They're one of the hardest-working items in our wardrobes, but producing a pair of denim jeans puts an awful amount of pressure on the planet's resources and has dire impacts on the wellbeing of our landscape. A landmark Greenpeace report noted that it takes some 7,000 litres of water to produce just one pair of denim jeans, much of it full of hazardous chemicals that inevitably end up back in our world's waterways, and that's not taking into account the impact of monocultures, whereby vast fields of cotton (the fibre from which denim is made) wreak havoc on local ecosystems.
But it's a material that still has a sartorial future thanks to the ingenious innovation of manufacturers that care for the environment whilst contemporaneously loving the feel and fit of denim. And today, there are several many brands on the market that offer a variation of sustainable (or, better put, less environmentally-impactful) denim, such as Gap's BetterMade line, Kelly Slater's Outerknown, again&again and Frank And Oak. Add to that list Cos, which has unveiled its Responsible Denim line, with styles ranging from super-skinny through wide-leg, with colours varying from raw denim to rich black.
Made from 100% organic cotton, and by removing non-recyclable rivets to end-of-life garments, most styles contain up to 65% recycled cotton and off-cuts from the production process. Cos also claims that natural colours are used, eliminating chemical pesticides and significantly reducing the amount of water and energy used. “It has always been part of our ethos," explains Cos' head of sustainability. "We design products with the physical and aesthetic attributes that allow our garments to be long-lasting. High-quality materials and production mean they can be worn over and over again, and still perform well.”
Cos recommends avoiding washing your denim, as the live element of the fabric (being a natural fibre) means that, over time, your jeans will mould to your body shape, resulting in a piece that's unique to you. Instead of machine-washing, hand-washing your jeans (inside-out) with lukewarm water and specialised denim detergent will help protect and preserve them, ensuring they're part of your wardrobe for a lifetime. And there's nothing more sustainable than that.