Though sustainability isn’t the first word that comes to mind when discussing fast-fashion powerhouses like Primark, the Irish chain has recently embarked on a quest to challenge that notion.
The retailer debuted its first denim collection made in accordance with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Jeans Redesign guidelines, a set of principles created to increase the quality and recyclability of new denim. The initiative was launched in 2019, and has since garnered participation from brands and mills committed to increasing their circularity efforts.
The new collection includes a men’s straight fit jean, a women’s straight fit jean, a kids’ tapered jean and an adult denim jacket. Jackets are made from 80 percent organic cotton and 20 percent recycled cotton, and jeans made from 70 percent organic cotton, 29 percent recycled cotton and 1 percent elastane.
Garments are free of metal rivets, which can often pose recycling challenges at end of life. Products also include labels with guidelines for removing buttons and zippers before they’re sent to recycling.
Primark’s Jeans Redesign collection is now available in 161 stores worldwide, with prices ranging from $18-$27.
Other companies to join the initiative include Re/Done, Tommy Hilfiger and American Eagle, as well as fast fashion brands such as Asos and H&M. Now that Primark, which currently sells women’s skinny jeans for as low $7, has joined the global circular initiative, hopes are up that other fast-fashion brands may follow suit.
“By taking these first steps, organizations like Primark build the confidence to explore and learn how to put products on the market aligned with circular economy principles,” said Laura Balmond, Make Fashion Circular lead for the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. “We’re pleased to see the solutions identified by Primark and the growing understanding of the challenges that must be addressed to achieve the vision of a circular economy for fashion. Now that the concept has been proven, we cannot delay progress. There is a need for industry and government to continue driving momentum, at pace and scale, towards a circular economy for fashion.”
Fast fashion’s reckoning has been a long time coming. New data from Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, a London research organization, found that nearly half of women’s clothes offered for sale by some of Britain’s most popular fast-fashion brands are made entirely of virgin plastics such as polyester, acrylic and nylon that are rarely recycled. Researchers analyzed more than 10,000 garments from popular e-tailers like Asos, Boohoo and Missguided.
Primark has recently homed in on its environmental footprint, launching its sustainability strategy “Primark Cares” in September. One of the company’s many commitments is to produce more durable clothing by 2025. It also aims to make products that are recyclable by design by 2027 and source more sustainable or recycled materials by 2030.
The Irish chain will source fibers from initiatives such as CottonConnect and its own Primark Sustainable Cotton Programme, which train farmers on regenerative techniques that slash water and pesticide use while boosting yields. In addition, the retailer will seek a living wage for garment workers and create more opportunities for women over the next 10 years.
According to Lynne Walker, director of Primark Cares, the company is committed to offering sustainable, affordable fashion to its customers. “Denim is a wardrobe staple for our customers, from denim jeans to denim jackets, and I am proud of this new collection, which brings to life our ambition and shows what these changes look like in reality,” she said. “Most importantly, we are showing that we can do this without compromising on the style and affordability that our customers love from us.”