Circularity, circular economy, circular fashion. A few terms that you may have started hearing over the last few years. But what do they mean? What does circularity look like in the world of denim? And what does it mean for you as a consumer? Here’s our guide to get you started.
A brief history of Denim
We all know denim as a timeless fabric. And over the years it’s become synonymous with causal style and durability.
While historians still debate on its birthplace (between Britain and France) There is a widely held view that it originates from the French city of Nîmes.
It was originally classified as a twill weave fabric crafted from one coloured thread and one white one.
The weavers of Nîmes realised that they had developed a unique and sturdy fabric unlike anything else and named it “Serge de Nîmes,” which later turned into the name "denim” that we know today.
By the late 18th century it had become a popular choice of fabric in the US.
And by the early twentieth-century denim was adopted as a preferred material for workwear by western miners, cowboys, farmers and other labour workers.
The fabric was comfortable, and far more durable and sturdy than the other popular fabric at the time, Jean, which was made from cotton, linen and wool.
Fast forward to today and denim is a global icon in its own right and a staple fabric in most people’s wardrobes.
What is circular fashion?
The current business model for most fashion brands is a linear one as in Take, make, and dispose.
Circular fashion is a system where our clothing and accessories are produced through a more considered model. It asks the industry to close the loop on production and take into account the end-of-life for every item.
A circular fashion industry is one where waste and pollution are designed out and products and materials are kept in and used for as long as possible. And natural systems are regenerated.
Circularity in denim
No other fashion item has been so consistent in style since its inception.
But the process for creating denim relies heavily on resources and its lifecycle is linear (make, wear, dispose).
Traditionally denim is made from cotton and the process to make a pair of jeans requires large amounts of water (up to 11,000 litres) and toxic chemicals.
So, how can denim brands incorporate my circular practices into their business? The Ellen MacArthur Foundation ( a charity committed to creating a circular economy) set out three principles for more circular denim production.
1. Design and manufacture to last:
The biggest part of circular fashion is in the design. Focusing on creating high-quality products that are durable and long-lasting.
When products are designed with durability and timeless appeal in mind, it allows them to be worn and enjoyed for longer periods. High-quality materials and construction techniques are employed to ensure longevity.
Jeans should be made to withstand a minimum of 30 home washes and should consider both physical durability (garment construction and component reinforcement) and emotional durability (the product’s ability to stay relevant and desirable to user, or multiple users over time.
2. Make jeans to be made again:
This requires the design process to take into account the repairability and recyclability of a garment. This means jeans are designed and manufactured so that they can be effectively dissembled, remade, or recycled
3. Jeans are made from safe and recycled or renewable inputs:
The third principle states that jeans should be made from safe, recycled or renewable inputs.
Jeans need to be produced in a way that is safe for the long-term health of people and the environment. The chemicals used should comply with level 1, Zero Discharge Of Hazardous Chemicals Manufacturing Restricted Substance List as a minimum. This list is made up of chemical substances that are banned from intentional use in facilities that process textile materials.
You can read more about the three principles at: https://ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/the-jeans-redesign
The consumer - Tips on making your denim last longer.
And what can you do as a consumer to keep your denim in circulation for as long as possible?
- Extend the life of your favourite pair of jeans by washing them less than you think. Machine washing them after every 3-10 wears is a good rule to follow. This will ensure that they don’t fade in colour or lose their shape. You can spot-clean them and air them out in between washes to keep them fresh.
- Wash them on a cold setting (30°C or below) and a gentle cycle. This helps preserve the colour and reduces the stress on the fabric.
- 3. Avoid excessive heat and tumble drying. Instead, opt for air drying outside in the summer works best.
- Patch and repair. If there are small tears or loose stitches, consider patching or repairing them. Not too good with a needle and thread? There are plenty of repair schemes available to help you extend the life of your favourite pair of jeans.
So, there you have it. Your guide to circularity and denim. And now you know how to extend the lifespan of your jeans, your next purchase from Porter and Cook will be with you forever.
Article sources: The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Fashion United and www.hawthornintl.com