As the sustainability manager of Nudie Jeans, Sandya Lang knows exactly what’s at stake within the denim industry, and what her label needs to do to continue advancing the conversation. With Lang leading the way, the Swedish brand is taking various steps to ensure that the brand is measuring up to its sustainable promise. Nudie, which uses certified organic cotton for its jeans, offers free denim mending for life. The repair program has gained traction over the years as more consumers have become vocal about extending their jeans’ lifetime. In 2020 alone, the brand was able to repair 45,900 jeans.
Last year, Nudie teamed with luxury fashion boutique Browns to debut an exclusive, limited-edition collection of repaired jeans. The line included 16 upcycled selvage pieces with exposed indigo patchwork, playing off the modern popularity of patchwork jeans.
In December 2020, Nudie teamed with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) as part of the EU-funded circular accelerator, SwitchMed, on a two-phase pilot project to test the denim recycling process at scale. The initiative started by combining 8,000 pairs of second-choice jeans with virgin denim material to make 20,000 meters of new fabric in phase one. Within phase two, the company also furthered circularity efforts by developing a post-industrial denim recycling program with Tunisian designers, which ended up producing 15,000 pairs of new jeans.
What denim buzzword do you think is overused? And what would you replace it with?
I think the word “sustainability” is now overused, as it means a lot of different things for different people and brands. There is probably not another word that can replace it entirely. Instead, one has to be more precise of what the concept includes and present facts on how you are working with sustainability in your organization.
What do you wish more consumers knew about the jeans they buy?
I think transparency is key, as in knowing where your products have been made and by whom. If the consumers knew this information for all products they buy, they would understand that it takes a lot of resources and people skills to manufacture that product, and that the price of it needs to reflect good working environment for everyone involved. Therefore, consumers might value the garment more and are more likely to prolong the lifetime of the garment.
If you had one request for denim brands, what would that be?
The best product is the one you’ll keep in your wardrobe, so making long-lasting, timeless items make sense. Also, add-on services to prolong the life of the garment are essential. For example, a takeback system, repairs, secondhand resale and recycling are ways to take full responsibility for the products you put on the market.
What can other apparel categories learn from the denim industry?
They can learn about the innovative technologies to reduce water in production processes, as well as understand more about transparency and traceability to the raw material stages. Repair services can be applied to other items than denim.
What was your most recent denim purchase?
The most recent purchase was Nudie’s Tuva dress—great for the Swedish summer.