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The Indispensables: <br> #4 Denim

The Indispensables:
#4 Denim

Producing denim responsibly

‘Denim is the most democratic product in fashion’ said Marco Lucietti, Global Marketing Director of ISKO, at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit this May.

And if we’re talking about its global style appeal, absolutely. But its production, plagued with issues surrounding water consumption, chemical usage and bad labour conditions, is typically far from just.

Universal popularity more than justifies its place on the indispensables list, but such high demand often results in less than ethical manufacturing practices. When every brand wants a slice of the denim pie and the market becomes crowded, it can be hard to navigate.

“Do one thing, and do it well” - a handy motto to live by, but also a great rule to observe when looking to purchase your next item of clothing: find a brand that does one thing and does it well. 

Denim may be one of the most hardwearing and long lasting items in your wardrobe, so don’t begrudge the time it takes to find the perfect pair of jeans – they will pay you back in years of service. 

And the following four brands have taken this investment of time to a whole new level…

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 ‘RE/DONE is not a denim company. RE/DONE is a movement - a movement to restore individuality to the luxury fashion space.’ – RE/DONE

women's denim jeans ethical sustainable

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We’re all familiar with the scenario. You buy a new pair of jeans and then spend the first few wears performing uncharacteristically overzealous actions, in an attempt to get to the desired “worn in” look, as quickly as possible. RE/DONE jeans not only address such simple concerns, but also a few slightly more problematic ones: overproduction and waste. 

Why make more garments when you can simply reuse old ones? Arguably not applicable to all product categories, but given the popularity of the ‘used’ denim look, why not make it authentic and save some energy while you’re at it? Genius.

The RE/DONE team scour the planet for used Levis jeans, take them apart at the seams and remake them into the styles and fits we’ve known and loved for generations. They’re all handpicked and handcut, making every pair ‘as unique as you are’.

women's ethical sustainable jeans blue denim

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Blackhorse Lane 

‘Anyone who appreciates fine denim will comprehend the true essence lies in its good quality, its honesty and the purity of the cloth. There is no better way to invest in something so wholesome and unpretentious’Blackhorse Lane Atelier

Before continuing, I beg you to take a few minutes to read this brand’s About page.

Pretty inspiring stuff right? It makes me truly happy.

Way before I even glimpsed a pair of their jeans, what drew me to Blackhorse Lane was their dedication to authentic and local manufacture. It’s all about building a community around the concept of a less wasteful society. To move away from our obsession of getting things fast and disposing of them soon after.

They even grow Japanese indigo on their own allotment.

Their Walthamstow Atelier is a hub of local London makers, each thoroughly dedicated to their craft. And you can get in on the action too, by spending the weekend making your own pair under their expert instruction. That’s right. Seams, zips, pockets, rivets, belt loops etc. It would actually be impossible to invest more time in this wardrobe indispensable.

Kings of Indigo

‘All Kings of Indigo styles are named after Kings and Queens from the past, keeping their blue blood pumping’ – Kings Of Indigo

women's authentic sustainable denim jeans ethical

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The Kings are also fans of reusing a bit of waste, but they’re taking its deconstruction to a whole new level. In addition to using GOTS certified organic cotton, they source waste jeans and denim fabric, shred it right back down to fibres, spin those fibres to make yarn and then use the yarn to make new fabric. There you have it, recycled denim in some frankly awesome styles.

Not only does this process make use of perfectly good textiles that would otherwise be wasted, it also bypasses many of the harmful processes the initial production of cotton employs. 

second hand women's jeans ethical sustainable fashion denim

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And their eco-mindset doesn’t stop with their jeans either – it comes into their packaging and office energy supply too.

Hiut Denim 

‘We should run our business knowing that there is a silent shareholder called planet earth. And we have to keep that shareholder happy too.’ Hiut Denim

Hiut Denim is based in Cardigan, Wales, the town that not so long ago boasted 400 champion jeans makers, producing 35,000 pairs a week.

But in 2001, it all came to a halt. Our addiction to cheap clothing pushed them out of the market and those champion jeans makers found themselves out of a job.

A pretty heartbreaking state of affairs.

David Hieatt thought so and decided to set about a fairly bold mission: rebuilding the town’s denim industry with the ultimate aim of re-employing all 400 denim maestros.

women's authentic denim blue jeans made in uk wales

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They make timeless styles, of which the slim girlfriend cut above is my favourite. As the founder has previously pointed out, denim styles haven’t really changed that much over the last 40 years, so you might as well invest in a good pair.

And with such a spirited story behind each one, who could resist?

Listen to David talk about his passion for Cardigan, its residents and its denim heritage. It’ll be 16 minutes of your time well spent.

Denim is the fourth and final in the indispensables series for 2016. Check out previous indispensable posts featuring The White Shirt, The Breton Stripe and The White T-Shirt for inspiration on brands and products worth investing in.


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This post is also available on The Huffington Post

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