Sustainability means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Some brands content themselves with using recycled plastic bottles in their denim, but dye the fabric via conventional methods. Others brand their collections as green based on a percentage of sustainable fiber in the material such as lyocell [see Green Glossary], but without specifying where it came from, which can make a huge difference.
While it is true that all efforts should be applauded and the above-mentioned examples are solid first steps, they are not nearly enough viewing the array of green technologies available today and therefore should hardly satisfy a truly green consumer.
To contrast, a refreshingly holistic approach comes form G-Star RAW. For spring 2018, the Amsterdam-based denim and green manufacturing specialist has launched its “most sustainable jeans ever” – the G-Star Elwood RFTPi. To reduce its ecological footprint and up its social responsibility factor, the brand took every aspect of denim manufacturing into account, setting an example to follow.
And here is how it did it:
The jeans are made of 100% organic cotton, which is free of synthetic fertilizers and toxic pesticides, keeping the soils fertil and farmers safe.
The brand teamed with chemical manufacturer DyStar and Pakistani denim mill Artistic Milliners, employing a novel indigo dye formula that is free of sodium hydrosulfite, a harmful reducing agent used commonly in denim making. The dye is a combination of DyStar’s pre-reduced liquid indigo and a new organic agent, which substantially reduces chemical inputs and toxic waste, saving large amounts of water in the process.
Only sustainable finishes such as laser and ozone were used to launder the collection, avoiding entirely the use of PP and stones and in the end using only 10 liters of water per jean. To sew and wash the garments, G-Star worked with Saitex in Vietnam, which is known for recycling 98 percent of its water (the remaining 2 percent evaporates naturally). Saitex’ jeans are partially air-dried, saving 85 percent of energy.
The jeans have been stripped of all unnecessary components that would not be “conducive to easy recycling” following the item’s end of life. Instead of rivets and zippers, expect to find eco-finished buttons by YKK, foregoing electroplating baths, the use of toxic acids and other hazardous chemicals that would conventionally lead to a large amount of sludge and hazardous substances in the wastewater.
“Our new denim fabric and its revolutionary indigo process will become an open source for the rest of the industry to use. We would like to invite others to join us towards cleaner and more ethical denim production globally.” – Frouke Bruinsma, corporate responsibility director of G-Star RAW