS
- All their jeans are made from organic cotton meaning no toxic pesticides are employed and water is used carefully during the growing process
- All their jeans are Global Organic Textiles Standard (GOTS) certified meaning no toxic chemicals are used in the manufacturing process
- No chlorine or potassium permanganate is used in the finishing of detox denim, only modern techniques such as laser or ozone treatments.