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How ToFriday, 26 June 2020

Customising Jeans: How To Make Your Denim More Sustainable

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WORDS BY SOPHIE HENDERSON

Does sustainable denim exist? It’s a question we’ve heard time and time again. As one of the most resource-draining fabrics, denim is made from a lot of cotton — and a lot of cotton tends to require fertilisers, pesticides, chemical dye and water (7,000 litres can go into just one pair of jeans).

 

But, for a denim enthusiast who is always searching for the perfect pair — what are you supposed to do if you also want to be a conscious consumer?

 

Nowadays, denim can be an easy addition to your conscious wardrobe. Choosing the best quality fit and environmentally friendly pieces can help to lay the foundations of what we call ‘slow fashion’ habits. Whether it be a pair of distressed jeans or a trusty denim jacket — the perfect pieces should last. 

 

Secondly, if you’re looking to give your favourite pair a new lease of life then all it takes is a little DIY and creative energy to customise your denim into a new revamped style! Repurposing otherwise classic styles is not only a form of self-expression — it demonstrates your approach to building a sustainable capsule wardrobe. But what techniques can you use to customise your old denim into something new?

 

As well as pinpointing some of our favorite sustainable denim brands from our Positively Conscious range below, we asked six influencers to customise a pair of jeans to add to their forever wardrobes. From ‘90s-inspired patches to fabric painting, these cool-girl bloggers became their own Creative Director — with no eco-guilt involved.

Stella McCartney Dip Dye Jeans

 

Charlotte Caroline (@charlottecaroline_)

Based in Copenhagen

 

What do you love about Stella McCartney sustainable denim?

“When it comes to sustainable denim brands, I look for comfort and the perfect fit — with a unique twist. Stella McCartney has an interesting selection, with a variety of washes and finishes. They are certainly eye-catching, which elevates my wardrobe. It’s fun to be creative and playful with styling.”

 

Talk us through your customised denim jeans.

“I plan to explore my own country and its hidden gems this summer. When customising my sustainable denim, a phrase that crossed my mind was ‘road trip.’ I dedicated my pair of jeans to my summer 2020 with ‘yes to road trips.’ I made the length shorter and I fringed the bottom of the jeans to create a fresh look. I used the patches to make them unique and meaningful to my style.

 

“What I love the most about customisation is changing a piece into something you love, because it becomes personal. It’s not only about the clothes, but how I wear them. You wear a personal piece with confidence.”

How do you plan to style your customised jeans?

“This summer I will style the jeans with sandals and heels depending on the occasion. They are super easy to tone up and down. For a chill look I would style them with an oversized T-shirt, and when going out maybe just a simple white top. The denim speaks for itself. Here’s to long-lasting items that always stand out!”

 

Do you have any tips on how to shop more consciously?

“Think twice, do you really need this item? Do your research before shopping and always go for the conscious and sustainable options where possible. My wardrobe is a mixture of secondhand and good quality, long-lasting items.

 

“Try to style the same item in different ways to see your wardrobe with a fresh pair of eyes. If you get tired of your items, customise or sell them.”

Collina Strada Janet Rhinestone-Embellished Jeans

 

Diana Wang (@zhours)

Based in New York City

 

What do you love about Collina Strada sustainable denim?

“Ecological integrity has been an important matter throughout my life. I always favour and whenever possible, choose conscious fashion pieces. Being long aware that traditional denim making is one of the most polluting and inefficient processes in the industry, I consider sustainability  — ranging from fabric sourcing to production — just as important as style, especially when I shop denim.

 

“Collina Strada is one of my favourite labels. Equally as gripping as its fearless, radical style is the brand’s commitment to, quoting their own words, “climate awareness, social awareness, change and self-expression” and their attitude of seeing sustainability as a journey. A brand’s commitment to animal and environmental care is the first thing I look for as a consumer.”

 

Talk us through your customised denim jeans.

 

“I’ll have to admit that I rarely customise clothing, unless a fit needs to be fixed. This project opened an exciting new world for me. Although it was just one piece here, I was compelled to explore all creative possibilities as the process was rather fascinating.

 

“I wanted to create a unique piece that would seamlessly mesh with the jeans’ original vibes. I decided to go with the embroidered letter patches that spell my dog’s name, Butter. As my dog is a vital part of my life and animal rights an important cause, this design was my first choice.

