Top 10…Organic Denim

| 1st March 2011
Cotton accounts for 25 percent of the world’s agrochemical use, so isn’t it time you switched to organic denim? Ruth Styles rounds up some of the best green jeans around

When even Nike admits that non-organic cotton is a bad thing, you know that the message is finally getting through. ‘Organic cotton is definitely better than non-organic,’ said Hannah Jones, vice-president for sustainable business and innovation at Nike in an interview with The Sunday Times.  And in this case, she’s right. From the prodigious amount of water needed to grow it, to the enormous doses of pesticides, insecticides and other agrochemicals needed to keep it going, non-organic cotton has a massive environmental footprint. Much of this cotton is turned into denim.

In the UK alone, each person owns on average seven pairs of jeans, which adds up to a whopping 432,544,000 pairs between us. Each pair, taking the manufacturing process into account, produces around 915lbs of carbon dioxide over its lifetime of around four years. So how can you make your denim habit a bit greener? Buying organic from the start is the obvious answer because since standard cotton accounts for 25 percent of the world’s agrochemicals, choosing organic denim can make a real difference.

Why they’re great: Every product in Nudie’s extensive denim range is made from ethically sourced - and where possible organic - cotton, while the spinning, dyeing and finishing are done using eco-friendly processes. In April, the label is launching a totally green range called 'This Blue is Green' in which everything will be made from GOTS [Global Organic Textile Standard] certified organic cotton or recycled fibres. Top pick from the current range is the Tight Long John Worn Shady denim skinny jean, £101. One of Nudie’s many unisex styles, the unusual grey rinse means they go with everything.
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Ruby Rocks
Why they’re great: Fairtrade is the buzz-word for up-and-coming London label, Ruby Rocks, which makes unashamedly girly, ultra-flattering clothes. While jeans aren’t their main focus, they’ve got plenty of nifty denim pieces including this truly fabulous jacket, £42, which has a versatile loose cut, so can be thrown on over vests and little dresses.
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Why they’re great: A Danish label specialising in relaxed daywear, Jackpot’s loose-fit, 100 percent organic jeans are perfect for lounging around in.  The Sachy relaxed cut blue jeans, £85, are especially good. The company has also teamed up with Dutch organisation MADE-BY which works to encourage fashion brands to improve sustainability and working conditions right along their supply chain.
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Why they’re great: Totally organic, cut for comfort and meant to last, howies’ jeans are designed with function in mind. While the company doesn’t follow trends, it does do useful basic shapes, including the straight cut Hollie jeans, £75. howies also donates one percent of its turnover to grassroots environmental charities and is introducing a 100 percent hemp style this summer. At £225, they won’t be cheap but since hemp is even better for the environment than organic cotton, they’ll be worth the investment.
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Why they’re great: Toast’s range might not be 100 percent organic but their denim most definitely is. Available in a range of fits, our favourite is the Boy Jean, £89, which is relaxed, chic and great with a Chanel-esque boxy tweed jacket. Toast also has an impressive ethical policy, which includes using biodegradable packaging, a company-wide recycling scheme and a fair and safe employment policy for suppliers.
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Why they’re great: If you thought Muji was just a purveyor of modestly priced homeware then think again. The Japanese brand has recently had a green overhaul, the fruits of which include organic cotton jeans, which come in a useful slim indigo shape and cost a very reasonable £39.
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Monkee Genes
Why they’re great: Derbyshire based Monkee Genes are one of the greenest fashion companies around and operate a 100 percent organic, anti-sweatshop policy across their entire range. Most of the collection has a fresh, edgy vibe, the coloured denim in particular. Available in skinny, supa skinny and flared, our pick is the unisex red skinny jeans, £60, which are a green way to work this season’s colour blocking trend.
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Camilla Norrback
Why she’s great: One of Sweden’s hottest new design talents, Camilla Norrback is a green designer specialising in wearable pieces with a quirky edge. A case in point is her flared, high waist jeans, £110, which combine serious figure flattery with cutely quirky bow pocket detailing.
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Why they’re great: Launched in 2006, Australian label, Elsom, has focused on sustainable design from the outset. Working closely with organic cotton farmers in India, all cotton and denim used is chemical free, and the label also sources traditional materials such as horsehair canvas from small, artisanal producers. Denim options are limited but good: check out the light grey skinny jeans, £140. A real style classic, they’re a good work option and look great with flats.
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Why they’re great: Founded by Ali Hewson, better known as the wife of U2 frontman Bono, Edun’s pieces are inspired by Africa and the continent’s artisans who make the pieces. In denim's case, it’s Tunisia that benefits from Edun’s sustainable sourcing, Fairtrade ethos and emphasis on local economic opportunities. The patchwork skinny jeans, £162, are, like Bono, totally rocking.
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