The fashion and textile industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world. The sector faces numerous challenges to operate more sustainably and ethically. On 13 and 14 September 2022, the Circular Textiles Days took place in the Netherlands. It brought together companies from the circular textiles sector to address these challenges. COSH! was also there, thanks to it winning the EU S4Fashion* accelerator.

*With the contribution of the EISMEA Programme of the European Union.

How can you develop sustainable jeans?

Did you know that it takes between 7,000 and 15,000 litres of water to produce 1 pair of jeans? Add to that the many harmful chemicals such as insecticides and pesticides that are used in cotton farming, and consider that denim represents as much as 5% of all textiles… Denim producers can therefore play a big role in making the textile sector more sustainable.

The importance of the design phase

The design phase determines 80% of the environmental impact of clothes (source: Sina Steidinger). By designing clothes according to the principles of the circular economy and ecodesign, you can greatly reduce your collection’s environmental impact.

To do so, follow these three principles:

  • Give your product the longest lifespan possible.

  • Avoid chemicals and water use during production.

  • Make sure your product is easy to recycle in the end-of-life phase. It’s important that the materials can be recycled without losing their quality or properties.

Lifespan

A piece of clothing’s life expectancy is determined by many different factors, which we can divide into two categories: physical lifespan and emotional lifespan.

The physical lifespan of a garment is all about quality. By using quality materials, you can ensure that clothes will last longer. The way they were made will also influence this.

Clothes’ emotional lifespan is much more subjective than its physical lifespan. However, if you want to ensure your clothes have a long life, then you need to take this into account in your design.

For timeless designs, Sina Steidinger recommends sticking to one eye-catching element rather than several stand-out features. For example, this could be an interesting cut or silhouette, a special fabric or a striking finish.

New developments

At Circular Textile Days, we were introduced to some organisations that are developing circular textiles in innovative ways. Including, for example, Circular Cotton Cascade, which is a collaboration between Raddis Cotton, the Avans University of Applied Sciences and Yassasree B.V..

In collaboration with several partners, they developed a waterfall system which optimises the use and recycling of cotton. Dutch and Indian companies and research centres came together to work out a business model that also promotes international collaboration.

The cotton is grown organically and regeneratively. That means that several symbiotic plants are grown on the same land to create a stronger ecosystem. This method of farming helps restore soil, which has been depleted by intensive farming and pesticides, to fertile farmland.

They are therefore taking into account how clothes can be recycled at the design phase already. In this way, they’re guaranteeing the textile will get several lives before eventually being composted as geotextiles.

Circular denim brands

Fortunately, there are already denim brands putting these circular principles into use. One of them joined COSH! for the Circular Textile Days: HNST makes sustainable jeans and T-shirts. The brand uses recycled and organic cotton in their collections.

The jeans are easy to recycle as they are made from plant-based materials, such as cotton and Tencel. HNST also ensures that buttons and zips can be easily removed for recycling. And thanks to their European production sites, we can assume that the jeans are made in safe working conditions. So the brand is not only circular but also ethical!

Another denim brand that has integrated circularity is MUD Jeans. Sina Steidinger, freelance denim designer at MUD Jeans, was a speaker at the Circular Textile Days. MUD Jeans' collections are also made from organic and recycled cotton.

MUD Jeans creates ethical, sustainable and circular jeans. And if you'd rather not buy new jeans, you can also just rent some! Thanks to their lease-a-jeans model, MUD Jeans can guarantee that your jeans or jacket will be recycled into something new after use.

The future for the fashion and textile sector looks bright thanks to these circular initiatives. Want to know more about the sector's waste issues and clothes recycling? Read all about it in our blogs!