Denim is a fabric like no other, it’s loved across ages, genders, countries and styles, and it’s not going anywhere. Dominating the spring/summer 2020 runway, denim is set to be big this season. From Celine bringing back the bootcut to Chanel’s foray into denim Bermuda shorts, there are a host of trend-led pieces to invest in now.
But before you embark on the pursuit on how to add the latest denim trends to your wardrobe, it is worth considering its environmental and human impact. According to Greenpeace, it takes an eye-watering 7,000 litres of water to create just one pair of jeans. Much of this water waste is full of harmful chemicals and coloured dyes that cause permanent destruction to ecosystems and local communities when put back into the waterways
The good news is though, we needn’t give up buying denim entirely, rather we must make more eco-conscious decisions, choosing to invest in the right brands that are doing good. With searches for sustainable denim on the rise, consumers’ growing interest signals a positive change. Lyst’s 2019 fashion report revealed that searches including sustainability related keywords increased 75 per cent year on year, with an average of 27,000 searches for sustainable fashion every month.
But there’s no need to search endlessly to find your new favourite sustainable denim brand, as we’ve done the hard work for you in this roundup. From popular brands such as Everlane to more under the radar labels such as E.L.V. Denim, we’ve tested a range of jeans for their quality and fit, as well as reviewing the brand’s eco-credentials, to find you our top pick.
While most of these brands aren’t at the same price point as high street alternatives, the reality is, sustainable and ethical fashion does often cost more. This reflects the true cost of the materials used as well as the factories being safer to work in. But, while these pieces may feel like an investment, they will stand the test of time, and you’ll be able to enjoy them for much longer than if you’d bought from non-sustainable brands. Keep an eye out for labels offering subscription-based services; a great, cost-effective way to invest in sustainable denim.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
E.L.V. Denim mid blue match straight leg jeans
Environmental and social sustainability are at the heart of E.L.V. Denim (east London vintage). As a zero-waste brand, E.L.V. gives a second life to a fabric that would otherwise be destined for landfill. Jeans are made from discarded denim that is reworked into contemporary and covetable styles, from straight leg jeans to Seventies flares. Every item in the collection is made locally in east London to keep the carbon footprint to a minimum and to support local communities. While the average new pair of jeans uses 7,000 litres of water, E.L.V. DENIM jeans use a mere seven.
IndyBest pick: E.L.V. Denim mid blue match straight leg jeans
Finding the perfect pair of jeans is no mean feat. You want denim that is stiff and supportive, but equally doesn’t cling to the wrong places. And this pair stood out. An incredible fit, the high waist offers a strong silhouette that accentuates the waist and gives the illusion of longer legs. While the cut was flattering on the bum it didn’t tighten when sitting down. And we love how each pair is slightly different. These do run small, so size up.
MUD Jeans relax rose jeans
MUD Jeans works on a circular economy, encouraging customers to return worn jeans so they can be upcycled and sold as vintage pairs. Each pair returned is shredded, cut into pieces and blended with Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified cotton to create new denim yarn; a process that reduces water and chemical usage. MUD also offers a free repairs service and a lease programme where you can rent a pair of jeans on subscription (£6.82 per month for 12 months).
IndyBest pick: MUD Jeans relax rose jeans
This cult Dutch brand knows what’s what when it comes to denim, something that is obvious as soon as you put these jeans on. While a slightly relaxed cut, the fit remains flattering and accentuates all the right places. This vintage denim wash is favourable to a white tee French-tucked.
Buy now £110.30, MUD Jeans
Boyish Denim Ryder oversized denim jacket
While a fairly new player to the game, Boyish is up there as one of the most sustainable. At the core of its collections lies the commitment to leaving as little impact on the Earth as possible. Through working with ethical factories, using less harmful chemicals when dyeing fabrics, and exclusively using recycled fabrics and materials, Boyish stands out. It works to keep its carbon emissions at a minimum by having its yarn, fabric and manufacturing facilities within a thirty mile radius of each other, and the brand even utilises a third of the amount of water typically used to produce a pair of jeans.