 

“I tested out the design with double-sided tape on various places over the jeans including vertically on the side seam, horizontally near the hem on one leg, near the back pockets, and of course — as the final product shows — diagonally.

How do you plan to style your customised jeans?

“These jeans would easily match so many items I already own, such as my oversized Balenciaga T-shirt (my number one summer staple), a big jacket like my favourite Maison Margiela deconstructed blazer that I’m wearing, or a cool vintage-looking blouse from AMBUSH. And with footwear, I’ve tried the jeans with my chunky combat boots, various dad sneakers and Gucci sandals — all with success. I also look forward to wearing the jeans in the coming winter months.”

 

Do you have any tips on how to shop more consciously?

“I don’t see any compromise in style or comfort in conscious pieces. Taking denim as an example, it is possible to achieve the same design and look while reducing water, energy, time and toxic chemicals by adopting energy-efficient productions. More and more conscious styles nowadays are crafted by cool-minded brands.

 

“The simplest thing we could do is to check the care label and choose organic and recycled fabrics. Check the brand’s explanation of its sustainability standards and practices, as each brand differs.

 

“I would personally favour brands that clearly state sustainability as a core value. Usually that means throughout the entire process from conception to manufacturing to marketing, the brand stays mindful of its environmental footprint every step of the way.

 

“I understand that we all have to spend within our means. But when possible, choose quality, lasting pieces over fast fashion. A quality piece looks and feels better, lasts longer, and is consequently more efficient — obviously, one way to go green is to make less. Consider the premium cost a worthy investment both for ourselves and the environment.”

Nobody Denim Marina Flared Jeans

 

Dylana Lim Suarez (@dylanasuarez)

Based in New York City

 

What do you love about Nobody Denim sustainable denim?

“I always look at the quality and the longevity of the item. The type of material, how the material was processed and where it was made is so important. A piece of clothing can only be sustainable if it is made to live a long life and age well with time. I see this dedication to quality with Nobody Denim. They are a brand that is committed to ethical practices, and I love to support that by wearing their denim. Also, their fit is insanely good and perfect for someone who is tall like me.”

 

Talk us through your customised denim jeans.

“I developed my personal style when I was younger with vintage, DIY and secondhand pieces. I remember always expanding my denim hems so my jeans would be longer, and then I would fray the edges. I would turn my old jeans into miniskirts, and I used to bleach T-shirts and add patches to jackets. I enjoy the process of making something feel unique and completely like your own. It's like wearing your own piece of art, and there is so much beauty in that.”

 

“I customised these denim jeans with patches that I have collected over the years. Patches were something I really loved in fashion growing up, and it felt right to bring it back for this project. Sometimes patchwork can look too messy, or too childish, so I wanted to do it in a way that felt chic and like a grown-up version of how I used to play with patches when I was younger.

 

“I was very particular about the placement of each patch, and this attention to detailing is very much how I approach my sense of style. I love when the details stand out in an outfit, like a pop of colour or an exaggerated shape. Each patch has a Paris theme, which I thought was fun. It’s relevant because I miss Paris so much!

How do you plan to style your customised jeans?

“I would pair these jeans with just about every oversized blazer in my closet. I also love the look and feel of a classic white tee, tucked in with a vintage belt, and a pair of tall rugged boots. It's a timeless look that I keep coming back to.”

 

Do you have any tips on how to shop more consciously?

“I would advise others to step back and focus more on quality over quantity, and to think more about the long term effect that their purchase will have. They should think about why they want the piece, and see if it is something that they can see themselves wearing for years to come. 

 

“Being a more knowledgeable shopper is also very important. Shoppers need to learn the effects that many larger brands have on the environment, and to understand that usually the quality is not up to par either. I also love to advise others to really embrace the re-wear and recycle mentality. Sustainable shopping is such a great way to instil more creativity within us.

 

“Style never has to be sacrificed with sustainability. In fact, I think style thrives more with it! It pushes us to change our perspectives and see what is new in the old, find more functionality with what we already own, and use our creativity to its greatest potential by coming up with an endless amount of ways to give a long and beautiful life to the clothes we own.”

BOYISH DENIM Charley Wide Leg Jeans

 

Hanna Stefansson (@hannastefansson)

Based in Copenhagen

 

What do you love about BOYISH DENIM sustainable denim?

“I love to find jeans with a classic vintage fit. I think BOYISH have a great idea of what that looks like. All jeans are produced with sustainable fabrics in an environmentally friendly and cruelty-free process. I love the texture, and the fit improves after wearing them in.

