Have you ever thought about the very interesting question of how to tell if a pair of jeans is made of sustainable denim or not? And what do sustainably made jeans look and feel like?

Let’s say I walk into a Bloomingdale’s denim department. I don’t read Denimology and I am not aware of what sustainable denim is all about.

How would I even be able to tell if a pair of jeans is made of sustainable denim unless I know about the brand or read all the labels attached to a pair of jeans?

My point is that we need to know more about sustainable, what makes a pair of sustainable jeans visually different from a regular pair of jeans? Can you tell if jeans are made sustainably just by looking at them, or touching them?

We have asked a few denim experts, actively involved in producing sustainable denim, about the difference in wash and feel between “regular*” and sustainable denim.

*I really don’t like the term “regular”, but what would be the alternative? Unsustainable? Polluting? Non-environmental friendly?

Adriano Goldschmied:

“I would say that it is mission impossible for an expert and in particular for a customer to recognize a sustainable product from one that is not. You can understand the difference only when you declare the method of work and about products that you use it to make it this means that for a consumer it is critical that the supplier has a total transparency about the production process. Only in the case of a vegetal indigo (very,very minimal production) may be an expert can realize as the cast is a little bit different. In the case of an organic cotton (that is a little bit softer then normal) is also same thing.. very difficult to understand difference. Bottom line – it is all about transparency.”

Adam Taubenfligel, owner of Triarchy Denim:

“The goal on our end is to have our sustainable denim looking and feeling like your “normal” pair of jeans but with the added benefit of it being sustainable.

Usually I find when you see something sustainable – that you know is sustainable – then that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Meaning: people have this notion that if something is sustainable then it must be ugly or scratchy or uncomfortable. Like a burlap sack.”

{Adam hit the nail on the head with this, right!}

Tricia Carey, Director Global Business Development – Denim at Lenzing Fibers:

“In my experience to qualify as sustainable denim, there needs to be consideration for fiber, indigo dyeing, laundry processing, end of life

1- Fiber: some type of sustainable cotton, TENCEL™, recycled poly,

2- Indigo dyeing: there are various water saving from the Royo Dry Dye to Advance Denim from Achroma

3- Laundry: laser finishing, ozone

4- End of life: compostability or biodegradability

So sustainability is not something you can see, but is a holistic view of all factors.”

We will be posting more opinions and suggestions of people who are directly involved in the denim industry, stay tuned.

And the good news: finding the perfect, guilt-free (or, at least, reduced guilt) denim is getting much easier. Major retailers like Levi’s and Citizens of Humanity have begun overhauling their production practices and using innovative approaches and technology to reduce waste and pollution. (Even Gap has pledged to conserve 10 billion liters of water by 2020.)

Denimology supports environmental and Eco-friendly fashion. Our way of showing this support is by posting regularly all that’s important to know about sustainability. Therefore, stay tuned here for more about sustainable denim which we will publish periodically.

Here is a first roundup of some sustainable denim brands for you to check out right now.

Levi’s – In 2011 Levi’s pioneered their first Water<lessTM denim collection, which has the capacity to save up to 96 percent of the water typically used in the denim manufacturing process.

G-Star RAW – G-Star uses organic and recycled cotton along with recycled water bottles and Tencel® in order to minimize their impact on the planet. They back this up by publishing the names and locations of each of their manufacturing partners.

Triarchy – the Canadian brand had closed their production for about one year and just recently re-launched with a totally sustainable denim collection, including limited edition vintage pieces.

Citizens of Humanity – uses laser technology to add abrasions to its denim. This step saves gallons of water and reduces gas consumption by 20-30 percent. Citizens has also invested in high-efficiency dyes and washing machines that, together, reduce its power usage by over 70 percent.

Reformation – Reformation’s denim collection has the same material standards as the rest of the brand’s products: with 100 percent recycled materials, leftover fabrics, or sustainably sourced fibers.

Everlane – launched their first denim collection last year, totally sustainable, in collaboration with Saitex, a LEED-certified facility that recycles 98 percent of its water and relies on alternative energy sources for power. Even the scraps don’t go to waste—Saitex repurposes any excess denim into bricks which are then used to build affordable houses.

DL1961 – launched in 2008 with four styles, all in the same wash. Ten years later, it continues to lead the conversation with its Pre-Fall 2018 collection. Using a trademarked material called Refibra, it’s making denim out of cotton scraps and wood pulp that would otherwise end up in a landfill.

More about sustainable denim coming up soon. We have asked quite a lot of denim heads about this very interesting subject.

If you would like to know more about a specific brand, or are generally interested in some kind of explanation, please leave a comment below and we promise to get back to you ASAP.