This week in sustainability, WWD looks at how denim brands are managing the crisis. Following a busy Earth Day week in terms of announcements, denim brands are still looking to weather the coronavirus like any other.
MORE JOIN JEANS REDESIGN INITIATIVE: Wrangler and Banana Republic are among 17 new signatories to the Jeans Redesign initiative in an “unwavering commitment to circular economy,” despite the coronavirus.
Last July, The Ellen MacArthur Foundation — under its Make Fashion Circular division — launched its Jeans Redesign initiative with Gap, The Reformation, H&M Group and more as inaugural signatories. Along with brands, garment manufacturers and fabric mills have joined.
For 10 years, the foundation has aimed to accelerate the transition to a circular economy. Later this year, the first pair of redesigned jeans will be up for sale.
Also a signatory to the initiative, Lee Jeans like others capitalized on the global media opportunity of Earth Day to reveal its public sustainability goals.
While not part of this initiative, Diesel listed some progress of its own on Wednesday. Although representing only a portion of its spring 2020 collection, its redesigned styles are treated with a minimal amount of GreenScreen certified chemicals, a relatively new certification recognized by Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals and Clean Production Action.
But with the five-week total of job losses in the U.S. already reaching 26 million, according to the Labor Department, furloughs were imminent — a reality for other denim firms such as Levi’s and DKNY parent company G-III — furloughing about 4,000 employees at the former and about 60 percent of G-III wholesale operations in all.
ADDED MORALE FOR L.A. MANUFACTURING: Last week, Centric Brands-owned Hudson Jeans unveiled its social impact initiative, Lights on Los Angeles — or LOLA — in effort to reengage furloughed cutters, sewers and craftspeople in making non-medical grade protective masks.
The initiative follows the lead of others in the industry, and in this case, masks will be made entirely of upcycled materials. Proceeds will cover the cost of worker wages, with any additional proceeds going to local L.A.-based charities.
It is a separate effort from the L.A. Protects Initiative — which sustainable brand Reformation spearheaded alongside the mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti.
When asked if denim is still considered a commodity during these times, Maria Borromeo, chief executive officer of Hudson, replied: “Premium denim is most certainly a discretionary purchase. However, denim is one of the most personal, utilitarian fabrics, and its timelessness has a lot of value. It’s a craft and a true common denominator.”
Post-pandemic, Borromeo sees a shift toward “practicality and a move away from trend-driven denim. Durability and quality will be king,” citing a back-to-basics shift and a more sustainable way of manufacturing.
“We must put quality before quantity, people before profit,” reiterated Borromeo.
ISKO VOWS TO KEEP STAFF: In a similar notion, sustainable denim brand Isko, which espouses 60 different global touchpoints, is declining to lay off any of its “valued workers.”
While enthusing denim has never been effectively seasonal, Burcu Almali, head of digital marketing and communications at Isko, reaffirmed “as this outbreak does affect the entire fashion market, it also impacts the denim industry,” citing the obvious “decrease in sales” and orders, yet also dwindling demand for new styles.
“It is still early to talk about the consequences of the outbreak, but it is obvious that all norms and perspectives will have to be reconsidered,” Almali said.
Isko will continue to focus on its reduction strategy, minimizing the use of raw materials and driving innovation and responsible solutions for its partners, and is currently operating under the recommended government guidelines to ensure safety for workers.
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