MILAN — Sustainability is on everyone’s minds these day, just don’t call it a trend.
According to denim veteran Jordan Nodarse, founder of Boyish Jeans, a Los Angeles-based denim company established in 2018, “sustainable manufacturing is a movement rather than a trend; it’s going to become the new normal, which is why I like it to call it a movement,” he said.
Starting from the spring 2019 season, the collection of women’s denim pieces will be distributed in Europe through Brama Group, the Italian company which distributes brands including J Brand, Frame, Jean Atelier and Opening Ceremony.
Boyish Jeans focuses on vintage-inspired, worn-out denim garments, including jeans, overalls, jackets and skirts. Items are mostly crafted from rigid denim, which accounts for 70 percent of the brand’s collection, and draw inspiration from men’s silhouettes reinterpreted to cater to the female body and make customers look “sexy,” as Nodarse put it.
In addition to providing women with the right pair of jeans at an affordable price point, the L.A. native designer, who boasts experiences at Grlfrnd and Reformation, is vocal about the brand’s commitment to be eco-conscious, meaning his designs are informed by a circular, vertically integrated, zero-waste approach.
“When we design Boyish Jeans we think about the cycle, we think about the issues and we don’t design products that are just cute or sexy or maybe fill a void in the market, but they’re also consciously manufactured and produced,” he offered.
Manufacturing is based in Thailand and Nodarse said he personally follows every step of the production cycle, making sure every process is done sustainably and is always auditing its suppliers through Intertek.
Acknowledging that sustainability is also driven by efficient practices, Nodarse said Boyish Jeans employs recycled cotton from leftovers coming from its own industrial cycle, as well as from other facilities in Thailand, which the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s Higg Index labels as the best fabric to use. The material is blended with other green fabrics including Lenzing’s Tencell lyocell obtained from wood pulp, transparent cotton from Indian supplier DCI and organic cotton from GOTS and OCS.
In keeping with its vertical approach, the dyeing process boasts sustainable features. For instance, the company is part of the ZDHC, or Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals, coalition of fashion brands and supply chain affiliates avoiding the use of harmful chemicals ending up in fresh water and employs Dystar’s indigo dyes, which feature around 80 percent less sulfates and caustic soda or Archroma’s bio-based dyes.
The company also leverages sustainable washing techniques, with laundries going through two to three wash cycles instead of the traditional six.
“It takes more efforts to think about these things, but if you do them from the beginning…you just have to always adapt the mentality,” he explained. “It’s common sense, it’s the mentality that people should have for their supply chains in fashion.”
The brand’s web site features four sections, including one dedicated to Sustainability. “We’re not afraid to tell people how we do things, we want people to know. All the fabrics we designed with mills around the world, other people are allowed to buy them,” he said.
Educating customers and other brands alike is, in fact, equally important to the Boyish Jeans’ founder. “If I’m doing something and I can’t really explain or elaborate so that people can understand why we did that, it makes me feel like I’m not really doing anything. If I create my own brand I can market it however I want,” Nodarse explained.
A range of initiatives, including liaising with nonprofit One Tree and pledging to plant a tree for each pair of jeans sold on the brand’s online shop, as well as pushing employees and friends of the house to volunteer for a number of nonprofits, are as important to Nodarse as boosting sales. The #cooltocare project launched on the brand’s social media platforms is aimed at educating “people that it’s actually cool to care about the environment and to become an environmentally conscious and socially active person.”
“This is the whole concept of progress not perfection…we’re just trying to be a little bit better every step we take. Small steps but big steps overall,” he concluded.
Although Nodarse doesn’t plan to add men’s wear, focusing instead on expanding its offer to suit different female body types, he has a range of projects in his pipeline. They include launching knitwear, as well as T-shirts and sweaters for spring 2020, crafted from a new fabric.
Used also for denim pants, the fabric will incorporate 40 percent of Lenzing’s Refibra — made of 30 percent recycled cotton waste from garment production combined with sustainably sourced wood pulp — with 43 percent of recycled cotton and only 17 percent of virgin organic cotton.
According to Nodarse, Boyish Jeans’ strategy is rooted in a “sustainable growth. You can’t overgrow yourself, you can’t overproduce…we want to make sure we continue to make great products and we service our most loyal customers, the people who helped us get here. I don’t want to overexpand the brand diluting its equity,” he added.
Such a strategy also resonates with the brand’s distribution both in the U.S. and Europe, as it is focused on select stores that are constantly trained to make sure consumers understand the label’s values.
The brand is carried at L.A.’s Ron Herman boutique, a few Nordstrom’s units, as well as online at Intermix and Shopbop. In Europe, retailers include Paris’ Le Bon Marchè, Santa Eulalia in Barcelona, Babochka in Saint Petersburg, Russia and Helen Marlen, Kiev, among others, while the brand is launching soon at Selfridges. Nodarse noted the company’s online shop is growing “the fastest out of all our stores.”
“My mentality has always been not to sell to more stores but to sell more to the stores that we have…how do we get our clients to understand our product and story better, educate them about sustainability,” Nodarse underscored. “If we do all these things we will end up selling more jeans, but the focus needs to be on our customers first, our planet first, not on our sales.”
“We make sustainable products that are authentic, that are unique and different than everybody else’s. We’re challenging the very means of what people consider denim to be modern nowadays to what we consider modern,” he concluded.