Observing from the perspective of an individual, ie. the one who uses the products and services of the fashion industry, when we talk about sustainable fashion, we are actually talking about personal philosophy, attitude towards shopping, consumption and lifestyle of a person. Our focus is on planning the purchase and choosing the clothes that we like, that suit us and that we will really wear. What is not considered sustainable from an individual’s perspective is the spontaneous, unplanned purchase of something we do not need; it happens that we never wear some clothes. From the perspective of the fashion industry and the production of clothing, when we talk about sustainable fashion, we primarily mean the attitude and working conditions of employees in the fashion industry and ecological attitude towards the environment, all with the goal of having a system that functions and respects man and his environment. When we mention ecological, organic, ie sustainable fashion, it is impossible not to ask ourselves: how to resist the challenges of the fashion industry in the 21st century?
Today, we’re here to talk about the notoriously environmentaly un-friendly product: denim. From it’s making process to massive production, denim is maybe one of the least eco-friendly ones.
How is Denim Made?
Denim is a sort of a cotton twill, which consist of closely packed and weaved fabrics that make that signature diagonal pattern. The characteristic denim is the one with two-tone weaved fibres, where the second one is usually in white. The blue color of the jeans is often made of toxic synthetic indigo dyes derived from coal tar and toxic chemicals. This indigo dye coats the fabric and makes it suitable for the various manipulation of the denim such as enzyme washing, sandblasting and bleaching. Jeans production also requires a huge amount of water. Factories are often located in regions of the world where its resources are still severely limited. The estimated amount of water needed for the production of jeans is from 7000 up to 22 thousand liters of water (most of it is for growing cotton needed for the production of materials). Growing conventional cotton also requires huge amounts of pesticides and fertilizers that enter the water. Harmful substances like sodium hydroxide, sodium bisulfate and formaldehyde are also used in the jeans production process.
Can It Be Sustainable?
In the past few years, a lot of famous denim brands pledged to lower the water usage in denim making process, to blend hemp with cotton to decrease the carbon footprint, to upgrade the machineries where jeans are made. Also, a lot of jeans finishing methods are not only hazardous for the planet but for the workers, so a lot of manufacturers switched from sandblasting to laser and ozone technologies and using water jets for finishing their products. Even when manufacturers follow all of this better ways of producing denim, one problem still remains the same – the massive production. Denim is unfortunately for our planet, the rising market, and tons of jeans are made every day. So can it be totaly sustainable? The answer is no, but we can do our best to make it as better as we can.
What Can We Do?
As consumers, we can do a lot. To start, we can all educate ourselves about sustainable materials and not allow big brands to greenwash us with their sustainable slogans and campaigns. When you realise that you need a new pair of jeans, look for it first in vintage shops. Vintage clothing stores have become very popular in recent years as a kind of awareness of the problems caused by modern fashion. Even when shopping in second hand shops, make sure you choose vintage jeans for women and vintage jeans for men that you really need. Also, clothing recycling and donation is one example of sustainable textile management. Sharing clothes is another great way to freshen up your closet. Give friends or relatives jeans you no longer wear, or look for an institution where you can donate them. Don’t throw away your wardrobe just because your button fell off or your zipper broke, but fix it yourself or take it to a tailor.