I have a friend, Niklas, who has been pestering me for weeks now about tips on buying a pair of new, ethical jeans. I have been putting it off for months, as I have been busy with other things (exams, work, drinking beer), but I hear that Niklas’ current pair of jeans is, in fact, falling apart. The boy’s legwear is in desperate condition.
As we all know, jeans are such a basic item in (almost) everyone’s wardrobe that, as a piece of clothing, they barely need any other introduction. There are also quite a few good options in the markets today, so I think there has never been a better time to buy a pair of ethical jeans.
During the last year or two or so, the many complications of garment manufacturing have been widely covered by the western medias and I’m sure that this topic as well as the basic issues are familiar to almost everyone. So, the problems with denim production are not unique, but seen throughout the garment industry: non-organic sourcing of cotton and other fibres along with toxic chemicals and dyes used during the manufacturing process that are a danger to the environment if chemical waste is not properly disposed of. The same chemicals are often also a safety hazard to the employees if and when there is a lack of proper safety structures. Also worth mentioning is the excessive amount of water and energy that are needed, according to Carmen Silla, the CEO of Jeanologia (in a 2012 issue of Apparel Insiders): annual production of jeans worldwide is 5 billion units and each pair goes through 70 liters of water, 1.5 kilowatt-hours of energy and 150 grams of chemicals. It’s also a familiar story with social issues: exploiting a labour force with below-standard wages and inhumane working hours as well dangerous working conditions.
Niklas doesn’t want any of the stuff mentioned above, so we need to find alternatives.
Before we finally get to the point, A GENERAL TIP FOR BUYING A PAIR OF JEANS for all you men folk out there: buy a pair of jeans that fits. Ask help, if you aren’t sure. Take them to a tailor if they need adjusting. Right away – not six months later. You’re welcome.
PLUS!!! A PRO-TIP FOR SERIOUS JEAN-BUYERS: buy two pairs of that well-fitting pair. You can thank me later.
So, my personal favourites in the menfolks ethical jeans front are Nudie Jeans:
The flagship brand for cool, fair jeans with street credibility, the Swedish brand Nudie is the bio bee’s knees: complete with in-store indie rock shows and whatnot.
According to their website, since last year, their jeans are all 100% organic cotton – which is great! (but this claim seems to officially apply only to their denim items, however! I couldn’t find the percentage/claim for their whole line of cotton products, but a quick glimpse of their collection reveals that most of it is organic anyway). The brand produces their jeans in Italy (83%) and Tunisia (17%) and while there can be a good bunch of ambiguity in manufacturing in these countries, Nudie’s biggest selling point on the ethical front is their complete transparency regarding their production chain and sites: lists of all manufacturers and subcontractors, their contact details, locations and addresses are available on the Nudie website, as well as their history with Nudie Jeans, relations between different subcontractors and their latest Audit Reports. So if there is anything going on in the production chain that the customer does not like – the information is actually easily available on their website for the engaged, well-informed consumer. As an example: some of Nudie’s Italian subcontractors use the controversial sand blasting as a technique to distress and “wear” the denim. According to the company however, less than 5% of their total manufacturing involves sandblasting. The company claims on their website that they are responsible and mindful about the method and that all appropriate safety measures are in place. While I’m sure you can debate the accuracy of such claims, you have to appreciate the honesty and transparent approach.What Nudie-jeans also excel in is the variety of their fits and styles! While it seems like the brand is directed more toward guys than girls, according to the brand, some fits will look swell on ladies too.
Prices seem to be around the 100€ mark and the brand sports 11 different fits with different washes, ranging from tight slim fits to looser, more relaxed ones. Super extra bonus for the great features of the website: their “Fit Guide” let’s you compare different fits simultaneously (360 degrees, none the less!) and displays the measurements of the pair of jeans according to the waist size selected. Brilliant! I wish every brand did this.
Overall, there are surely lots of other jean brands to choose from if you’re looking for an ethical pair – but when it comes to all factors: production & transparency, price, quality and look & style; Nudie Jeans gets my official stamp of approval!!!
(Thanks Nudie Jeans for letting me use photos from your Press package!)