Denim and sustainability aren’t usually words you find in the same sentence. The industry is known for its laborious methods, unsafe handling of chemicals, dyes and processes like sandblasting, and unethical production as far back in the supply chain as cotton farming.
But Australian brands are looking to change that. In fact, these brands are truly turning the model on its head, opting for ethical production throughout the supply chain, water-saving processes and of course safe manufacturing processes.
All of these Australian brands are going above and beyond to create denim ethically and sustainably.
Nobody Denim is now a legacy fashion brand in Australia and has been manufacturing onshore since 2010. The brand is committed to local and ethical production, and its onshore production is certified by Ethical Clothing Australia – the accrediting body that ensures safe working conditions and fair wages for Australian garment workers.
While Nobody Denim has long been associated with ethical production, the brand has taken its commitment to sustainability further, making environmental responsibility core to its operations and setting serious goals to reduce its emissions. In 2019, the brand stated it had already reduced its water use by half since 2017, and the brand is making efforts to reduce energy use and waste produced. Nobody Denim says it aims to pay living wages throughout its entire supply chain by 2025.
I have seen James Bartle, founder of Outland Denim, speak at a number of events and every time I am left with goose bumps. After seeing the film Taken with Liam Neeson, and witnessing human trafficking first hand, Bartle decided to start a fashion company to help rescue women from human trafficking. More than that, he wanted the company to make jobs for people at risk and most importantly, give them the ability to support themselves. Outland Denim is doing exactly that.
The brands says it sources “the finest raw materials from around the world while offering sustainable employment and training opportunities to women rescued from human trafficking and sexual exploitation.”
Outland Denim produces its garments in Cambodia where workers are paid a living wage – almost unheard of in the fashion industry – and taught skills not only to do their job but to thrive in society. Bartle says they plan to pay living wages throughout their entire supply chain and are committed to reduce energy, water and waste throughout production. If Meghan Markle’s endorsement wasn’t enough, you now have mine as well.
Justice Denim is committed to doing good with its brand as well. From its onshore production to its distribution of profits, the brand ensures ethical production and refuses to be a part of human exploitation. As such, every pair of Justice Denim jeans funds four life-changing weeks of education for a young and innocent child who has been rescued from the sexual slavery and illegal labour trade. Justice Denim delivers this through its partnership with Project Futures and Destiny Rescue.
The brand’s range of vegan-friendly jeans are hand-cut, designed and distressed in the streets of Melbourne, by some of Australia’s last great denim craftsmen. This onshore production is certified by Ethical Clothing Australia.
Staples and basics brand Bassike also produces some pretty sweet and sustainable denim products. On its website the brand says that sustainability for them means treating people and the planet with respect, lightening their environmental impact and constantly evaluating how they do that.
Longevity is also a core consideration for Bassike, as it should be for all brands which is something that influences everything from the design stage in their business. They aim to produce all their collections with intention, integrity and longevity in mind. As a bonus, over 90% of Bassike’s products are ethically made in Australia which ensures a high level of supply chain transparency while supporting and helping to preserve the fashion industry in this country.
Sydney brand Neuw is producing its denim with the environment in mind. The brand has recently released a line of denim that boasts zero water wastage, zero chemical distressing and zero washing waste. It also opts for Australian-grown cotton in its denim, which is great because Australian cotton is the most water-use efficient cotton in the world and has yields three times the world average. Neuw Denim works with a small selection of factories is actively mapping its supply chain to gain further visibility of its production.