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This Denim Startup Was ‘Designed to Shut Down’

Benim Denim calls itself a startup that is “designed to shut down.”

Indeed the month-old Swedish firm will “live” only as long as its 170-meter roll of deadstock denim—partly made from Circulose, a material derived from recycled jeans—will allow it.

Even the brand’s lookbook, which debuted last week, was choreographed and shot with the end in sight. It depicts Benim Denim’s “funeral service,” complete with mourners decked in double raw denim—the “only suit you need,” the firm said.

Made by Malmö Industries in the coastal city that shares the factory’s name, the Canadian tuxedo combines a pair of loose, oversized jeans with a pocket-festooned denim jacket. Both are etched with white contrast stitching. Together, they retail for 4,200 kronor, or just over $409, though they can be purchased separately for 1,950 kronor ($190) and 2,450 kronor ($239) respectively.

Benim Denim itself arose from a conversation with Renewcell, Circulose’s manufacturer, earlier last year. Could Haisam Mohammed and Noah Bramme, two creatives from Stockholm, just 265 kilometers from its original Kristinehamn plant, do something with a bolt of fabric it salvaged?

The company’s expiration was built-in from the start, Mohammed and Bramm said. Most brands are “gazing toward becoming the next scale-up” by increasing their sales and maximizing their production. Grappling with the idea of overproduction—a concept that sustainability is fundamentally at odds with—they decided to swerve in a different direction.

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Benim Denim
Its lookbook depicts the brand’s “funeral service.” Courtesy

“Since a young age, we’ve both dreamed of producing clothes and designing our own lines,” Mohammed and Bramme said. “But today, when the fashion industry alone stands for 8 to 10 percent of the global emissions, starting a brand with the intention of producing collection after collection didn’t sit right with us. So we asked ourselves how to make this lifelong dream come to life with as little environmental impact as possible.”

Benim Denim has another purpose: to “spark” in the minds of others new, more sustainable ways of directing their creative energy beyond the next season—and the one after that.

“Working through an analogy, Benim Denim subversively connects ’hype marketing’ tactics to the abstract but very real physical constraints of climate and environment. No Planet B; no Drop B,” said Nora Eslander, head of communications at Renewcell, which boasts H&M Group as its second-largest stakeholder. “It’s a comment on a dilemma that this generation’s emerging creatives are struggling to solve.”

Earlier this month, Renewcell dispatched the first shipment of Circulose from its new commercial-scale Sundsvall facility. The move brings the so-called Renewcell 1 closer to its initial capacity of 60,000 metric tons per year. Eventually, it plans to pump out twice as much.

The timing couldn’t be better. In December, Renewcell agreed to sell 80,000 to 100,000 metric tons of Circulose to Austrian textile giant Lenzing over a five-year period. Eastman, a cellulosic acetate fiber producer based in the United States, has also signed a letter of intent to develop Naia Renew ES yarns using Renewcell’s feedstock.

Ganni, H&M, Levi Strauss and Zara, too, have released ranges featuring Circulose over the past year.

“Renewcell makes it possible for the fashion industry to move from a linear to a circular model based on 100 percent recycled textiles as a raw material,” said CEO Patrik Lundström in Renewcell’s Q3 earnings report in October. “This mission—to make fashion circular—remains high on the global agenda because the fashion industry has a considerable negative impact on the environment. The market is vast, and the demand for Renewcell’s product Circulose, is very high among both brands and fiber producers.”