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When it Comes to Innovation, G-Star Raw Thinks Like a Start-Up

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G-Star Raw may be celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, but the Amsterdam-based brand takes on sustainable challenges within the denim industry with the verve and open-mind of a young start-up.

“We believe that it’s our responsibility to lead the denim industry,” said Adriana Galijasevic, G-Star Raw’s denim and sustainability expert. At Kingpins Transformers in New York City Tuesday, Galijasevic shared how innovation and sustainability is as ingrained in the company’s DNA as indigo.

Building off its raw denim heritage—an aesthetic that Galijasevic said was revolutionary three decades ago—G-Star grew into a reputable brand that found it could change the market’s perspective of denim. It did this again in 1996, according to Galijasevic, when designer Pierre Morisset pioneered 3-D design to create ergonomic styles like the G-Star Elwood.

And then following a 2011 Greenpeace campaign urging G-Star to eliminate hazardous chemicals from their manufacturing process, the brand’s innovations began to take a sustainable slant. And in turn, it found its groove.

To do this, Galijasevic, said the company put steps in place to nurture creativity and innovation across product design, marketing and the supply chain.

In 2013, the brand bowed its first recycled denim containing 20 percent post-consumer G-Star denim waste. It followed that innovation with Raw for the Oceans in 2014, a line of jeans made out of plastic waste reclaimed from the ocean. This collection, Galijasevic said, led the company to pledge that it would use 100 percent recycled polyester across its entire line by 2020. And in 2017, G-Star was the first denim brand to launch jeans dyed with Archroma’s EarthColors, a dye derived from upcycled plant waste.

The brand remains committed to ensuring all the raw materials being used in its products are responsible in a way that they preserve resources, Galijasevic said. And it takes a circular approach to how its products are made.

In 2014, G-Star made its manufacturing map publicly available on its website and integrated the information into its online shop.

“Every time that you buy [a product], you can see where is it actually made by clicking on this the ‘Where is it made?’ icon. And you can see the exact address of our suppliers as well as the relationships that we have with them,” Galijasevic said. This was possible five years ago, she noted, because G-Star has been with its suppliers for a decade and is comfortable telling consumers where its products are made.

Lessons learned from each of these projects led the brand to introduce last year its Most Sustainable Jeans Ever made with Gold Level Cradle to Cradle Certified G-Star denim fabric. The 100 percent organic cotton fabric was developed in partnership with G-Star’s roster of reliable suppliers, including Dystar, Artistic Milliners and Saitex. The final product is a no rivet, no zipper jean dyed with 70 percent fewer chemicals, no salts and is 98 percent recyclable.

“For us, it’s an evolutionary process and we are always trying to beat the previous sustainable achievement,” Galijasevic explained. “These jeans represent our holistic approach to denim design as well as the mark of really important milestone for us introducing circularity into the denim world based on the Cradle to Cradle principles.”

Since launching in February 2018, the Most Sustainable Jeans Ever line has expanded from four hero styles to 14 styles. And Galijasevic said it will continue to create different variations, including the world’s first Gold Level Cradle to Cradle Certified stretch denim, due to launch in October.

G-Star’s mission is to not only have a one-time innovation, but to expand and scale as much as possible.

“It’s a ripple effect,” Galijasevic said. “Once you go through this process, you cannot think of designing future fabrics under other circumstances or also looking at what you currently have and looking at how you can optimize them.”

In its 30th year, G-Star is settling into its role as a leader in sustainability.

“When it comes to innovation, it’s a mindset because revolutionary and evolutionary traits are deeply embedded in the culture of our brand,” Galijasevic said. “The reason we want to innovate is because of our mission. We want to be the leading denim company that creates tomorrow’s classics with respect for people and the planet in a transparent manner. As well, we want to inspire people to be game-changers by being one our self.”