Redesigned Denim Ramps Up as More Brands Push Circularity

Kaley Roshitsh
·3 min read

A new guard of circular jeans are coming to market from denim brands like Boyish, Weekday, Reformation and more.

Over the past few weeks, brands like Boyish Jeans, H&M, Seventy + Mochi, Triarchy and Weekday have launched products created with circular design principles based on Jeans Redesign guidelines. Dozens of others including Tommy Hilfiger, Gap, Reformation, Wrangler and Lee are set to launch products in the coming months.

The industry-wide initiative counts more than 60 brands, manufacturers and mills as signatories.

Working with more than 80 denim experts, the Jeans Redesign initiative establishes minimum requirements in designing better — so that recyclability, traceability, durability and material health are the new normal. The guidelines are produced by nonprofit the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, working toward fueling a circular fashion economy.

Denim Do-over Requested by Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Among the criteria, all the redesigned jeans must withstand a minimum of 30 home laundries, be free of hazardous chemicals and comprised of 98 percent cellulose fibers, with metal rivets excluded or reduced for ease in recycling.

“What we have seen is the evolution of the conversation with brands,” said Francois Souchet, lead of Make Fashion Circular at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. “[The guidelines] require quite a few limitations on the ways jeans are made, but brands are starting to look at doing more.”

Although other circular initiatives have been derailed or delayed by the pandemic, Jeans Redesign has been able to stay on track. And with engagement across the value chain, it’s easy for partners to get involved. “Because we have a lot of manufacturers and mills as signatories, that makes it really simple for brands to be part of this,” Souchet explained.

Upon joining the initiative last year, brands were asked to fill out a participation form detailing how they intend to enact the guidelines, including certifications used. In May, they will complete another form recounting what they’ve done to meet their targets. The forms guide the progress reports, which are made publicly available on the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s web site. Guidelines are all open-sourced, so any brand can glean the learnings. The foundation does not claim responsibility for the “due diligence,” but affirmed it will take on annual reassessments to determine whether brands can continue to use the Jeans Redesign logo.

Despite recent strides in denim, manufacturers have still stressed the need for bolder commitment from brands regarding uptake in more sustainably made denim. Altogether, the signatories have committed to making more than three million pairs of redesigned jeans. While the amount varies between brands, one metric Souchet gave was well over 600,000 pairs of jeans produced to date.

Commercial success will determine how the next production run looks. And for that it comes down to style and substance. “They really look great, and they’re products that you want to wear,” Souchet said. “They’re designed for higher durability than ever before.”

In a YouTube mini-documentary called “Redesigning the Fashion Industry: The Story of the Jeans Redesign,” the Ellen MacArthur Foundation talked to brands, manufacturers and style influencers like Marina Testino and Thania Peck, to address the universal importance of jeans and why the initiative is pioneering for circular design.

More brands, it seems, are looking to incorporate circular design principles across their entire product lines.

“That’s definitely a conversation that we’re having with brands. How do we continue this project so that it can reach more scale? Some will have jeans that are part of the permanent collection and some will adapt with more products,” Souchet said. Fast-fashion retailer H&M — which owns minimalist street style brand Weekday — for example, has rolled out jackets, hats and bags under the redesign guidelines.

And more and more, it will be about clearly and transparently communicating efforts like this to consumers.

“I think what we wanted to do is try to provide as much transparency as possible,” Souchet said.

Sign up for WWD's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.