S & S Spotlight: Nudie Jeans

The S & S Spotlight Series delves into the stories of sustainable brands.

At A Glance

Forget Calvins, Levis, True Religion, Diesel, if there’s a denim apparel brand you should have on your brain it is Nudie Jeans. Nudie Jeans was born in Gothenburg, Sweden and founded in 2001 by Maria Erixon. With a mission to encourage consumers to care for and repair the jeans they own, Erixon was motivated to designing denim jeans because “the more you wear and repair jeans, the more character they have. Denim is a living fabric that changes over time – and they are for everyone, of all ages and genders”.

Nudie centers around the key philosophy of ‘lagom’ – translating from Swedish to imply, ‘just the right amount’ and getting balance right for the men and women who wear its designs but also those that make it, and for the planet!

If you weren’t already aware, denim in its various guises be it trousers, cute jackets, accessories or bags is one of the most the most water intensive garments to make and treat. It takes approximately 505 gallons of water to create a single pair of standard jeans.  That’s before we look at the distressing or further processes to make the over-worn effect styles. It has also been approximated that it would take around 14 years to drink the amount of water used to make 1 pair of jeans.

Organisational Practices

Addressing the use of water is fundamental to the sustainability of the fashion industry as 20% of global water pollution is caused by textile processing. This should also be evaluated in conjunction by the fact that by 2030, 47% of the world’s population is predicated to face sever water shortages, hence the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #6 – Clean Water and Sanitation for all.

With this context in mind, evaluating the water usage in denim through a life cycle analysis pinpoints why Nudie Jeans dedication to the fashion revolution and closing the loop is so laudable. Considering the usage of H20 in denim, it runs through an endless loop as it is consumed, evaporated but in turn affecting the quality and quantity of certain streams impacting those in less developed countries. Assessing the manufacturing process of denim factors to consider are:

  • The energy consumption in farming and preparing cotton
  • Any pesticides used in the farming cotton process
  • Energy used to spin threads
  • Chemicals running into water used in dying processes
  • Energy used to cut and sew the materials
  • Energy and GHG emissions occurring during the transportation and retail phases
  • Energy and water used when the product is with the customer (washing, drying, ironing)
  • End life – how is the product discarded, is it reused, recycled, upcycled or thrown into the bin?
  • (For those of you new to S & S, take a look at my explanation of a life cycle analysis here)

Nudie’s philosophy of getting the balance right comprises of 5 core pillars:

  • Non toxic denim; producing in the most sustainable and fair way possible

Since 2012 the brand has created each pair of denim with 100% organic cotton. Why is this important you may ask? Did you know that conventional cotton accounts for 25% of the global use of artificial pesticides but covers only 3% of global farm land.

Nudie Jeans addresses sustainability from the social standpoint as it only partners with suppliers with aligned values. They collaborate with Fair Wear Foundation to ensure safe and ethical working conditions across their entire value chain and production.

One aspect I particularly find attractive about the brand and where many others fall short is their transparency surrounding their production guide publishing exactly where the items are created as shown below.

  • Dry denim; believe that when you wear a pair some magic will come your way

The brand is not only promoting a sustainable culture within the denim industry but are stylish too. With various styles including the Steady Eddie, Grim Tim and Lean Dean. Jeans retailing for $79-$179 (approx. £60 – £130) this is extremely affordable.

  • Free repairs for life with each pair; regardless of when/where you got them

Undoubtedly one of the most distinctive aspects of the brand DNA is their offer of a lifetime of free repairs. By 2018, Nudie had repaired 55, 173 pairs of jeans – when stacked on top of one another that’s taller than the Burj Khalifia in Dubai! It has collected over 10,000 pairs of jeans via it’s re-use programme. The brand has estimated that its efforts have also saved 44,000kg of clothes from being thrown away and approximately 386,000,000 litres of water!

For the owners of Nudie’s that are frequent flyers, there are mobile repair situations dotted across the world! They have various repair partners from Sydney to Davos, to San Fran and everywhere in between. If the stations are too far, you can even order your own Nudie Repair Kit free of charge!

The brand recognise that mending the gap is crucial for the denim industry and store staff mend worn in jeans too. Importantly they site that closing the gap takes more than a pair of well-loved jeans and to this I wholly adhere.

  • Pre loved denim; clean and repaired to save water and reduce textile waste

The company not only repairs its denim for the owners but repairs unwanted garments by hand in Nudie’s Repair Shop in Gothenburg, Sweden where they are then washed and ready to wear. Each Re-used jean is labelled with the Swedish “Good Environmental Choice” eco mark.

The team have been utilising the old fabric to re-create new products in their extended lines such as bucket hats. These hats used approximately 23kg of reused denim. Nudie Jeans has partnered with another key industry player, Rekotex – who are an online agency that resells deadstock, allowing other denim brands and designers to repurpose the fabric.

  • Re use; authentic worn over crisp and perfect, zero environmental foot print

Last but by certain no means least, the brand has a parallel line to its business Nude Jeans Re-Use. This has benefits for both the donator of the jeans and the purchaser who are simultaneously economising natural resources and saving their own pennies! The Re-Use programme incentivises customers to bequeath their unwanted denim to receive a 20% discount on a new pair of jeans in the process, win-win! The success of the programme, now into its third year, is highlighted by the fact the brand has just released its sixth edition of Re-Use Jeans Collection. These are now available via the website and Repair Shops around the world.

Final Thoughts

As every fashion season becomes slow fashion season and consumers are increasingly conscious of their wardrobe purchases, brands such as Nudie Jeans benchmark best practice. Their values of getting the balance right between sustainability and style are underpinned by their free repairs and re-use programmes cultivating collections which close the loop and have a positive net effect for all those throughout the denim’s life cycle!

What resonated most with me is the brands ideal that if we learn to redefine that word ”new” from ”not used by anyone” to ”not used by me” we can together, consequently save significant natural resources.

You can get your hands on a pair of Nudies via the website or their stand-alone stores in Soho and Shoreditch.

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