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Fabric Switch: Sourcing Sustainable Denim Suppliers

Your guide to where to source more sustainable denim, from organic and Fairtrade to recycled and handwoven.
Sourcing sustainable denim suppliers

Recent sustainability strides

“I definitely saw the denim industry begin to focus much more clearly on sustainability in 2018.

Significant areas of the supply chain seem to be moving in the right direction in terms of preserving resources, reducing their environmental impact and investing in innovation.”

- Vivian Wang of Kingpins Denim Show

Sourcing sustainable denim suppliers

Recent sustainability strides

“I definitely saw the denim industry begin to focus much more clearly on sustainability in 2018.

Significant areas of the supply chain seem to be moving in the right direction in terms of preserving resources, reducing their environmental impact and investing in innovation.”

- Vivian Wang of Kingpins Denim Show

An apparel powerhouse

The denim industry has a global market size of $56.2 billion with around 1.2 billion pairs of jeans being produced each year.

Today’s jeans stem from 1850 when Levi Strauss used denim to make strong work trousers for Californian miners.

Now customers are also starting to ask how sustainable as well as how durable their jeans are.

An apparel powerhouse

The denim industry has a global market size of $56.2 billion with around 1.2 billion pairs of jeans being produced each year.

Today’s jeans stem from 1850 when Levi Strauss used denim to make strong work trousers for Californian miners.

Now customers are also starting to ask how sustainable as well as how durable their jeans are.

Environmental impact of denim

Over its lifetime, a pair of jeans consumes on average 10,850 litres of water and causes 32.5kg of CO2 emissions – from growing the cotton, to processing, dyeing, finishing, shipping and once bought, washing.

The Higg Materials Sustainability Index calculates that conventionally grown cotton, used in most denim, has roughly double the environmental impact of organic cotton.

And, toxic run-off from denim dyeing processes is polluting waterways.

Environmental impact of denim

Over its lifetime, a pair of jeans consumes on average 10,850 litres of water and causes 32.5kg of CO2 emissions – from growing the cotton, to processing, dyeing, finishing, shipping and once bought, washing.

The Higg Materials Sustainability Index calculates that conventionally grown cotton, used in most denim, has roughly double the environmental impact of organic cotton.

And, toxic run-off from denim dyeing processes is polluting waterways.

Human impact of sandblasting

Used for distressed-look denim, sandblasting can be deadly for the workers involved. Abrasive sand, containing tiny silica crystals, is shot under high pressure at the denim. 

Without full protective equipment, proper ventilation and rest-breaks, sandblasting workers risk developing acute silicosis – a lung disease that is fatal unless treated early.

Human impact of sandblasting

Used for distressed-look denim, sandblasting can be deadly for the workers involved. Abrasive sand, containing tiny silica crystals, is shot under high pressure at the denim. 

Without full protective equipment, proper ventilation and rest-breaks, sandblasting workers risk developing acute silicosis – a lung disease that is fatal unless treated early.

Make a positive difference by changing your cotton

Switching to organic cotton denim could save up to 3,000 litres of water and at least 2.5 kg of CO2 in producing a pair of jeans.

Ask your current supplier, search the Global Organic Textile Standard database or scroll down and read below for five organic denim suppliers to suit all denim qualities.

Make a positive difference by changing your cotton

Switching to organic cotton denim could save up to 3,000 litres of water and at least 2.5 kg of CO2 in producing a pair of jeans.

Ask your current supplier, search the Global Organic Textile Standard database or scroll down and read below for five organic denim suppliers to suit all denim qualities.

Fairtrade cotton farmer

Go Fairtrade

Ensure farmers get a fair price for their cotton with Fairtrade cotton denim.

Fairtrade supplier, India’s Anubha Industries produce a wide selection of denim from craft weaves to stretch.

Images: Fairtrade

Fairtrade cotton farmer

Go Fairtrade

Ensure farmers get a fair price for their cotton with Fairtrade cotton denim.

Fairtrade supplier, India’s Anubha Industries produce a wide selection of denim from craft weaves to stretch.

Images: Fairtrade

"Dry Dyeing"

Give the waterways a break with Tejidos Royo’s “Dry Indigo” - denim dyed with a water-free process saving both water and chemicals.

