Working Responsibly With Denim

with our industry experts

For this Masterclass, we dive into the key sustainability questions surrounding denim, look at the amazing steps being taken by innovators across the industry today to reduce denim's environmental impact, and offer practical tips and advice for making responsible choices when working with denim. Including topics ranging from navigating trends as a sustainable brand, lease models for jeans, recycled denim, and adaptive design, you'll find all you need to understand this ubiquitous fabric.

From choosing the cotton fibres that constitute your denim, to the dyeing and finishing processes that give denim its desirable qualities, to navigating the end-of-life of denim goods, brands and designers face a whole host of challenges in finding responsible ways to work with denim that don't involve excessive water consumption or the use of harmful chemicals.

In this Masterclass, you will learn:


  • What Is Denim?

    with Stephanie Steele
    Summary

    Before you get started in designing your denim garments, whether for a solely denim label or just as a few pieces, you really ought to understand what denim is. This will help you in sourcing, in working with factories and feeling confident that your product will meet your customers' expectation.

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  • How Are Jeans Made?

    with Stephanie Steele
    Summary

    Now that you have mastered what denim fabric is, you might be starting to design your silhouette. But what makes a staple pair of jeans that your customer will want to use everyday? In this lesson we look at the basic construction of a five-pocket jean and some links to external lessons from Transformers Education where you can learn more about research, understanding your customer, creating tech packs and what quality design actually is.

    Thumbnail image: Blackhorse Lane Ateliers

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  • Sustainable Denim Trends

    with Sylvia Rancani
    Summary

    Sylvia Rancani is the founder of The Denim Window™, a 360˚ showroom based in Amsterdam, that will help you experience what it takes to produce sustainable denim garments. In this bitesize 12-minute lesson, learn from Sylvia's insight on how trends play a role in both understanding your customer and understanding industry innovations, in order to produce garments that will sell.

    The Denim Window™ selects premium denim companies each with a unique category, to showcase all of the steps involved in producing a denim garment: from fibre producers and fabric mills, chemical suppliers for your laundry and finishing, to garment makers and trims suppliers. The intention is to give visibility to producers, and engrain transparency in what is a complex sector of the textiles and fashion industries.

    So what knowledge can you glean from Sylvia on the current denim industry, and where you as a sustainable fashion designer fit within it?

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  • Sustainable Approaches To Denim Dyeing

    with Stephanie Steele
    Summary

    Harmful chemicals are used in the cotton dyeing process, for example, carcinogens in the form of azo dyes. There is the addition of cleaning, washing and sizing agents within this process that also increases the water and energy consumption, along with harmful substances that are washed away. In this lesson we look at the traditional approaches to denim dyeing to give you an underpinning of the processes, before moving on to the sustainable approaches now in use in denim production today.

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  • Environmentally Friendly Denim Laundry Technologies

    with Stephanie Steele
    Summary

    The finishing and washing stages of denim garment production, are arguably where your item comes alive. This is where the design elements you envisioned become 3D on the fabric surface. Processes such as stonewashing, sandblasting, sanforization... whether you are a sustainable fashion brand or not, it is likely you will have considered these ubiquitous denim looks for your design. They are what customers want to see. Or do they?

    According to Good On You, 2 billion pairs of jeans are produced worldwide each year. As the current world population is 7.9 billion, and not all of those people choose or have access to new denim, where are all of those pairs going? The problem for this lesson does not necessarily lie, however, in how many jeans are being produced, but the potentially unnecessary production processes in response to brand demands that make those figures even less palatable.

    One pair of Levi jeans requires 3781 liters of water to produce, and over 10% of the world’s population is currently deprived of access to clean drinking water. The hardest hitting bit, is that it is the driest countries - e.g. Pakistan - that produce cotton for the denim products. There are debates over the water consumption data when fibres such as recycled or organic cotton is used instead of conventional virgin. Yet, the denim laundry stage is water and energy intensive enough that the industry is now reviewing its technologies.

    In this 28 minute lesson we give you a rundown of the existing traditional finishing and washing processes, along with newer environmentally (and people)-friendly technologies, so that you are more equipped when designing, and then when communicating with and visiting factories.

    Thumbnail image: Saitex laser finishing by Whitney Bauck for Fashionista

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Interviews


Technical Tutorials



Additional Reading