#GreenFests: Green denim – would you rent a pair of jeans?

1st August 2015

Sustainability was a major theme at this year’s Edinburgh International Fashion Festival. Events included a Sustainability Symposium where a panel examined …

Sustainability was a major theme at this year’s Edinburgh International Fashion Festival. Events included a Sustainability Symposium where a panel examined whether a sustainable fashion industry is achievable, a screening of new documentary The True Cost and a talk Future of Fashion – Love, Lease, Lend which involved a presentation by MUD Jeans CEO and founder Bert van Son, in partnership with Zero Waste Scotland.

MUD Jeans is a Dutch denim brand which works completely according to the principles of the circular economy, where waste is seen as a commodity rather than as a regrettable by-product. Instead of buying your jeans in the conventional way, you lease them; the jeans are yours but the denim from which they are made is not. When you no longer want the jeans you return them and MUD will either upcycle them into a unique vintage pair (named after their previous owner in a pleasant personal touch) or they will be completely recycled. The recycled cotton is blended with fresh organic cotton and the resulting thread (30% recycled cotton; 70% organic) used to make more jeans. There is no waste.

Cotton Lease, the name of this novel approach, was inspired by van Son’s experiences as a worker in China’s textile industry. Here he experienced first-hand the negative effects of fast fashion (i.e. the incredibly quick turnover of designs from catwalk to high street) on workers, as well as the massive environmental costs. He endeavoured to try and change this by changing the way that we consume. For example, the environmental damage is greatly reduced by using recycled cotton, as the production of denim from scratch requires a huge amount of water and pesticides.

They’re also working to improve social conditions. MUD Jeans work with the Better Cotton Initiative, which works to reduce the damaging effects of global cotton production on people and the environment, and with the Fair Wear Foundation to ensure decent working conditions. It also avoids the time pressure of fast fashion by developing a collection of varied styles, accommodating fleeting trends as well as classic designs. This means that workers are not required to have dangerous work patterns associated with rapid turnover.

So there are lots of positives to the Cotton Lease model. What about negatives? What if you want to keep the jeans? Does it work out more expensive to rent than to buy? Both of these concerns are easily accommodated. You can buy the jeans in the traditional manner if you so desire, for a price similar to renting for 12 months – though MUD Jeans do ask that you still send them back when you’re done. Alternatively,  you can extend the lease (and still have access to the free repair service). There are options to suit all.

Of course, it’s not all rosy. New cotton must still be produced, and energy and water are expended during the recycling and manufacturing processes. But compared to the rest of the world, MUD jeans are wearing a far greener shade than most.

For more information, check out their website at: http://www.mudjeans.eu/

Jeans cost €7.50/month to lease.

[Image: http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-images-jeans-circle-image23373639]

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