 

Talk us through your customised denim jeans.

“I wanted to recreate a pair of jeans I owned when I was 7-10 years old. They had a classic wash and there was small pink, purple and white floral embroidery around the ankles. I wore them every day and I was so sad when they had to be washed. As I grew, they got shorter and shorter, then one day they didn’t fit me anymore. My little sister got to wear them. Hand painting these daisies on my BOYISH jeans makes me think of my old favourites.

 

“This is the first time I’ve used textile color paint and it was so much fun making something completely unique. My mum is a dress tailor, and when I was a kid, she had her own studio at home. I had a hard time finding clothes that fit my body at that time, so we would make all kinds of alterations and create new clothes together.

 

“It was so much fun to just be creative together and I felt so thankful that I got to wear clothes the way they were meant to fit. Now that I’m soon to be a mother of my own, I can’t wait to recreate some of my old clothes into new ones for my little baby. It’s a nice little hobby.

How do you plan to style your customised jeans?

“They turned out so summery and with a nice ‘70s touch thanks to the flowers. I will wear them with a belt and a tucked-in cashmere knit. They will forever be a nice reminder of this happy time in my life and of my old favorites from my childhood.”

 

Do you have any tips on how to shop more consciously?

“I love to support small brands that have an environmentally friendly way of thinking and producing their products. I love to shop vintage because it feels so unique, and it’s so nice to wear clothes with history. 

 

“I try to think consciously when I shop by being true to myself asking if it’s something I would like to wear when I’m 80. If yes, I know it’s my style and that it’s something I will love and wear for a long time. Also, the fit and the feeling of the garment is so important, if it makes you uncomfortable in any way you will not pick it from your wardrobe and that’s no good. 

 

“I’m trying to be better and I hope I inspire people to shop secondhand and sustainably, and to recreate worn pieces.”

7 For All Mankind Skinny Cropped Jeans

 

Andrea Cheong (@fleurandrea)

Based in London

 

What do you love about 7 For All Mankind sustainable denim?

“I love 7 For All Mankind denim because of the fit — and the label’s reputation for long-lasting, great quality pieces. The shade of white isn't see-through at all, which is rare for light denim. It isn't dyed, and it took less water to produce than an intensely treated pair of jeans. 

 

“When it comes to any company trying to be sustainable, it's a process of constant change. It’s not a marketing campaign to ‘clean up’ the surface of the business. While we might look to labels to help us shop more consciously, it's really the consumer that must take responsibility. You don't need 200 different pairs of jeans.”

 

Talk us through your customised denim jeans.

“I'm quite boring when it comes to my denim choices, so I wanted to create something different, but still true to my style. I also wanted the design to be subtle. Jeans are meant to be paired with literally everything and I didn't want to limit my choices.

 

“I had a cotton neck scarf and I cut out words from its design. I stitched them onto the belt loops and the waist of the 7 For All Mankind jeans. I also included a peekaboo pocket. The fit is high-waisted and so it looks good, especially with a coloured or patterned shirt tucked in. The whole customisation was very low maintenance. I'm confident most people can do it. As it's handstitched, almost everything but the cut-out pocket can be reversed by snipping the stitches."

How do you plan to style your customised jeans?

“The pocket detailing is subtle, and it will work great with a neutral top. White jeans may seem seasonal, but adding a personal detail like the pocket gives them that chance to be worn more often. I'm thinking about pairing them with a leather jacket and boots when the weather gets cool again.”

 

Do you have any tips on how to shop more consciously?

“Know your style — or, know what you definitely don't like. It could be the colour green or zebra print. Just own your sartorial boundaries and protect them against mass marketing campaigns.

 

“I will ‘add to cart’ and walk away. If you're still thinking about a piece the following week and you're not swept up by the hype, then give yourself the green light that it's a conscious buy.

 

“Try not to buy synthetic pieces. Even if a label says it can be machine washed, many synthetic fabrics do not fare well with water. I hold this anti-synthetic rule quite strongly with very few exceptions — occasion wear.

 

“Don't buy into ‘cancel culture’. Conscious shopping is about feeling good and brands can change as people can too. Quality also fluctuates between collections, so be open to discovering brands and creations. For brands and consumers alike, sustainability is a journey. It's one that I'm personally navigating and learning more along the way. Habits are hard to change and as long as you're trying and setting boundaries, that's already a win.”

