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DL1961 Taps Influencers for New Transparent Labeling Project

DL1961 is rethinking traditional labeling to combat greenwashing.

On Wednesday, the vertically integrated men’s, women’s and children’s brand introduced the Digital Tag Project, a QR code on the inside waist of its jeans that allows consumers access to information about the garment’s journey from fiber to finished garment. The code shares exactly how much of each resource—water, energy, and recycled materials—was used in production.

The transparency tool launched with the Ella Jean, an ultra-high-rise, vintage straight fit created in partnership with Ella Richards, the British model and granddaughter of Rolling Stones’ guitarist Keith Richards.

DL1961’s family-owned Artistic Denim Mills (ADM) in Karachi, Pakistan is key to offering consumers’ this level of transparency. By overseeing the entire manufacturing process under one roof, the brand says it can be accountable at every step of the way for each pair of jeans. ADM also utilizes Environmental Impact Measurement (EIM) software by Jeanologia to monitor the environmental impact of garment finishing processes in an efficient and economically viable way.

ADM’s recent investment in Recover, a certified and traceable recycled cotton fiber, adds another layer of accountability. In February, DL1961 introduced its first jeans made with the sustainable fiber.

The Ella Jean’s Digital Tag reveals that along with 20 percent Recover recycled cotton fiber, only 4.99 gallons of water and .63 Kwh of energy were used during the manufacturing process. In comparison, the brand reports a typical pair of jeans is made with about 1,500 gallons of water. DL1961 uses less than 8 gallons on average, however.

The jean, offered in washed black and light blue washes, is available on DL1961’s website and retails for $209. A second jean with the QR code will launch in the fall.

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The Digital Tag Project is DL1961’s response to consumers’ post-pandemic shift to making more personal and conscious purchases. “Where a lot of people shop vintage and then tailor their jeans as a sustainable, customizable option, we wanted to take customization to the next level,” said Sarah Ahmed, DL1961 co-founder and chief creative officer, adding that sharing measurable data to the end user should be part of this experience.

The Ella jean is the first in a series of custom garments created for the Digital Tag Project by DL1961 in partnership with influencers, models, editors and environmental activists. Each participant met with DL1961’s design team for a customization experience that involved trials for fit, fabric, wash, hardware, and other personalization details. Their preferences were then sent to the brand’s factory where each resource metric was traced, recorded, and input into an individual website accessed through the digital tag.

DL1961's Digital Tag Project gives consumers access to information about denim's journey from fiber to finished product.
The Ella Jean Courtesy

Collaborators include content creators Sarah Corbett Winder, Noor Pahlavi and Natalie Suarez, stylist and sustainability consultant Mary Fellowes, Elle fashion director Alex White and more.

Transparency is at the crux of several DL1961 initiatives. The brand recently wrapped up an exhibition at Frieze London May 26-28 that explored its denim-making process. The immersive “Indigo” exhibit featured five zones covering life on the factory floor, a “fiber forest” that featured Recover and Tencel and a photo gallery of campaign images with Richards. An accompanying magazine provides further insight into the processes.

“By showcasing the raw materials broken down like this, guests can get a true sense of the texture, density and feeling of the denim in its most early stages,” Ahmed said.

The exhibit also included mannequins wearing commissioned custom garments designed by Ukrainian denim designer Ksenia Schnaider, fine art painter Marko Ristic, costume designer Timothy Gibbons, and the brand’s in-house design team.

“The exhibit represents the global effort of designers, builders and denim innovators,” she added. “It’s been amazing to see how every person involved has pushed limits and has been so passionate about every detail to bring each element of this exhibit to life. We are very lucky.”