For “green” fashion to lose its crunchy associations, it has to, well, lose its crunchy associations. A number of European denim brands are taking up the mantle, creating clothing that’s completely eco-friendly, but only as an aside to its upscale ethos.
Companies are incorporating custom fitting and guaranteed repairs into their business models, so that besides making jeans out of cotton irrigated solely from rainwater and certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard, the denim becomes more sustainable on the consumer end — buyers are supposed to have these incredibly well-made things forever. Gebrüder Stitch, which is based in Vienna, offers made-to-measure denim that’s also chemical-free and made from rainwater-irrigated cotton. The fashionable, organic Swedish brand Nudie is approaching the issue in several ways, opening a repair shop for its products in Stockholm, selling used jeans alongside new ones at its London store, and offering denim donors a discount. They also encourage wearing their jeans for six months before washing them, yet another way to cut down on water consumption… Last but not least, they’re recycling old Nudie jeans by turning them into rugs.
In the U.S., at a somewhat lower price point than either Gebrüder Stitch or Nudie, we’ve seen Levi’s embrace sustainability via its Water<Less and Waste<Less lines (though we have yet to hear of any premium denim brand opening a dedicated repair shop in New York or Los Angeles). Of course, sustainable fashion that also actually looks good comes at a cost. It’ll take a certain kind of conscientious shopper to spend between $300 and $900 on Gebrüder Stitch jeans, but for everyone else, there’s H&M’s Conscious Collection.