IS DENIM SUSTAINABLE?

If you define yourself an eco-conscious buyer, perhaps you should carefully choose what there is in your closet, and denim should not be your go-to outfit.


Water pollution and toxic chemicals are among the major threats of producing denim.It happened in 2015 that the Aral Sea, once the fourth largest lake in the world, dried up partly as a result of water being diverted to cotton plantations. Eco Watch estimated that 70 percent of Asia's rivers and lakes are contaminated by the 2.5 billion gallons of wastewater produced by that continent's textile industry.

According to Fashion Revolution, making one pair of denim requires around 9,500 litres of water. Cotton, denim fabric’s main ingredient, is a fibre that is heavily irrigated and fertilizedand it uses large amounts of water in its manufacturing and packaging processes. The finishing process, which includes dyeing, washing and special visual effects, also requires the consume large quantities of water.

Moreover, to give your pair of jeans that “live in” look, denim is subjected to multiple chemical washes which increase the presence of heavy metals like manganese, associated with brain damage, into lakes and rivers, that with the time could be transported into the oceans.


These chemicals are hazardous principally for the labours, who risk serious heath damages and could face silicosis, a potentially lethal pulmonary disease.This risk becomes even greater when sandblasting is performed without proper equipment. A 2012 report estimates that 5,000 or more sandblasting workers in Turkey have been infected with silicosis. While Turkey banned the practice in 2009, sandblasting has since moved to less regulated countries such as Bangladesh, China, Pakistan, and Egypt.

It took years to spread awareness that what we buy at low cost it actually is a high cost for our health and our planet. "If people knew that the spraying of permanganate on your jeans to give you that acid- wash look was killing the guy doing the spraying, would you still want that look?” said Francois Girbaud.

Now that we are aware of what is the process behind, we should start finding a more sustainable way to wear what we like.

Vogue listed 8 brand that made their way into sustainability. Among them we find Levi’s, one of the more known denim retailers who has embarked on a series of collaborations and initiatives linked to sustainability, including its most recent Wellthread collection. It is the company’s most eco-friendly capsule to date, and is embrace four main principles: materials, people, environment and process. “It puts a premium on less water, fewer chemicals, 100 per cent recyclability and fair labour,” says the brand.

Choosing to invest in an eco-friendly pair of jeans is a good step ahead, but the aftercare of your denim is as important as your first choice. The use of washing machine should be reduced, instead perhaps we should start considering sponge cleaning or, like an old wives’ tale would say, keeping them in the freezer will kill bacteria and reduce the use of water and energy.


By Alice Del Rossi

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