Nudie Jeans has just released its 2020 Sustainability Report, a review the Swedish denim brand founded in 2001 has been compiling since 2015 describing all the sustainability activities it does annually.
“When we started Nudie Jeans 20 years ago, we were clear about one thing: we would do it our way. Back then sustainability wasn't the talk of the town, like it is today. Still, we knew enough about the impact of the fashion industry that we decided to do everything in our power to make a difference–for the workers, their communities, and the environment,” said Joakim Levin, CEO, Nudie Jeans.
Referring to the past year’s exceptional situation, he added: “In terms of our sustainability ambitions and work, last year made it even more clear that sustainability is one of our core pillars. Much of our sustainability-related work was carried out as planned despite that the pandemic affected our daily life and other parts of the business.”
“The year 2020 was an unusual one, but we still finalized many of the activities and projects we set out to do,” he continued. “Our vision is to become the world’s most sustainable denim brand. We know that we’ve come a long way, but our work never stops because we know we have just as long a road ahead of us.”
In 2020 Nudie used 98.6% sustainable products, an amount that has increased 0.7% compared to 2019. Despite this 1.4% of materials are still not sustainable ones, and it aims to continue bettering this ratio.
Around 95% of the total fibers it uses include certified organic cotton and Fairtrade organic cotton only. Along with it, it is also looking to expand its fiber portfolio with new sustainable materials and pre- or post-consumer recycled fibers.
The denim brand has been involved for a long time in guiding its designers and product developers to work with 100% sustainable materials. In 2018 it created the Nudie Jeans Material Tool, a document that is constantly updated upon Made By’s Environmental Benchmark for Fibers and the Higg Materials Sustainability Index (MSI).
In 2020, it reached a new step by including recycled down and recycled acrylic fibers. In 2021 it will further update it in accordance with Textile Exchange’s new Preferred Fiber and Material Matrix.
The Nudie Jeans Material Tool includes three categories of sustainable fibers–Sustainable, Non-Sustainable and Do Not Use–all of which are defined as sustainable by Nudie Jeans. Through this tool it wants to highlight the most sustainable, traceable and circular fibers, with the aim of pushing its development further.
In the 2020 report, it clarified its view on BCI and conventional cotton by moving these fiber types to the “Do Not Use” category. “We do not classify BCI cotton as a sustainable fiber as it is neither organic nor traceable,” the report states.
Differently, among “Sustainable Fibers” it includes recycled, recyclable, reused, biodegradable or traceable fibers, but also recyclable but not biodegradable, certified virgin materials, RWS or GOTS-certified wool, RWS or GOTS-certified animal hair and fibers, and it admits certified organic animal husbandry and vegetable tanning processes.
Among “Non Sustainable Fibers” it groups, for instance, conventional virgin fibers and highly processed chemical usage and lack of controlled animal welfare.
Part of the “Do Not Use” category, in addition to BCI cotton, are leather and skin from wild-caught animals, exotic animals or vulnerable and endangered species, among others.
The company defines a garment or accessory as sustainable when it contains at least 70% sustainable fibers as defined in its material tool. To guarantee the sustainability of the fibers and textiles, it requests supporting certificates from its suppliers.
Repairing is king
“We’ve been repairing, reusing and recycling denim since long before circularity even had a hashtag,” states the report, recognizing such actions as crucial for Nudie’s activity and cultural approach, while recognizing a waste hierarchy. “Our take on sustainability perfectly aligns with our passion for worn-in denim. Repairing a garment, making it last longer, is more sustainable than recycling it.”
In the company’s own Repair Shops all Nudie Jeans can be repaired but if visiting a Nudie Jeans Repair Shop is not possible, one can order a free Repair Kit for DIY repairs from the brand’s website.
In 2020, Nudie Jeans repaired 45,900 Nudie Jeans, 27.5% less compared to 2019, and sent out 2,853 Repair Kits globally, which is 475 more compared to 2019, an increase of 22.5%.
Reusing is a must
Beyond repairing, the use of garments can be prolonged through exchanges with others, by gifting them, redesigning or reselling them, or in case they are a pair of Nudie jeans, handing them into the Reuse Program in one of its Repair Shops where they offer a 20% discount off a new pair.
The company then collects preloved Nudie Jeans denim, washes, repairs and resells them as unique secondhand pieces with its Reuse program. During 2020, it resold 2,238 pairs of secondhand Nudie Jeans, though, always for Covid-19 related reasons, 36% less than in 2019.
Nudie Jeans is also exploring recycling as the last step of closing the loop, as it reduces waste and the consumption of virgin raw materials. “We are constantly looking for new ways to extend the life of our cotton fibers,” the report explains. “When it comes to recycling our own products, we try to avoid mixing our organic cotton with other products containing conventional cotton. In this way, it can be used again as recycled organic cotton, which we consider the most sustainable alternative.”
This way every pair of Nudie Jeans is a material resource that helps to preserve the use of new virgin raw materials. The company can reuse them, as repair patches, as material for production of denim accessories or as recycled fibers in a cotton blend for a new pair of jeans.
In 2020, it collected 9,218 pairs of post-consumer Nudie Jeans in its Repair Shops, 20% less compared to 2019. The lockdowns caused by Covid-19 have also impacted the company’s circular activities according to national restrictions at all markets.
A do-good blanket
In 2020 Nudie launched a new product, Ture Recycled Blanket, a blanket manufactured with a material composition containing 65% recycled wool and 15% polyester, together with 20% recycled post-consumer Nudie jeans collected through its Australian Repair Shops only. It was made in collaboration with Waverly Mills, one of Australia’s oldest working textile mills existing since 1874. This project is an example of a locally recycled product and a way of closing the loop in the Australian market, a starting point for fresh inspiration and many new future projects.