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WHY IS DENIM SO DIRTY?

Upon E.L.V. Denim's capsule collection launch for us we explore the issues surrounding conventional denim

How can something so good be so bad?

We recently found a denim line who’s story we fell in love with – and luckily they have just made a limited edition capsule collection for us so we have really gotten into all things denim. As much as we all love the fabric, and iconic as it is, it turns out it’s one of the worst things we can be producing. To justify making the switch and investment in designers aiming to deconstruct the hazards of conventional denim, we wanted to highlight a few of the facts.

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It takes 1,500 gallons of water just to grow the cotton needed to produce one pair of jeans. Then a bit more to manufacture the denim-give it a distressed look, dye it a bit darker, etc. To put this into context, the Levi’s manufacturing plant outside El Paso, TX, uses 15% of the entire city’s water supply. That is one plant in one place, and there are hundreds of thousands of denim manufacturing centres around the world.

 

450 million pairs of jeans are sold annually in America alone. It’s hard to know what that figure would look like if it was calculated internationally. Imagine the amount of water that takes when multiplied so exponentially – and then the pesticides used alongside it to grow the amount of cotton needed. Unless it’s organic, it’s safe to assume cotton is laden with chemicals. Essentially it’s all a pretty toxic cocktail of resources.

 

Then comes the dyeing process and the damage it incurs upon the water sources nearby. Chemicals such as such as cadmium, mercury and lead are all used in denim dyeing with traces of this substances ending up in both our clothing and basically everything and everyone nearby.

 

Nearly 1 billion people do not have direct access to clean water. And too often we’re polluting the precious fresh water sources we still have to create fashion. Take Tehuacan, Mexico, one of the world’s largest producers of denim. The city used to be known for it’s beautiful hot springs and canals. But starting in the ’90s, the denim factories moved in. Now? Now the canals are stained a bright, artificial blue from the dyes. City residents are plagued with with a constant barrage of chemicals in the air and in their local watersheds.

Keep in mind that the countries who produce the highest quantity of textiles, including denim, are China and India, where many people are still struggling to obtain the most basic necessities. On top of issues of food and pollution, these countries are now battling the serious consequences of such successful textile industries; dangerously contaminated water sources. Clean drinking and bathing water is often compromised and locals are forced to ingest water which has been treated with dyes from nearby manufacturing factories.

Distressed denim, a popular trend in the last several years poses different threats to the environment. These articles of clothing endure the coloring of toxic dyes, acid baths, sand blasting and to finish it al off are chemically bathed – all of that just to produce the distressed look.

 

Another story we found out about Tehucan, Mexico. Tehucan is also has many industrial laundries which are responsible for the finishing touches of denim. The laundering of these jeans includes the use of bleach, dye and detergents – all of which are dumped as waste water into the area’s rivers. This waste water is then used to irrigate corn fields – food that is shipped globally for our consumption. Unfortunately, these laundries are unregulated and Mexico is not the best at regulating the fashion industry. Inevitably it will boil down somewhat to us as consumers to demand change.

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We will stop with the disturbing facts, but we do hope this is will install some pause for thought. Jeans should be made to last, so many have been. There are hundreds of thousands of pairs of vintage jeans that can be recycled and upcycled to create new – the fabric is so long lasting that it wears well and can easily be recreated. Our new line, E.L.V. Denim does just that – they remake classic denim pieces into new jeans and jackets, using every single part of the previous item in the process. The result is zero waste and a unique piece of fashion (upon which they place a lifetime guarantee).

 

It is up to the designers to innovate, but also up to the consumers to consider their purchasing power.