sustainable fashion

For quite a while we have been receiving many inquires from you guys about the real difference between sustainable denim, organic cotton, and circularity.

Isn’t it all the same? What is the actual difference and can something be sustainable without being organic, or circular? And how is circularity on everybody’s radar RN? So, a really sustainable denim manufacturer has to be circular?

Interesting questions and we wanted to get this 100% right. Who better to ask than two of the most respected representatives of sustainable denim brands. Boyish’s Jeans Jordan Nodarse (former designer of Reformation) and Triarchy’s Adam Taubenfligel.

In a nutshell – Jordan from Boyish Jeans explains:

SUSTAINABILITY

A broad spectrum of different methods to utilize more efficient, ethical, and environmentally friendly manufacturing practices.

ORGANIC

Focused on farming practices. Regenerative organic is the most important focus for the future so that soil health is put more in consideration.

CIRCULARITY

Producing products with recycled/upcycled materials with the intention that the product can then be recycled/upcycled into a new product. William McDonough’s Cradle 2 Cradle concept covers this well (read here).

Below you can find additional details as explained by Triarchy’s Adam:

SUSTAINABILITY

This word is too broad and too overused and now has become an unfortunate aid to greenwashing. As designers of a ’sustainable’ brand we’ve stopped using that word, instead opting for ‘responsible’ instead.

The truth is the real sustainable brand is one that doesn’t exist, so let’s call a spade a spade here. We publish all of our responsible manufacturing methods so people can make informed decisions as to who and what they are supporting with their purchases. Be weary of ’sustainable’ claims with nothing to back it up.

ORGANIC

A big topic in fashion. The earths ability to produce certified organic cotton as it stands is approx 240 tons, as compared to regular non organic cotton which is around 26 million tons. However the amount of people that say they use organic cotton per year would make that number considerably higher than 240 tons and that is because people knowingly or unknowingly buy organic cotton that actually is not organic cotton. You need to ask for cotton certificates from your suppliers and then as a brand you need to have those certificates on hand to share with consumers and buyers, as we do. Otherwise who’s to say you aren’t using fake organic cotton?

If we use organic cotton, eliminate plastic from our sartorial diet and make things without hazardous chemicals then we can put things back into the earth that aren’t going to be toxic.

Regenerative or Transitional cotton is cotton that is grown as farmers transition their land to be able to grow organic cotton and this is something we should all get behind because it rewards the decision to make the switch instead of saying you can only benefit when the with has been made to organic many years later, which is why people prefer to just say its organic when its not, hence creating all the confusion around organic cotton. Lets get behind farmers where they are now and say thats ok with regenerative or transitional instead of organic.

CIRCULARITY

Circularity refers to considering all aspects of production from start to finish, with finish meaning what happens to the garment when everyone is done with it.

Passing it along to goodwill or selling it second hand is not the end of the garment but often we feel we’ve done a good job by finding it a new home, the thing is, brands need to make everything with circularity in mind so that when the item has reached the end of its life it wont sit in a landfill for 200 years leaching toxicity into the planet.


We also asked:

Can something be sustainable without being organic? Or can jeans be manufactured with organic cotton and still not be sustainable?

“Something can be sustainable without being organic depending on what your definition of sustainable is. That is why the word sustainable doesn’t mean anything. It’s a blanket term that people throw around to mean what exactly? Whatever you want it to mean. That’s where greenwashing comes in.

I hear you on this. But that’s why the only real sustainable way is to see if a brand is publishing ALL of their data. If they aren’t then they’re just using language.”

So, a really sustainable denim manufacturer has to be circular?

“Again, no. Circularity across an entire brand is VERY DIFFICULT to actually do and most brands aren’t willing to get rid of things like their plastic stretch offerings because they think that would be bad for business.

I always laugh to myself when I see lists of “Sustainable Brands” and then I go on their websites and see that a large portion of their offerings are plastic stretch. Ph, but made from recycled water bottles” so were doing good right? Wrong. You’re just making new garbage from old garbage and keeping the demand for virgin plastics high because you’re making the recycled trade so lucrative.

Circularity is a total rethinking of how we operate, what we sell and what we buy. You cannot have your cake and eat it to when it comes to circularity or ’sustainability’.

We will be following up with a feature about sustainable denim brands soon, so stay tuned. Meantime, you can shop for Triarchy denims at Nordstrom and at Shopbop, and for Boyish at FARFETCH and at Free People.

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