This innovative new machine produces high intensity colour without the huge amounts of water usually used in the dyeing process. 

Finishes are also available in other hues of blue, black, brown, and khaki. 

"Dry Dyeing"

Give the waterways a break with Tejidos Royo’s “Dry Indigo” - denim dyed with a water-free process saving both water and chemicals.

This innovative new machine produces high intensity colour without the huge amounts of water usually used in the dyeing process. 

Finishes are also available in other hues of blue, black, brown, and khaki. 

Join the circular textiles trend

Global Denim’s Eco Loop range is made from recycled scraps from the mill’s own production as well post-consumer waste it buys back.

Launched with a rigid version, the mill has since added a stretch variation and has two more planned for SS20.

Join the circular textiles trend

Global Denim’s Eco Loop range is made from recycled scraps from the mill’s own production as well post-consumer waste it buys back.

Launched with a rigid version, the mill has since added a stretch variation and has two more planned for SS20.

Reduce your environmental footprint

Italian mill Candiani (pictured) has long been using Kikotex technology to reduce its energy, water and chemical consumption by up to 70 per cent.  They now have a vegan version, Kitotex Vegetal.

Brazil’s Vicuna Denim’s Absolut Eco line saves up to 95 percent water and up to 90 percent on chemicals.

Reduce your environmental footprint

Italian mill Candiani (pictured) has long been using Kikotex technology to reduce its energy, water and chemical consumption by up to 70 per cent.  They now have a vegan version, Kitotex Vegetal.

Brazil’s Vicuna Denim’s Absolut Eco line saves up to 95 percent water and up to 90 percent on chemicals.

Safer ways to get the sandblasting effect

Pizarro laundries in Portugal have created a safe, affordable alternative to sandblasting. 

Ecoblast uses an abrasive with very low silica content in premises and conditions specifically designed for workers’ safety.

Scroll down to watch a video about the process.

Safer ways to get the sandblasting effect

Pizarro laundries in Portugal have created a safe, affordable alternative to sandblasting. 

Ecoblast uses an abrasive with very low silica content in premises and conditions specifically designed for workers’ safety.

Scroll down to watch a video about the process.

Moving away from cotton

Even sustainable cotton still has an impact on the planet. An increasing number of denim mills are blending innovative sustainable fibres such as Lenzing’s TencelTM (made from white pine) and REFIBRATM (cotton scraps plus wood fibre).

See a list of suppliers below who offer REFIBRATM denim.

Moving away from cotton

Even sustainable cotton still has an impact on the planet. An increasing number of denim mills are blending innovative sustainable fibres such as Lenzing’s TencelTM (made from white pine) and REFIBRATM (cotton scraps plus wood fibre).

See a list of suppliers below who offer REFIBRATM denim.

Handwoven denim blends heritage and craft

Seven Senses celebrates the Indian handspinning tradition, Khadi, offered in a variety of weights from 3oz to 15oz and colours.

Handloom Denim (pictured) has mastered the production of handloomed selvedge denim. They offer a wide range of weights and colours in their online shop, as well as a full fabric sample kit

5P Denim also specialise in handloomed fabrics, with a state of the art green facility housing 54 handloom machines in Chennimalai, India.

Handwoven denim blends heritage and craft

Seven Senses celebrates the Indian handspinning tradition, Khadi, offered in a variety of weights from 3oz to 15oz and colours.

Handloom Denim (pictured) has mastered the production of handloomed selvedge denim. They offer a wide range of weights and colours in their online shop, as well as a full fabric sample kit

5P Denim also specialise in handloomed fabrics, with a state of the art green facility housing 54 handloom machines in Chennimalai, India.

Find this denim guide useful?

Discover more of CO's Fabric Switch pieces - including guides on supplier of sustainable silk, cotton, polyester, stretch, viscose as well as interlinings & thread and more.

Access all the other Fabric Switch guides in this series here.

Find this denim guide useful?

Discover more of CO's Fabric Switch pieces - including guides on supplier of sustainable silk, cotton, polyester, stretch, viscose as well as interlinings & thread and more.

Access all the other Fabric Switch guides in this series here.

    

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