The denim industry has copped a lot of flack for its unsustainable practices. Reports surfaced last year showing that denim is “on top of the pyramid of water consuming textiles.” It is estimated that between 1800 to 2600 gallons of water are required to produce a single pair of jeans. A single pair. Think of the water used in every step of the production chain – from growing the cotton, then dying the fabric, and washing and distressing the denim. This is especially problematic with the news of California’s water shortage, one of the most established denim manufacturing cities in the world.
Then there are the chemicals. Fertilisers, treating agents, dyes, washing and distressing agents, and heavy metals only begin to scratch the surface of the kinds of harmful synthetic materials and procedures that standard cotton production and subsequent denim production emit, create and proliferate.
In short, this beloved fabric has a dark side. A revaluation of the whole process, from raw fibres to distressed jeans is desperately needed.
You may have heard of Nudie Jeans incredible commitment to responsibility in denim. But are you aware of the Kings Of Indigo (K.O.I)? They are a relatively new brand from Amsterdam that first appeared on the denim scene in July 2011.
Founder Tony Tonnaer’s vision has been clear from the beginning – to create sustainable and responsibly made products without undercutting quality and modern flare. He launched K.O.I with seven years experience in the field, previously working as Denim Director for Kuyichi (another environmentally friendly brand).
K.O.I uses recycled yarn as much as possible. Old fabric and clippings are cut down into fibres which are spun into yarn. The yarn is then woven into fresh new fabric which is in turn used and reused. The recycling process reduces water and chemicals that are needed to grow new cotton. K.O.I even uses recycled cotton in their Japanese selvedge line – the undyed weft yarns are supplemented with recycled fabric creating a 50/50 split between reused and new fabric. As a final touch, K.O.I’s packaging is also made from recycled materials.
K.O.I’s utilizes Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified cotton. Organic cotton is free of synthetic pesticides and fertilisers and the GOTS certification ensures that the proper processes, labour conditions and sustainable materials are used to reduce an environmental footprint.
K.O.I’s final environmental innovation is the Kings Of Laundry line. This selection of jeans is distressed using lasers and is washed with Ozone (O3). O3 reduces water usage and the lasers replace harmful distressing agents such as bleach. Alternative environmentally friendly washing techniques are also used by Tortoise Jeans in their Wiser Wash and Neuw Denim’s Air Wash.
It’s exciting to see such creative thinking amongst the seasoned veterans and newest players in the denim industry. The possibility of creating a product we all love without jeopardizing our ethics or the environment is something we should all care about. We love jeans, and there are measures we can take, choices we can make, that allow us to wear our denim proudly without exploiting and destroying our ecosystem.
– James Davidson