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Amsterdam’s House of Denim Sets Standards for Sustainable and Circular Jeans

Amsterdam is quietly reminding the rest of the world that it’s still a hub for denim innovation.

During Kingpins24 Wednesday, Kingpins’ digital place holder until the trade show can return to the city, House of Denim Foundation co-founder James Veenhoff offered a sneak peek into what the non-profit is developing to better the global denim market.

Along with preparing to open a denim education center in Sao Paulo this year, the organization is establishing two sets of sustainable guidelines for consumers and the supply chain to follow.

The foundation is developing a consumer-facing benchmark to help consumers buy better jeans—a concept that Veenhoff has discussed for several years, often likening it to the Certified Organic seal used in the food industry.

Based on five UN Sustainable Development Goals that consider fiber, water, chemicals, fair wages and transparency, the simple star rating system aims to educate consumers on “best practices” for denim manufacturing.

With an optimal rating of 10, jeans are given by experts one point for “good practice” and two points for “best practice” for how they address each of the give goals.

Jeans that score 5-6 points are considered “good” and receive one star on a label. Jeans with 7-8 points are considered “great” and earn two stars. Jeans with 9-10 points are “excellent” and are distinguished with three stars.

The system, Veenhoff said, is easy for consumers to understand and “is a great encouragement to brands trying to make better product.”

House of Denim is also working on a way to simplify standards for post-consumer recycled (PCR) denim through a new project called AC/DC—or “a coalition for denim circularity.” The project is supported by the Dutch government.

Though a number of leading mills produce PCR fabrics, Veenhoff said AC/DC will look at how post-consumer recycling can become the norm in the entire denim industry, and in the process, save a billion gallons of water. “We want to increase the demand for PCR by establishing new standards,” he continued.

AC/DC will provide three sets of standards for denim—one for 5 percent PCR fiber blends, a second for 20 percent PCR fiber blends and a third made with 40 percent or more PCR fiber blends.

The foundation will have more details about both projects in the fall.