Top 11 Sustainable Denim Brands

Last Updated Jul 2021

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The year is 2021, and the world is in crisis. We’ve gotten to a point where the earth’s resources can no longer keep up with our manic consumption and insatiable appetites to have more.


The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries globally, a voracious consumer of freshwater contributing to 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

While other varieties of textiles are available, the most widely used fabric for jeans is denim; a rugged, cotton twill textile woven with colored yarn, then dyed into a variety of colors.


Cotton farms have one of the most polluting crops, using 16% of the global insecticides and 25% of pesticides. In addition, it takes 1,800 gallons of water to produce a single pair of jeans. Cotton farms are often found in developing countries prone to droughts and water shortages.


In addition, the harmful chemicals that leak into the surrounding environment and waterways,  polluting local communities that often have little to no means of protecting themselves from contamination. The World Health Organisation released a study linking about 20,000 individuals living near cotton farms to severe illnesses like cancer, congenital disabilities, and miscarriages. Yikes.


However, all is not lost. Now more than ever, we want ethical products produced sustainably. Businesses are starting to pay attention, and the growth of popularity in eco-friendly products is unprecedented. More people than ever are taking steps to a zero-waste lifestyle and making changes in consumption habits to help minimize our impact on the planet’s resources.


We all want to look stylish and enjoy our favorite clothes. A fashion classic, jeans are the quintessential part of any wardrobe. Sustainable jeans made from certified organic cotton are widely available as an excellent alternative to fast, disposable fashion.


We have evaluated several brands of jeans according to quality, price, company values, and practices and are proud to present you with some of our favorites!

What is sustainable clothing?

Sustainable denim is apparel made from organic cotton, recycled cotton, or any other eco-friendly material like hemp or Tencel without the use of toxic chemicals. The most frequently used fabric for denim, cotton is resource-intensive and utilizes harmful chemicals in the manufacturing process.

What is sustainable fashion?

Sustainable fashion is producing clothes in an environmentally and socially responsible way, minimizing consumption of resources in the manufacturing process and employing fair trade practices across the supply chain.

What is slow fashion?

Slow fashion is considering the processes and resources in the manufacturing of clothing, advocating better treatment of people, animals, and the environment.

What is eco-friendly fashion?

Eco-friendly fashion is the production of clothes from manufacturing processes that utilize less resources, contribute to less waste, and do not include harmful chemicals or dyes that can pollute the surrounding environments.

prAna

Based out of California, the United States, prAna has been making athletic and casual wear since 1992. Back then, each piece was created by hand in a garage, while old fruit boxes were used for packaging, and tags came from scrap paper.

Since then, prAna’s come a long way. They were one of the first companies to certify their apparel with Fair Trade USA and aim to have 100% of their products Certified Fair Trade in the next few years. In addition, all their products have GOTS certification.


GOTS stands for Global Organic Textile Standard and is the worldwide textile processing standard that includes environmental and social criteria. In addition, strict monitoring of post-manufacturing labeling ensures honesty to the end consumer.


 Their extensive range of yoga apparel has been delighting practitioners for decades, and they are the leading supplier of climbing apparel.

Top-quality climbing apparel can cost a fortune because of the necessity for incredible durability. However, most of prAna’s pants are reasonably priced below $100 and will stand up to years of use. Their denim range uses organic cotton, ozone wash, and laser finishing.

PrAna’s pants are reasonably priced below $100 and will stand up to years of use.

Everlane

Headquartered out of San Francisco, California, Everlane’s LEED-certified (Leadership and Energy and Environmental Design) factory operations in Vietnam utilize solar power.

In addition, the factory recycles 98% of water in a closed-loop system while the leftover 2% is filtered into drinking water by reverse osmosis.

Any waste from production is mixed with cement and made into bricks for the impoverished locals. Everlane tries to create high-quality, long-lasting products to minimize consumption.

They are working with their production partners to reduce chemicals and plastics and have pledged to eliminate all virgin plastic from their entire supply chain in 2021. They are at 90% of their goal of phasing out plastic use across packaging, offices, stores, and products.


