Sustainable jeans aren’t the easiest thing to shop for, with denim being one of the worst offenders in the fashion industry when it comes to carbon footprint.
In fact, eco site Pawprint estimates a single pair of jeans 20,000 litres of water to create, and has around four to five times the carbon footprint of a t-shirt, even when both are made of organic cotton.
So what’s the solution? Of course, perhaps the best way to build a sustainable wardrobe and cut down on waste is simply by buying your jeans second hand from an online vintage store. This is often cheaper than buying new, and practices circularity.
If you’re wanting you invest in new denim though, fret not, for there are a few sustainable clothing brands making a conscious effort to produce denim that has a reduced impact on the planet, and more importantly will last you a lifetime.
As we all know, find perfectly fitting jeans can be tricky, but when you do find them, you want to wear them forever.
There are a few things to look out for when shopping for the best sustainable jeans, one of which is the material. 100% organic cotton for example, will be better recycled than a polyester blend, and more durable too. Then there is the production process.
New guidelines have in fact been introduced by the Ellen Macarthur Foundation, which is committed to creating a circular economy. They set out ‘minimum requirements on garment durability, material health, recyclability, and traceability’.
These include the material as stated above, which should include ‘cellulose fibres from regenerative, organic or transitional farming methods’ and should be free from chemicals. Metal rivets, which have historically always been on jeans, are to be phased out completely or reduced to a minimum.
As for the production process, information about each element should be made clear to anyone looking. You can read the full guidelines here.
Boyish, GAP, Reformation, Lee, H&M and Tommy Hilfiger are just some of the brands that have signed up to the initiative, a sure sign that the fashion industry is making an effort to be more environmentally conscious.
Shop our edit of the best sustainable jeans below, including styles by Sézane, m.i.h jeans, Arket and more.
ARKET's new series of Patchwork Denim is a circular collection made using vintage fabrics from our recycling program with I:Collect. Each second-hand garment is washed and sorted before being cut up into patches and sewn together to form large sheets of irregular fabric shapes. The patchworks are used instead of conventional fabric rolls as the foundation for creating new one'of-a-kind designs.
The jeans are made partly from recycled cotton and are part of the high-street store's conscious collection.
These upcycled jeans include organic cotton that is OCS certified, and Tencel™ Lyocell, a natural raw material from eucalyptus trees that is responsibly produced to minimise environmental impact, reducing its carbon footprint and water usage.
The entire collection is made of organic cotton. This style is OEKO-TEX certified and made with no rivets, simply a zip and clip closure. Packaging is also recycled, and it's shipped by road rather than air.
While Levi’s® aims to incorporate its sustainable technologies and initiatives within the mainline range as much as possible, Levi’s® Wellthread® is a laboratory for the brand to work through design and manufacturing challenges in order to create a more sustainable future. The SS21 collection sees the introduction of 55% hemp blended fabrics, new natural-dye techniques, the expanded use of organically grown cotton and the recyclability of every Wellthread® garment.
Crafted in premium organic denim with stretch, this vegan style is ethically made with low water use and low carbon, it's also made in Europe.
This relaxed boyfriend fit is made of 100% cotton and produced with 50% less water.
These organic cotton jeans were adapted from a menswear style and made in the brand's Japanese selvedge denim, lightweight with a soft feel, washed with sutble fading and cross hatch texture.
Reconstructed from vintage Levi's, the High Rise Crop is made in Downtown Los Angeles using no water. RE/DONE have also signed up to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation initiative. Looking into various practices to ensure that the denim created is more sustainable.
The denim capsule has fibretrace technology which embeds scannable, luminescent pigments into the fabric meaning you will be able to scan a tag on your new Ref jeans which allows you to view the denim’s entire lifecycle from fibre to production to finished garment.
In addition, the denim is made from one of the most sustainable fabrics - Good Earth Cotton - from the world’s first climate positive farm in Australia - which absorbs more carbon than it releases and therefore reduces carbon emissions in the atmosphere.
Crafted from organic cotton, this 5-pocket style features a high waist and a full-length, straight leg. All trims (buttons, rivets, zippers and threads) for these jeans have been sustainably sourced.
Made with Natural Fibres (43% Lyocell, 40% recycled Cotton and 17% Organic Cotton), these jeans will release fewer microplastics when washed. Made with water, energy, and chemical reducing technology.
Belstaff are launching a collaboration with London-based atelier Blackhorse Lane, who both share the ‘built for life’ philosophy. The collection includes the women’s Marilyn high rise jean, made entirely out of organic cotton and denim woven in Europe, to minimise the environmental impact of the creation of the raw materials. Each piece in the capsule is built for life with selvedge denim being one of the most hardwearing materials. The denim’s carbon footprint is low as it is milled very close to where it’s grown. It is then produced on shuttle looms from the 1960s, creating the best quality fabric, with this focus on craftsmanship and quality continued by the atelier.
Mango jeans are made of 100% cotton.