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New Brand Etica Aims to Reset LA’s Premium Denim Scene

What do you get when you combine the lessons learned by a group of premium denim veterans?

In the case of Ética, a new Los Angeles-based women’s denim brand, the result is a company that’s putting its best foot forward with on-trend collections that prioritize sustainability.

“We start every conversation with sustainability,” said Michelle Marsh, Ética’s director of sales.

Launched this spring, Ética is among the crew of L.A.-based newcomers building sustainability into the DNA of their designs and vocalizing its efforts via consumer messaging. Like its eco-minded cohorts Boyish Jeans, Reformation and Triarchy, Ética is trying to tackle the denim industry’s water waste and consumption problems.

“Denim is one of the biggest polluters as an industry,” Marsh said. “We need to come up with new ways of doing business.”

The brand manufactured out of the Hera Apparel factory in Mexico, a facility that Marsh says is at the forefront of water conservation and minimizing the environmental impact of denim-making. “The factory has invested for years in eco technologies like e-flow machines, laser, water filtration systems, plant-derived dyes and high-efficiency equipment that uses less energy,” she said.

By taking these sustainable steps, Ética reports that it uses 99 percent less water, 63 percent less energy and 70 percent less chemicals than the rest of the industry.

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Ética is also leaning into sustainable fabrics like deadstock beginning in the fall, and sustainable fibers like BCI cotton and Tencel, which Marsh says are a must-have for comfortable non-stretch denim. “All of our non-stretch has Tencel as a major component—a minimum of 30 percent,” Marsh said. “Tencel helps us a lot with longevity of product, you can wear it year around because its cooler to the touch.”

Non-stretch denim is a key ingredient in Ética’s vintage-inspired collections. From wash techniques and trims, to the bodies it offers, Marsh said a brand’s aesthetic is rooted in styles that look lived in. “You don’t need seven basic skinny jeans. You can get that from any premium denim line,” she said.

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And Marsh would know. Behind Ética is an ensemble of L.A. premium denim gurus. Ética’s COO Chelsey Santry previously worked in merchandising roles for Lucky Brand and Joie. Head designer Sage Matthews held design roles at Levi’s, Guess and Revolve. And Marsh’s previous stints include Hudson, DL1961, JOA and Current Elliott.

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Ética, Marsh says, is a compilation of the ideas and products they always wished they could have offered in their previous roles. And rather than get in a skinny jean rut, the brand’s collections are full of wearable novelties. Crop flares, kick flares and a flare jumpsuit are among Ética’s best-selling items, as well as vintage fits with a 501 look, like the straight leg Tyler. Marsh said the brand is also seeing momentum behind rigid-looking fabrics with a touch of stretch.

Along with its sustainable message, Marsh said retailers are gravitating toward Ética’s design aesthetic and its ability to offer both core and fashion. The brand has found a home with eco-specialty stores like Ecovibe in Portland, Ore. and better retailers like Garmentory and Bleu Clothing.

“Because everyone [at Ética] comes from premium denim, we know these stores and love them. We grew up with them,” Marsh said.

The Fall ’19 denim line, which retails for $135-$185, will feature deadstock fabrics for the first time, as well as recycled cotton knits ($35-$55 retail) in trendy colors like safety cone orange. Other unexpected highlights include overdyed snake print, indigo tie-dye and stretch corduroy done in unique ways like a jumpsuit and sets. And Spring 2020, Marsh says, will bring botanical dyes.