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30 Years Later, G-Star is on an Artistic and Sustainable Journey

In today’s fast-fashion cycle and turbulent retail climate, denim brands are challenged to last a few seasons, let alone a few decades, but G-Star Raw has done just that.

Backed by a team that shares a passion to create innovative denim with a unique design point-of-view, the Dutch brand is celebrating its 30th anniversary this fall with a collection that brings back some of its most iconic garments. Along with memorable designs like the 5620 Elwood jean, the Rackham anorak and the wide leg Jackpant, the brand is setting a new standard in sustainability and transparency by often being the first to adopt new methods.

Here, Gwenda van Vliet, G-Star Raw’s chief marketing officer, shares with Rivet why the company’s long-standing relationships enables it to innovate and how it plans to continue to push the envelope.

Rivet: What are some values of the brand that have gone unchanged since launching 30 years ago?

Gwenda van Vliet: We are outspoken, a bit rebellious and we do things differently, but we are at the same time down-to-earth and fair. Craftsmanship, the love for product and the love for our planet and people on it are values that have not changed. While looking forward, we also are looking back at where we came from. We believe that mentality of innovation, of sticking out our neck in making different products and different communication, is something that is true to us and more important than ever.

Rivet: Trends and styles change, but G-Star has a signature aesthetic. How do you interpret these design points of view for Gen Z and millennial consumers? 

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GV: Young consumers know exactly what they want, they have a very casual approach to style, which is often eclectic. They mix casual wear with formal attire whilst looking for unique pieces to stand out. We operate in that sweet spot. We are known for denim with a twist and there is always something unique to our designs. It’s well thought through and we have a love for detail.

Whether it’s 3D constructed or raw denim, G-Star has a pioneering approach to design: mixing denim with sports, utility and formalwear. Maintaining your own individuality and looking unique is as important for our design point of view as for our younger consumers.

Rivet: What was the turning point that led G-Star to make investments in sustainability?

GV: Our turning point came in 2006, when we realized that the conditions in our supply chain—both for the people and the environment—are part of the responsibility we have as a brand and as an industry. From that moment on we embedded sustainability in the way we do business and in the way we make our products.

We also decided to give something back to the communities in our production countries. Our GSRD Foundation therefore focuses on entrepreneurship and education in those communities. Sustainability is something that comes very natural to us, because innovation is deeply rooted in our DNA and sustainability is an important part of that.

Rivet: G-Star is known for its long-standing relationships with supply chain partners. What qualities do you look for in your supply chain partners?

GV: We have deliberately chosen a small and durable supply chain. Long-standing relationships with our suppliers are part of our business practices. It enables us to collaborate and accelerate sustainability topics together.

This is also why we are so proud of “Our Most Sustainability Jeans Ever” that we launched last year. We like to call it our masterpiece because years of hard work and intense collaborations throughout the supply chain came together in these jeans. Together with our partners DyStar, Artistic Milliners and Saitex we have not only achieved a key milestone toward closing the denim loop, but also made the technologies publicly available for the entire industry to use. Hopefully this will encourage others to build on our learnings and create new ways to accelerate circularity together.

Rivet: In terms of innovation, what do you see the brand investing in next?

GV: We are constantly innovating. It’s part of our brand mentality. Denim and innovating around denim is an ongoing journey. We are looking especially in innovation around creating the perfect fit and making the ultimate best-fitting jeans.

Next to that, of course, our sustainability pipeline is always on the agenda. Sustainability is important but it’s not enough. Instead of constantly producing more, we need to look at reusing what is already there. Or, start thinking about production in a different way. For example, can we produce more custom made and locally, closer to the consumer?

Gwenda van Vliet
Gwenda van Vliet, G-Star Raw’s chief marketing officer Courtesy

Rivet: What will the next 30 years be like for G-Star?

GV: In another 30 years, G-Star will continue to be at the forefront of innovation and still be a globally forward-thinking denim brand. We will continue to pave the way of working on our sustainability structure to reach our goals and teach others to think in that same way.

Rivet: What is G-Star’s legacy?

GV: Our world of denim is fast-paced yet conscious of the environment, and I am proud to call ourselves a long-standing and globally recognizable brand that will keep talking to its consumers for another 30 years and more.

Read more about G-Star’s 30th anniversary in the new issue of Rivet. Download it here.