Everlane’s denim collection is made of organic cotton without any pesticides. It uses Roica V550 yarn, the first stretchy yarn in the world not containing harmful chemicals.

Their three signature jeans silhouettes are straight, skinny, and arc, and their extensive range has many colors and cuts. Most jeans go for about $100, and if you’re lucky, you just might nab the perfect pair on offer on their site!

Everlane's jeans go for about $100, and if you’re lucky, you just might nab the perfect pair on offer on their site!

Levi's

You would be hard-pressed to talk about jeans without mentioning Levi’s, the denim juggernaut making jeans for well over a century. It continues to innovate, producing 60% of its products with its proprietary Water<Less technology, saving billions of gallons since its adoption in 2011.

By the end of 2020, the company moved 75% of its cotton supply to more sustainable sources like the Better Cotton initiative, organic farms, and recycled cotton suppliers. They intend to reach 100% in the next few years.

In addition, Levi’s has a range of environmentally friendly jeans using sustainable fabrics like Tencel and hemp made to feel like cotton.

Tencel is a durable, soft fabric that comes from the pulp of trees like birch, beech, and more commonly, eucalyptus. Eucalyptus trees are fast-growing, hardy trees that require little to no fertilizers or chemicals.

The hemp plant grows quickly, uses less than 20 times the water, and takes up about one-third of land compared to conventional cotton.

The world is no stranger to Levi’s. After all, they invented jeans, and over the years, their products have proven to be comfortable, durable, and highly affordable.  Their jeans range from $40 to $80, and jackets hover at about the $100 mark.

Levi's jeans range from $40 to $80, and jackets hover at about the $100 mark.

Desigual

This company from Barcelona, Spain, was one of the first to use recycled or “upcycled” denim. Desigual has been making a push to use sustainable fibers in 50% of their products by 2023.

They also aim to be carbon neutral by 2050 and reduce their carbon footprint by 25% in 2025. In addition, their denim collection and jeans are made by the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI). They plan to use 100% organic, recycled, and BCI cotton by 2025 and phase out single-use plastic by 2021.

Desigual’s range of denim products might not be the cheapest, with jeans starting well over $100 and jackets between $200 and $300. Still, they make an excellent choice for someone wanting uniquely designed apparel made from sustainable sources.

Desigual's denim products starting well over $100 and jackets between $200 and $300.

E.L.V

Headquartered in London, E.L.V denim also takes unwanted jeans and uses the material for their products. They source used denim from secondhand clothing stores across the United Kingdom, and even the branded leather label is made from unwanted material from leather company Tura London.

The product tags are made from recycled paper, while the ink used to print their brand is vegetable ink with a lower carbon footprint than synthetic ink.

E.L.V has a zero-waste policy that shows in all their products. Scraps of denim not used are donated to an artist while the company regularly donates to local schools, providing fabric for textile classes. 


Their unique split leg designs are characteristic of the brand, while their contrast jackets also carry two tones.

Jeans start at $400 while jackets are around $380. Although pricey, you’ll be secure in the knowledge that you saved your new pair of jeans from ending up in a landfill.

E.L.V Denim jeans start at $400 while jackets are around $380.

ABLE

Barrett Ward founded ABLE in Nashville, USA, after seeing impoverished communities while working for non-profit organizations.

The company pays their workers in Ethiopia, Mexico, and Peru fair living wages and also publishes their wages in the spirit of transparency and accountability.

Their jeans cost below $100 while their jackets cost below $200. Although their materials are not sourced from sustainable textiles, ABLE makes an excellent choice for those supporting women’s empowerment and fair trade.

ABLE jeans cost below $100 while their jackets cost below $200.

Outland Denim

Founder James Bartle got the inspiration for Outland when he traveled to Asia and was exposed to the harsh reality of human trafficking.

He created Outland to provide employment and opportunities to women who were vulnerable to being trafficked.

