My grandmothers lived in a different time and never owned a pair of jeans. Apart from that, I am pretty sure that everyone in my circle of family, friends and acquaintances have at least 1 pair of jeans in their wardrobe. Personally, I have 6 - in line with the average of 6-7 per person as stated in the statistics from Statistic Brain Research Institute. No wonder that denim has the biggest market share in the fashion industry and that the annual number of jeans produced on a global scale is 1,240,000,000. Our love of denim jeans equals big business!
Traditionally denim jeans are made from cotton, making them comfortable, breathable and durable. Each pair can last for years depending on style, and could therefore be considered somewhat sustainable and part of our slow-fashion wardrobes.
Sadly, out of a global cotton production of 26,338,247,040kg in 2017, only 107,980,000kg (0.4%) were organically grown.
Why does this matter? It matters because conventional cotton is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to the use of chemical pesticides, accounting for approximately 16% of the total global use. Without going into too much harrowing detail, pesticides are linked to cancer in cotton farmers and affects not only the workers, but also wildlife and potentially ourselves as it is carried in the air and seeps into water streams and wells.
And the misery doesn’t stop here. Denim production has other issues such as pollution caused by toxic dye stuffs and chemical-heavy finishing processes. The movie River Blue describes the impact of the conventional denim industry on people and the planet well.
The good news is, that there is a growing focus on eco-friendly and ethical fashion with Business of Fashion predicting that one of the biggest 2018 trends in fashion is the integration of sustainability in the supply chain.
Indeed, sustainability is the hottest topic in the industry at the moment, and as a result, one can safely assume that the choice in sustainable jeans will grow.
At present, there are already quite a few brands (including VILDNIS) offering eco-friendly jeans made from organic cotton grown with natural pesticides and fertilisers, as well as Tencel and recycled polyester blends. Although not a given, most of them are dyed with Oekotex certified dye stuffs (ours are!) and finished with lazer or other less water, chemical and energy consuming methods.The outcome is a pair of jeans that has been produced using less resources and contain less toxins – as close to sustainable as we can get at the moment.
I am saying this because there is still room for improvement - there always is - and more R&D needs to be done in 100% sustainable materials and methods. As an example, organic cotton still requires vast amounts of water for the crops to grow, which isn't great in terms of contributing to scarcity in natural resources. However, by choosing jeans in organic cotton over jeans in conventional cotton, we send a strong signal to the industry that it is time for all cotton production to be organic and this would be a huge step in the right direction. As mentioned previously, the denim industry equals big business, and producers will therefore watch any change in demand closely and adjust their offer accordingly.
So, save the planet – and yourself – from nasty chemicals next time you buy a pair of jeans by choosing a sustainable pair. You really can make a difference - without having to compromise on style!
CAPTION: Untreated polluted water from denim plants being led straight into the East River, Guangzhou, China. Photo credit: from the article The Denim Capital of the World... by Chinadialogue