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Denim rivets are a thing of the past

Written by Marianna Cerini, CNN

For nearly 150 years, denim jeans have been a solid foundation of fashion – almost everyone has a pair everywhere.

They are tough and versatile, they also make a major contribution to the inevitable reputation of fashion as one of the world’s most polluting industries.

Ellen MacArthur Foundation, now a British charity, hopes to change this by encouraging clothing companies to enroll in the “Jeans Redesign Guidelines” and can change jeans design as we know it.

First, the list says that metal rivets should be “designed” or “minimized”. Metal rivets were the basis of the design patented by Levi Strauss in 1873. Known as “XX” pants, it was later named 501. Rivets were originally used to reinforce jeans where they can be cut into pieces, but modern stitching made them completely decorative.

Most of the world’s best jeans are made in Japan. Credit: Chris McGrath / Getty Images AsiaPac / Getty Images

The new directives that form part of the charity’s Make Circular initiative state that jeans should be based on at least 30 home washes, be made of “cellulose fibers from regenerative, organic or transitive farming methods” and be free from hazardous chemicals. It is also forbidden to use sandblasting, stone coating and potassium permanganate (an oxidizing agent that makes denim pale).

“The idea is to extend the life of your jeans as much as possible,” said Francois Souchet, leader of Moda Circular, in his phone call “and (to supply) to start asking everyone in the supply chain: ‘How can this product be redesigned in its second life?'” How can I reduce environmental impact and ethics How do I do it? “”

A brief history of blue jeans

The history of today’s blue jeans begins in 1853, when a Bavarian immigrant named Levi Strauss brought denim to America.

After moving to San Francisco to open his own dry goods business, Strauss began supplying the fabric to a Nevada tailor called Jacob Davis. The cloth became popular among laborers, cowboys and miners as it was more suitable than traditional workwear to withstand harsh conditions. Davis continued to specialize in jeans and later created a pair reinforced with copper rivets placed in pockets and flies.

Denim pieces reveal practical stitches.

Denim pieces reveal practical stitches. Credit: DON EMMERT / AFP / AFP / Getty Images

Trousers evolved over the next century, from blue-collar clothes to navy uniforms, then to the indicators of youth’s rebellion and anger, pop culture and beatniks. John Wayne and Marlon Brando enjoyed famous approvals such as Marilyn Monroe and James Dean, as well as Elvis, Paul Newman, Jefferson Airplane, Marvin Gaye, Brooke Shields (iconic Calvin Kleins, circa 1980), Tupac and Pharrell.

In their transformation, blue jeans maintained an almost egalitarian appeal. It was rediscovered as luxury items and fast fashion almost simultaneously. In doing so, they undertook a large garment production – and ironically, when they were originally created as long-lasting garments, they became semi-disposable commodities.

Italian mill producing centuries-old silk

“What was once one of the most durable items in our wardrobes is something that we now buy and do in obviously disturbing quantities,” said Anika Kozlowski, assistant professor of fashion design, ethics and sustainability at Toronto Canada Ryerson University. . “This led to significant environmental impacts.”

High environmental cost

Traditionally, jeans are made with cotton. Despite being natural and biodegradable, fiber comes from one of the “most thirsty” products in the world. In addition to the water needed to grow cotton, more is used in dyeing, rinsing and finishing processes to achieve the classic look of denim from white cotton (weft) indigo dyed cotton yarn (warp) weaving.

Throughout his lifetime, a single pair of jeans 919 gallons of waterIncluding production and washing according to Levi’s. Bleaching agents, enzymes and pesticides are also part of the process – a denim decomposition technique used to achieve a “troubled” appearance, such as sandblasting.

This process involves spraying abrasive materials at high speed through an air compressor to clean and shape the denim surface. It can have extremely harmful effects on both environmental and denim workers. Sandblasting has been proven to cause silicosis, an incurable lung disease that is often fatal.

A model walks the runway at New York Fashion Week in February 2019.

A model walks the runway at New York Fashion Week in February 2019. Credit: Sean Zanni / Getty Images North America / John John / Getty Images for Res

“Stepping towards a more environmentally responsible supply chain has become almost inevitable,” Kozlowski said. Said. “There are as many problems in the industry as there are now.”

H&M Group, GAP, C&A, Lee Jeans and Reformation are some of the labels committed to participate in Jeans Redesign. More is expected, with the first garments being created using guidelines set for entry into stores next year.

Levi’s is not registered, but the company – and other big names, including Wrangler’s and G-Star Raw, have taken steps to reduce their environmental impact by reducing water use, developing more sustainable mixtures or working with smaller production facilities. To provide ethical training and processing methods.

A model presents a design for Balmain in Paris in March 2018.

A model presents a design for Balmain in Paris in March 2018. Credit: FRANCOIS GUILLOT / AFP / AFP / Getty Images

New technologies help brands to overhaul their production and supply chains. For example, the Spanish mill Tejidos Roy, along with the US-based Indigo Mill Designs and Gaston College Textile Technology Center, created a waterless paint system that uses 100% less water, 89% less chemicals and 65% less energy in the dye.

“But this is still a small niche of the entire industry,” said Trend Bear, WGSN, founder of The Bear Scouts, a platform that links denim head Dio with brands and brands to sustainable manufacturers. “Too many companies did not change as much as they needed, even if there was innovation. Part of this is due to costs and part lack of will.”

More work is needed to reduce the environmental cost of denim, according to Souchet from Make Fashion Circular. “Jeans were an obvious entry point for this kind of effort,” he said. “The denim industry has done little to improve the production process. It is aware of its own problems. Our guidelines want to build on it to create a better fit on the supply chain.”

One of the world’s most distinguished tailors

Brands participating in Jeans Redesign will need to submit annual reports to show their progress. However, both Kurazawa and Kozlowski are skeptical about the program’s long-term effects.

“I personally don’t think the rules will change much,” Kurazawa said. Said. “Manufacturing countries need help with factory workers paying infrastructure and living wages. Initiatives like these guidelines have very few measurable consequences in this regard.”

Kozlowski said that although the initiative is commendable, what is needed is more oversight.

“The driving force for the sustainability of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation is very good, but the problem is that there is no governing body that really ensures the implementation of the standards.” “The supply chain is global, so it’s really hard to implement control.”

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