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At Coterie, Denim Made with Recycled Fibers Is the New Normal

The slogan “reduce, reuse, recycle” has been around since the ’70s, but in 2020 it is proving to mean big business and opportunity for the global denim industry.

Leading denim brands like DL1961, Closed, and Mavi are ramping up their use of recycled cotton and recycled polyester to help reduce their environmental footprint. And in the process, they are creating on-trend jeans collections with sustainable stories that are resonating with eco-conscious millennial and Gen Z consumers.

Consumers are warming up to the idea of wearing jeans made with recycled content, so much so that Coterie plans to highlight brands offering products incorporating recycled materials, ranging from fur to cotton, at the upcoming trade show on Feb. 11-13 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City.

“The demand for recycled fabrics and fashion from our retail attendees started with the increase in awareness around the issue of single-use plastics, which has driven a lot of the conversation around recycled polyester,” Tom Nastos, chief commercial office of Coterie/Informa Markets, said.

The denim industry is arguably leading this charge, perhaps to atone for the environmental wrongdoing it’s made in the past. “There is a huge awareness about sustainability in the denim community,” Arkun Durmaz, president of Mavi, North America, said. “The industry is definitely more conscious through every step of the supply chain from cotton production to fabric content, production and stock management, to used textiles recycling.”

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This spring marks Mavi’s most sustainable collection to date, All Blue, which is developed and produced using innovative laser technology and sustainable washing techniques that use less water, less energy and less processing. The fabrics contain recycled cotton, organic cotton, and upcycled materials like post-consumer recycled cotton and recycled polyester.

And Mavi is keeping that momentum going. The brand has tripled its offerings containing recycled fibers, going from seven pieces for spring to 22 for Fall/Winter 20-21, with the fabric composition expanding from 6 percent to 10 percent recycled fibers. Additionally, it’s introducing Organic Blue, a range of men’s and women’s stretch denim made with both organic cotton and recycled PES, and Feather Blue, a line of jeans made with a Tencel and recycled cotton blend.

Mavi is expanding its sustainable collection.
Mavi Courtesy

“It features a super-soft hand feel and premium denim weave with the look of true denim, all in a sustainable fabrication,” Durmaz said.

“All of these elements,” he added, “contribute to a cleaner, more sustainable earth.”

German denim brand Closed teamed with Italian mill Candiani Denim to elevate its sustainable denim collection. In 2018, it launched A Better Blue, an eco-friendly denim line that uses sustainable fabrics, low-impact dyeing techniques and eco-friendly washing methods to save water, chemicals and electricity.

The F/W 20-21 collection includes denim made with recycled cotton and recycled elastane. That focus on upcycling is being carried into other parts of Closed’s collection, including the addition of recycled nylon and recycled cashmere blends in its ready-to-wear offerings.

“For us, it is key to combine our sustainable fabrics with the same fashion aspect and high quality Closed has always been known for,” Closed design team Johanna Czepalla and Johanna Zschietzschmann said.

One of Closed’s new and fashionable fits for F/W 20-21 is the slightly flared jean, the Baylin, with a high waist and cropped leg. “It is offered in our super-authentic black comfort denim in a worn wash, which is achieved with low-impact washing methods,” the team said. “Additionally, we will offer our complete shaper denim line in a recycled elastane blend with organic cotton.”

Denim brands are using recycled fibers to reduce their environmental footprint.
DL1961 Courtesy

And for most brands, sustainability doesn’t start and end with recycled fibers.

An early adopter of recycled fibers, premium denim brand DL1961’s ingredients list includes cotton that is certified to the Global Recycled Standard (GRS) or Recycled Claim Standard (RCS). The brand also uses Tencel x Refibra, a fiber technology that helps reduce industry waste by upcycling cotton scraps in manufacturing. DL1961’s path for a sustainable future also includes waterless finishing and resource-efficient dyeing.

The company views the 50th Earth Day anniversary in 2020 as an opportunity to push its product to be even more sustainable. DL1961 is launching an ultra-sustainable rinse capsule across men’s, women’s and kids. “The styles use even less water for washing, little to no dry process and eco-friendly trims,” said Zahra Ahmed, DL1961 CEO. “This sleek and fashion-forward rinse capsule contains jackets, shirts and bottoms in a range of fits with contrast stitching.”

Liverpool Jeans is introducing its first sustainable capsule collection for F/W 20-21. Made with Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) certified cotton and aniline-free indigo from Archroma, the low-impact collection includes 10 styles for women. By using finishing technologies that eliminate the use of pumice stones, bleach and potassium permanganate, Liverpool washes jeans with just one cup of water, which gets recycled back into the manufacturing process.

Each style has an accompanying QR code that will drive customers to a landing page with everything they need to know about the garment, including the jeans’ Environmental Impact Measurement (EMI) score, which measures water consumption, chemical consumption, energy consumption and human impact.

In addition to utilizing recycled fibers in its products, Mavi has shifted to using recycled paper for its paper branding elements, and it has developed a new back patch to eliminate the use of leather, making its jeans 100 percent vegan.

“We aim to use less water and energy throughout production, and have redesigned our wash techniques with more sustainable processes such as laser and ozone technology,” Durmaz said. “We’ll continue to incorporate sustainable-minded fabric, production and washing technologies in future collections.”