GANNI Bleached Wide Leg Jeans

 

Marie Wibe Jedig (@mariejedig)

Based in Copenhagen

 

What do you love about GANNI sustainable denim?

“I’m so proud of what GANNI, among other Danish fashion labels, have accomplished these past few years. They’ve brought international fashion to Denmark. GANNI is, to me, quintessential Danish fashion — in branding, appearance and forward-thinking fashion. The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry, and it’s time for all fashion brands to take a stance in the climate debate. GANNI proves that innovation in sustainable production does not mean compromising on aesthetics, and that’s what I look for in sustainable brands in general.”

 

Talk us through your customised denim jeans.

“Customising means personal, and personal means special. Special means sentimental value, and sentimental value means that something is long-lasting. I’m a big fan of the customising and upcycling trends that we are beginning to see. It gives a piece a new life. I’ve not customised a piece of clothing myself prior to this. I’m a big fan of the upcycling based production by Marine Serre, Nith Studio and Icon Visions, among many others.

 

“I'm definitely a denim girl but finding the right pair of jeans is hard. I normally choose secondhand for the right nostalgic (and sustainable) denim. The problem is that jeans need to fit perfectly, which is almost impossible with vintage because every piece is unique.

 

“With this pair of jeans, I get the right reworked look and ‘70s inspired shape, but in a new and modern way. They don’t just embody the perfect pair of flared jeans, they also come in enough sizes to fit my body and highlight my shape, from the high waist and narrow fit to the wide leg which makes me look taller. 

 

“I always cut the edges. It perfects the length of your trousers, and it also adds a raw and cool finish because the thick cotton threads appear.

How do you plan to style your customised jeans?

“The vintage blue denim is as everlasting as white or black. The jeans can easily be styled up for a party with a corsage top or fitted shirt and a pair of heeled sandals — or ‘styled down’ for an everyday look with a printed T-shirt, knitted vest or even under a dress for the right Copenhagen-girl look — feel inspired by your own wardrobe.”

 

Do you have any tips on how to shop more consciously?

“Think before you shop. It sounds so simple and yet our impulse tends to drive us in the wrong direction. I never buy something that doesn’t match at least three items I already own. 

 

“Look up the sustainable alternatives. We as customers are no better than the industry if we support non-sustainable production. Buy vintage. It might take a little longer finding gold, but it’s out there. Sell your old items instead of throwing them away.”

Stella McCartney Gradient Effect Straight Leg Jeans

 

Sai De Silva (@scoutthecity)

 

Based in New York City 

 

What do you love about Stella McCartney sustainable denim?

“I look for style and quality — these two things will determine how often I can wear and re-wear the item. Stella McCartney makes sustainability sexy and each piece is biodegradable. It’s giving people what they want while also putting the needs of this world at the forefront of fashion.”

 

Talk us through your customised denim jeans.

“I am the master of customising clothing. Ever since I was in high school, I’ve found a way to be creative with my outfits. I can see how a piece of clothing extends beyond how it sits on the rack. Whether it’s cuffing a pair of jeans, making an oversized tee into a dress or creating a DIY muscle tee, putting your own spin on an item makes it just that: your own. And it’s so much fun.

 

“I’m really into the tapered denim trend. Instead of purchasing my pieces with tapered bottoms, I decided to tie shredded fabric around the bottom of my jeans. It’s an easy hack that is not permanent.”

How do you plan to style your customised jeans?

“The great thing about denim is that it will truly never go out of style. I plan to experiment with these reworked jeans by creating both casual, everyday looks and elegant ensembles. The options are endless here: I could style them with a graphic tee and blazer, or a bodysuit and slip into slingbacks or sandals. They would also look fabulous with a voluminous blouse, pumps, a clutch and red lipstick. The jeans are a blank canvas (pun intended) that I can ‘decorate’ as I see fit over the years. Styles come and go but denim is forever and this pair was built to last.”

 

Do you have any tips on how to shop more consciously?

“We all need to consider how long we want our clothing to last. It’s tough not to get hooked on fast fashion. You cherish a retro ‘80s band tee that you hunted for at a vintage store, or a pair of well-made Italian shoes that will last a lifetime. It’s better to add pieces to your wardrobe that are of a higher quality and mean something to you. We should all ensure that we’re supporting brands that are being mindful of their production practices and reusing materials responsibly. Just being more aware of these factors is a step in the right direction.”

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