In 2019 Ellen MacArthur Foundation launched (EMF) Jeans Redesign guidelines with all the stakeholders to offset pollution from the denim supply chain.
The guidelines outline an initial point for the industry to design and make jeans with the principles of a circular economy. Balanced on material health, durability, enduring design and recyclability, 3 design-led principles reinforce Jeans Redesign: eradicate waste and pollution, retain products and materials in use, and regenerate natural systems.
Two years on the guidelines is still an ambitious yet effective way to scale circular fashion, nevertheless, some standards are steadily reported as the hardest requirements for members to meet.
In addition, calling for more collective efforts and support from policymakers. And a new report by EMF digs into the bottlenecks, solutions and innovation breaches faced by the 72 brands, retailers, apparel manufacturers, fabric mills and laundries signed up to the Jeans Redesign’s guidelines and definitions for a circular economy.
Laura Balmond, EMF’s Make Fashion Circular lead said, “The Jeans Redesign supports organizations to build the confidence to explore and learn about how to use circular economy principles to put products on the market.”
“The collective challenges and solutions identified made it clear where investment and innovation are needed,” Balmond added.
The new updates in the guidelines include an obligatory recycled content requirement that imitates the industry’s extensive use of post-consumer recycled content. EMF reports that more than half of Jeans Redesign members now include recycled content in their fabrics and jeans.
The new requirement is a minimum of 5% recycled content on average by weight in the total fabric composition for fabric mills, or average by weight in the total textile composition of every garment for brands, retailers, and garment manufacturers. Recycled content should be validated with the Global Recycled Standard or the Recycled Claim Standard.
Two years later, the common guidelines remain an ambitious yet effective way to scale circular fashion, but some criteria are consistently reported as being among the toughest requirements for participants to meet.
Along with calling for more collaborative efforts and support from policymakers, a new report by EMF dives into the barriers, solutions and innovation gaps faced by the 72 brands, retailers, garment manufacturers, fabric mills and laundries signed up to the Jeans Redesign’s guidelines and definitions for a circular economy.
While 98 percent of participants have ensured a minimum of 98 percent cellulose-based fabrics (cotton, hemp, lyocell, modal and viscose) in their textile composition, most participants name finding cellulose-based fibers from regenerative sources as “incredibly challenging.”
However, companies, are discovering projects that will deliver future solutions. For example, EMF reported that BAM Bamboo Clothing is working to measure the impact of bamboo cultivation on biodiversity with an opinion to making a standard for regenerative bamboo cultivation.
Maintaining denim’s ever-important comfort factor poses its own set of headaches. Participants report that limiting non-cellulose-based fibers to just 2 percent of fiber content is outside the perimeter of the high-stretch styles that appeal to consumers.
Circular trims continue to be a hurdle. Brands struggle with sourcing metal zippers that can be easily removed for recycling. Removable buttons are an alternative and are used by 32 percent of participants, but many reports paying a premium for the components.
Initially, into the pandemic, worries were cast about whether “sustainability” would become the line-item companies abolished to reduce costs, but Jeans Redesign participants have remained dedicated.
Despite the unprecedented disruption to global supply chains, 80 percent of participants made fabric or jeans compliant with the guidelines. Additionally, the foundation said 54 percent of participants signed on since the pandemic began.
Balmond said it is too premature to understand if the Jeans Redesign-compliant jeans available in the market are withstanding everyday wear.
“There is a challenge across the fashion industry to obtain this data for products, as used products are rarely returned to the original brand or manufacturer,” she said.
“This presents an opportunity for business models that begin to track and take back products to support building insights on design and production methods for more durable products.”
Challenges aside, participants have demonstrated that it is possible to make jeans fit for a circular economy.