Often considered a brand for real denim aficionadas, G-Star RAW probably isn’t a label that comes to mind when you’re contemplating environmentally responsible brands. That’s all going to change, though. The Amsterdam-based denim label, which is partially owned by Pharrell, has been quietly making huge advancements with regards to environmental and social responsibility for over a decade.
Founded in 1989, G-Star RAW has positioned itself at the forefront of the denim industry. Since its origins, the brand has always been focused on innovation, having produced pioneering products including inventing the ‘3D Denim’ approach to jeans construction in 1996, the RAW for the Oceans collection in 2015 and now with the launch of its “most sustainable jeans ever.”
The launch of the “most sustainable jeans” line is particularly interesting since it builds on the brand’s foundation of conscious production, which has been a point of investment since 2006. Since then, the brand has partnered with the United Nations and countless non-profits including Greenpeace, Canopy, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and others to address a range of environmental and social issues inherent in fashion manufacturing. In fact, its own foundation, GSRD, provides educational programming for the communities that produce its garments, and its long-term partner factories like Saitex and Artistic Milliners are recognised as some of the industry’s cleanest and best, which also partner with ethical fashion label Everlane).
Launching this month, G-Star’s “most sustainable jeans ever” are made using organic cotton, a cleaner-than-ever indigo dying technique, “eco-finished” buttons that avoid the harsh chemistry of typical electroplating and a wash process that recycles 98 percent of the water involved (the other 2 percent simply evaporates).
Image courtesy: G Star Raw
Undoubtedly, G-Star’s new collection is raising the bar when it comes to denim done right. To prove it, G-Star underwent a certification process with the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute and earned a gold rating for its fabric — the highest ranking any denim has ever received from the third-party sustainability certifier.
Cradle to Cradle certification is the most rigorous in the world. It looks at material health, social responsibility, water stewardship, use of renewable energy and the cyclability of the product. A nonprofit, the Cradle to Cradle Institute has become one of the most significant players in the conversation about the circular economy.
Beyond being made from the most environmentally responsible materials possible in the most human-and-earth-friendly factories possible using the least toxic processes possible, the label has also considered the product’s afterlife. From the outset,G-Star designers are thinking about how to make each garment as recyclable as possible.
Perhaps what’s most impressive, though, is that G-Star is open-sourcing the entire development of its most sustainable denim offering, a consequence of working with Cradle to Cradle, which automatically makes everything it certifies open source. Taking almost two years, the brand has pioneered a new means of production, which include the following:
1. G-Star partnered with its suppliers, DyStar and Artistic Milliners, to develop the cleanest indigo dyeing process in the world. The cleanest indigo technology ever was formulated using 70% fewer chemicals, no salts and producing no salt by-product during the reduction and dyeing process, consequently saving water and leaving clean and recyclable water effluent.
2. The most sustainable washing techniques, responsibly made. G-Star worked with long-standing partner Saitex to prepare and wash the garments with their utmost care for people and environment. By employing sustainable technologies, good chemistry and renewable energies, 98% of the water will be recycled and re-used and the other 2% will be evaporated, leaving no water to be wasted or discharged into the local environment.
3. Only 100% organic cotton was used. Using cotton which is grown without synthetic
fertilisers and toxic pesticides sustains and improves the health of soil, ecosystems and societies.
4. All other components not conducive to easy recycling were removed. G-Star removed all rivets and zippers and instead used eco-finished metal buttons. Also, all labelling and carton packaging is responsibly sourced.
“We see sustainability not only as an absolute must as a business practice, but also as an opportunity to think about denim design in a new way,” said G-Star marketing strategy director Sean Peron. “It’s about seeing how sustainability can be an enabler of new design, and not viewing it as a boundary or a barrier.
While the brand has been pursuing this path towards transparency in a variety of ways for years, like the website featuring a “where is it made?” button by each product that details its production history and factory details, this recent development is making huge strikes forward by offering solutions to establish a more sustainable and more ethical denim production globally
Following on from the “Most Sustainable Denim Ever” release, G-Star Raw is set to launch more sustainable denim for autumn 2018, and this time in partnership with Jaden Smith.