In addition, Outland creates products on demand, reducing material waste and keeping textiles out of landfills. They have taken steps to reduce water consumption, energy use, and carbon emissions. They use natural dyes on all their products and eliminated the use of harmful chemicals in the leather tanning processes.


Good On You, an ethical brand rating system, rates Outland as “Great” for its sincere treatment of workers.

Outland has a small, intimate collection of affordable denim products. Their jeans start at around $200, and their jackets go at $250.

Outland jeans start at around $200, and their jackets go at $250.

Reformation

Reformation was started in 2009 in Los Angeles, California, where their factory remains to this day, employing people from all over the world.

They seek to create a fair and safe working environment for their employees and partner with organizations like the Fair Labor Association, regularly conducting on-site social responsibility audits and ensuring the welfare of their workers.

Reformation is a 100% carbon neutral company since 2015 that seeks to be carbon positive by 2025. They work with non-profit organization Climate Neutral to certify their products and verify that they have achieved zero carbon emissions. 


In addition, all their clothing’s carbon footprint is tracked with an internal tool, RefScale. Each product page shows much more carbon dioxide, waste, and water you can save compared to a conventional product.

Their jeans start at $98, and as a bonus, Reformation offers free international delivery!

Reformation's jeans start at $98, and as a bonus, Reformation offers free international delivery!

DL1961

Collaborating with Honest Company’s co-founder Jessica Alba, DL1961 uses eco-friendly fibers and strives to reduce the consumption of water, dyes, and energy in their production process.

They use unwanted denim and other consumer waste in a closed-loop system, weaving them into new textiles with eco-friendly fibers. In addition, their products incorporate the use of Tencel, an incredibly soft fabric made from the wood pulp of trees and sustainably harvested.  

While a pair of conventional jeans takes about 1,800 gallons to make, a DL1961 pair takes ten thanks to their waterless Ozone and laser technologies. In addition, 98% of the water they do use gets recycled. Solar panels are used to power their factory.

Their jeans start from $128, and each month, DL1961 allocates a portion of sales to shelters and charities in New York.

                                    DL1961's jeans start from $128.

Warp + Weft

This company’s wide range of sizes, 00 to 24, make them one of the most size-inclusive brands. Each pair of Warp jeans take a mere 10 gallons of water to make thanks to their Dry Ozone technology. In comparison, conventional jeans take 1,800 to make. 98% of the water used is also recycled.

In addition, Warp is committed to ethical practices, fair trade, and optimal working conditions. When possible, they use Liquid Indigo dye from Dystar Germany, the most eco-friendly dye. Few denim mills currently use Liquid Indigo.

Their factory has a water treatment plant that allows them to recycle water back into the manufacturing process and use solar panels to power the facility.

Warp jeans start at an affordable $87 and make an excellent choice for those looking to support an environmentally and socially conscious business.

        Warp + Weft jeans start at an affordable price of $87

Nudie Jeans

All Nudie jeans are recycled, fair trade, or GOTS-certified organic. GOTS, the Global Organic Textile Standard, is a worldwide standard that has strict criteria for ensuring products are manufactured environmentally and socially responsible.

In addition, Nudie offers lifetime free tear repairs and 20% off a new pair of jeans when you return an old pair that’s unwanted. The old pair, destined for landfills, then get washed and sold again as part of their Rebirth and Re-Use line or used as patches in their repair services. 


All the cotton used is certified 100% organic, grown without any synthetic pesticides or insecticides.

Nudie’s jeans start at around $180 in addition to their range of jackets, 

t-shirts, and sweaters.

Nudie’s jeans start at around $180 in addition to their range of jackets, t-shirts, and sweaters.

All in all..

 

There’s no denying the effects of climate change and the harm we are doing our environment.

However, the world is taking notice and now more than ever, sustainable products are gaining traction, and companies are starting to take notice of the burgeoning demand.

The next time you shop for clothes, you might want to ask how it’s sourced and made, or ask questions about the supply chain. The more of us pay attention and demand eco-friendly alternatives, the more receptive businesses will be to sourcing or making these products.

Together, we can make a difference!


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