Patagonia wants to change what it calls “the filthy business” of denim manufacturing.
With its new denim collection it launched this week, Patagonia said it is raising the bar for environmental and human rights practices, using innovative, environmentally friendlier dyes, Fair Trade Certified sewing practices and only organic cotton grown without pesticides, herbicides or synthetic fertilizers.
“Traditional denim is a filthy business,” said Helena Barbour, Patagonia’s business unit director for sportswear. “That drove us to change the way our jeans are made. We wanted to find an alternative solution to using the standard indigo dyeing methods we once employed to create denim. It took several years of research, innovation, trial and error, but the result is a new path for denim. We’re hopeful other manufacturers will follow suit and help us change the denim industry.”
To promote awareness about the denim industry’s environmental and social harms, Patagonia has created a campaign called “Because Denim is Filthy Business.” The campaign, which runs across Patagonia’s Web site, social channels and catalogues, focuses on the problems with the current denim manufacturing standards and solutions for change.
The conventional denim production methods typically involve the use of dangerous chemicals to grow conventional cotton and dyeing it produces millions of gallons of waste water, Patagonia noted, and too often jeans are sewn in factories where workers may not be treated fairly.
Patagonia’s new dyeing and manufacturing process uses dyestuffs that bond more easily to cotton, minimizing the resource-intensive and environmentally destructive indigo dyeing, rinsing and garment washing process used to create traditional denim.
Greatly reducing the environmental impact of the denim supply chain, Patagonia is using 84 percent less water, 30 percent less energy and emitting 25 percent less carbon dioxide than conventional synthetic indigo denim dyeing processes.
In addition, all Patagonia denim is now made with organic cotton grown without chemical or synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. The company said the process results in a color-rich, durable style, avoiding the environmental downsides of sandblasting, bleaching and stonewashing jeans.
It’s part of a trend in the industry that has seen several brands commit to changing their manufacturing methods to more environmentally friendly practices.
The Fair Trade program’s market-based approach helps workers receive fair compensation for their labor, while creating better working conditions and safeguarding against the use of child labor.
The fall Patagonia Denim collection produced under the new program includes three men’s and three women’s jeans that are described as rugged, stylish and performance-driven. They are made with organic cotton, with some styles blended with Invista’s Coolmax mechanical stretch fabric.
Overall, Patagonia has grown its Fair Trade clothing styles to 192 for fall from 33 this past spring.
Based in Ventura, Calif., Patagonia is a certified B-Corp., recognized for its environmental activism, contributing over $76 million in grants and in-kind donations. The outdoor specialist has 131 stores globally.