IndyBest pick: Boyish Denim Ryder oversized denim jacket
As we enter into spring, we don’t think there’s a better time to invest in a denim jacket, and this one from Boyish ticks the boxes. The classic collar, front button fastening, and oversized fit makes for an effortless yet high-impact addition to your wardrobe. We think this dark wash works perfectly for off-duty days.
DL1961 Jerry high rise vintage straight jeans
This New-York based brand creates denim for women, men and children using premium materials and innovative, water-efficient fibres. Known for their biodegradability, the fibres are made from cellulose which is derived from a renewable wood source, meaning they can re-enter the ecosystem after their life cycle. Each pair is made from ethically sourced, long staple cotton that is GOTS certified, and the brand’s water recycling system means 98 per cent of the water used is reintroduced. The factory is even powered through solar panels.
Indy Best pick: DL1961 Jerry high rise vintage straight jeans
These jeans give off a real Nineties vibe with the ultra-high-rise fit; a perfect investment if you’re looking to nail this spring/summer trend. The fibres used mean they were stiff and didn’t lose their shape, so we’re certain these will stand the test of time. The brand offers a range of cuts and styles, as well as maternity, tall and petite lines.
Outland Denim Harriet full length jean
Using organic cotton to create its denim, this brand uses 91 per cent less water than conventional cotton. Using no agrochemicals, which are known to reduce soil quality, contribute to water pollution and severely affect the health of farmers, Outland Denim’s ethical credentials are as impressive as its sustainability efforts. It also offers sustainable employment and training opportunities to women who have experienced exploitation
Indy Best pick: Outland Denim Harriet full length jeans
It’s no surprise that this style is the brand’s most popular jean. An absolute staple to any woman’s wardrobe, this skinny cut is sophisticated and flattering. The fit didn’t change throughout the day and there was no gaping at the waist; a sign of a great pair of jeans.
Ever lane Nineties cheeky straight jean
Ever lane has gone from strength to strength since its launch in 2010 thanks to its sustainability and transparency. Its game-changing denim factory recycles 98 per cent of its water, relies on alternative energy sources and repurposes by-products to create premium jeans, minus the waste. It’s worth checking out the brand’s online denim guide too, it’s helpful at giving in-depth detail on measurements and style.
IndyBest pick: Everlane Nineties cheeky straight jeans
Another contender for the best Monica Gueller-style jeans, this vintage-inspired pair is a great alternative to the classic skinny and we guarantee you’ll be wearing these throughout summer. No false claims here either, we can confirm these do provide a butt-boosting fit. We liked these worn rolled up with a jumper tucked in for an off-duty look. These come up large, so it’s worth sizing down.
RE/DONE high rise stove pipe jeans
Founded in 2014, RE/DONE began as a premium online label which repurposed vintage Levi’s denim. Through using water conserving methods and no harsh chemicals, this is a cult sustainable favourite. Quantities of designs are limited since each pair is handpicked, hand cut and one of a kind.
IndyBest pick: RE/DONE high rise stove pipe jeans
Everyone from Rosie Huntington-Whitley to Gwyneth Paltrow owns a pair of RE/DONE jeans and it’s no surprise. These straight leg, high waist jeans are the perfect base to any outfit. Buttons are used to fasten, which cinches in your waist without digging in. We love that each pair differs slightly from the next.
Sézane the brut sexy jeans
This Parisian clothing label delivers once again. Having upped its sustainability credentials, Sézane launched its eco-conscious “denim revolution” line using 100 per cent GOTS-certified organic cotton and an eco-friendly dyeing process, which reduces water and harmful chemicals.
IndyBest pick: Sézane the brut sexy jeans
The structured denim makes for an accentuated, snug fit, that is timeless and chic. These are made to come up slightly long, so the brand suggests snipping the bottom off to give a lived-in, raw edge; just make sure you’ve got a steady hand.