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Patagonia Develops Truly Sustainable Denim

Doing denim the conventional way is a “filthy business” according to Patagonia—and one the eco-friendly clothier wants no part of.

Patagonia has set out to clean up denim manufacturing and its newly-launched jeans line is made with environmentally friendlier dye, better manufacturing processes, Fair Trade Certified sewing, and its content consists of 100 percent organic, pesticide-free cotton.

Traditional denim production, according to Patagonia, involves the use of dangerous chemicals for growing conventional cotton, millions of gallons of wastewater from dying and sewing in factories that don’t engage in fair labor.

Patagonia’s innovative denim production instead incorporates dyestuffs that bond to cotton more easily, uses 84 percent less water, 30 percent less energy and emits 25 percent less CO2 than conventional synthetic indigo denim dyeing.

“All Patagonia denim is made with organic cotton that is grown without chemical or synthetic fertilizers, poisonous pesticides or herbicides,” the retailer noted. “The entire process results in a color-rich, durable style – avoiding the environmental downsides of sandblasting, bleaching and stonewashing jeans.”

Patagonia has expressed its ongoing commitment to improving labor conditions for garment workers, and using Fair Trade Certified sewing for its denim means the workers putting the garments together get fair pay, have better working conditions and are safeguarded against the use of child labor.

In addition to the six new denim styles, Patagonia has grown its Fair Trade clothing styles from 33 pieces in its spring collection this year to 192 for fall 2015.

The dirty way denim has been done is what drove the retailer to change the way it makes jeans.

“We wanted to find an alternative solution to using the standard indigo dyeing methods we once employed to create denim, Helena Barbour, Patagonia’s business unit director for sportswear, said. “It took several years of research, innovation, trial and error, but the result is a new path for denim. We’re hopeful other manufacturers will follow suit and help us change the denim industry.”

The Fall 2015 Patagonia Denim collection includes three styles each for men and women that are “rugged, stylish, performance-driven and up for anything.” Women’s styles are priced at $99 and men’s styles range in price from $99 for regular and straight fit jeans to $119 for performance straight fit jeans with Coolmax fiber-based moisture management, a durable water repellent and mechanical stretch.