We’ve ditched single use coffee cups, switched to stainless steel straws and now we’re turning our attention to our wardrobes. And considering it takes close to 8,000 litres of water to make a single pair of jeans, it’s no wonder so many fashion brands are taking a closer look at their practices, ditching fast fashion and taking a more considered approach to clothes.
But with so many different eco phrases floating around, it can be tough to understand who is doing what, and just how sustainable some companies are. To get clued up, we spoke with Una Murphy, Senior Designer for Innovation at Levi’s and part of their global sustainability team who’s giving us the lowdown on everything from upcycling to cottonized hemp (yep, it’s a thing).
According to the United Nations being sustainable means the process or product ‘does not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their needs’. For us, this means designing with resource conservation top-of-mind so future generations have access to clean air and water.
In our ongoing research and development, we strive to improve our sustainable design practice and conserve environmental resources by choosing materials with lower impacts and always prioritize saving water. But in order to be truly sustainable, we must care for the communities making our clothing. An example of this is LS&CO’s Worker Well-Being initiative which prioritizes the wellbeing of the people making our clothes. This program aims to improve the lives of the women and men who make our products with factory-based programs that address issues related to health, financial security and gender equality. The initiative operates on the premise that when workers are healthy, satisfied and engaged at work, factory productivity will increase and communities can be sustained.
Upcycling is the process of transforming discarded material and leftover products that would usually end up as waste into new clothing or materials. Another option? Buying second hand or vintage is a more environmentally friendly option that also helps keep garments out of landfills. By keeping your clothes in circulation longer, it saves resources that can impact the planet. In short, people should wear things as long as possible, and care for them in a way that reduces their energy footprint; wash cold, line dry and donate or re-sell when no longer needed.
You might not realise it, but hemp actually uses less pesticides and fertilizers resulting in cleaner healthier soils. It’s a renewable crop that has multiple outputs meaning the non-fiber parts of the plants can also be used for other products. We’re processing our hemp so it has cotton-like softness, which can be easily blended with cotton; giving denim a soft feel. Hemp and cotton are renewable plant fibers unlike nylon and polyester which are non-renewable, petroleum-based fibers.
The circular economy keeps garments and materials in circulation longer, saving precious resources. Wearing clothes for as long as possible ensures the resources (water, energy, etc.) that went into creating them is put to good use. In our Wellthread line, we are committed to circularity and a future scenario where garment recycling is commonplace, just like glass and aluminum. For this collection each garment is designed in a way that maximizes recyclability so it can be regenerated into a new jean again one day. Each part of the jean—trims, thread, etc.—are carefully calibrated to ensure it meets recycling specifications, allowing it to have a second life when it's worn-out.
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Image Credit: Levis