THE BRANDS


HONORABLE MENTION: Levi’s is a rising star for their innovation and leadership. 💫

GET THE SCOOP ON EACH BRAND BELOW


 OUR BASELINE


We spent the last month researching brands that our community submitted for consideration. We looked at sustainability, ethics, innovation, availability, durability, style and fit.
Here are the smallicon_black APPROVED Denim Criteria:

DO NO HARM

The brand has thought holistically about our 8 research categories:

  • Size and business model
  • Transparency and traceability
  • Labor Conditions
  • Environment
  • Innovation
  • Intention
  • Management
  • Community

More about what we mean by each section here.

DENIM CONTEXT

Each brand we selected has thought specifically about issues that were raised by our research into denim production. If you want to learn more about the denim industry and the specific issues or need a glossary for some of these terms, visit our denim resources page. We’ve also summarized the context research into a framework for denim here.

INNOVATION

The brand is innovative in its approach and is moving the industry in a positive direction. They’re creating new techniques and standards to spread new and better practices.

Want more information on our process?
CHECK OUT OUR DENIM RESOURCES & FAQs PAGE


 THE DATA


HEADS UP:
There may be terms below that you don’t know – get informed here. There may also be some brands you were hoping to see that aren’t listed here – let us know in the comments or shoot us an email.

 

THE BASICS KEY:
👫 + 🌎 : Availability & Accessibility | 👖 : Style | 💸 : Affordability | 🌐 : Website

KINGS OF INDIGO

AKA the Kings of Transparency.

THE BASICS:

👫 : Men + Women

🌎 : Deliver all over Europe and to the US (15 euros), Japan (15 euros) and Australia (20 euros) for a fee. They’re also in stores in Canada and Europe.

👖: Standard, bootcut, skinny, colored, wide leg, flare, overalls. Different lengths available.

💸 : From €100-200

🌐 : kingsofindigo.com


WHAT WE 💙

Textile: For 90%+ of its materials, KOI uses GOTS certified organic cotton and recycled yarn where possible. They also have a new denim fabric that is a mix of organic cotton, recycled cotton and hemp!

Labor: The brand can trace its supply chain, shows a full list and map of suppliers and pays some workers a living wage.  They also publish their Fair Wear audit report!

Environment: All natural indigo dyes, recylced yarns and in the dyeing process, they use water reduction techniques.

Innovation: They’re doing all sorts of innovation on wash, recycled textiles, lasers for distressing and wash.

Durability: These jeans are also here for you for life – a 25-30 year life expectancy.

Read about all their practices here! 


WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

Last year, only 53% of their supply chain was under monitoring for Fair Wear Foundation because they were switching suppliers. This year they will be back on track! Also if you’re vegan, an FYI that their patches are made of leather. 

 

MUD JEANS

Not to be confused with Mudd jeans from middle school. Please.


THE BASICS:

👫 : Men + Women

🌎 : Looks like their leasing program and shipping goes to the US, Europe and more! Free shipping!

👖: Standard, cropped, loose, boyfriend, capri, vintage. Different lengths available.

💸 : Leasing: $25 membership and then €7.50 per month. €59 (vintage) – €99.

🌐 : mudjeans.eu


WHAT WE 💙

Textile: All Better Cotton Initiative, organic cotton or recycled cotton. They also have vintage jeans.

Labor: They share their 1st and 2nd tier suppliers’ names and countries, and they have results available from their Fair Wear audit of one facility.

Environment: They have a carbon footprint study. Compared to an average pair of jeans, MUD uses 78% less water and 61% less CO2.

Innovation: They’re a certified B-Corp and they have a leasing program for their jeans – you pay a monthly fee, like for a car. For real. $25 membership fee and €7.50 a month!

Read about all their practices here!


WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

We were a little unclear on what they meant by “fair trade” when they referred to it. Some members of our committee weren’t 100% convinced on their style props either. But different strokes for different folks, amiright? They also don’t have a publicly available supplier code of conduct, which is normally pretty standard across the industry. We’d like to see it.

 

NUDIE JEANS

Unisex style + universally sexy ethics.


THE BASICS:

👫 : Men + Women

🌎 : Stores in Europe and the US in LA and NYC. Also available online and at Nordstroms, ASOS, Barneys, Gilt… the list goes on.

👖: Skinny all the way to loose, standard, colors, distressed. Different lengths available.

💸 : $185 – $450

🌐 : nudiejeans.com


WHAT WE 💙

Textile: All 100% organic cotton. ALL.

Labor: They know 100% of their supply chain. They make 69% of their jeans in Italy and they’re implementing a living wage program at their Indian manufacturer.

Environment: They use lasers and ozone processing, which is better than sandblasting and traditional dyeing techniques.

InnovationThey will do free repairs for you 4EVR and have repair shops in their stores and others around the world. They’ll also take back unwanted denim and recycle it for you and they have a ton of products made from recycled denim.

Read about all their practices here!


WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

One supplier in Tunisia was cited for excessive overtime. Nudie doesn’t have living wages set up at every facility, only requiring minimum wage be paid. We’d like to see them develop their living wage program further, which they’re in the process of doing. Ask and you shall receive. 

Their jeans are designed unisex. On their website, all their jeans are shown on men, but on yoox.com, you can see them on women, too. They’re meant for everyone – but do note, their fit can be a little tight on some men and women (!).

 

PATAGONIA

We know. We were surprised, too. 😉


THE BASICS:

👫 : Men + Women

🌎 : Online and in Patagonia stores. Not available at all boutiques that sell Patagonia, though 😕

👖: Standard, skinny, cropped, stretchy.

💸 : $99

🌐 : patagonia.com/us/denim


WHAT WE 💙

Textile: All 100% organic cotton 😀

Labor: They’re Fair Trade certified for their sewing production, and know all their first tier suppliers and many of their second. They’re working on mapping their entire supply chain.

Innovation: They use a new dyeing process without natural indigo, which uses even less water and CO2.

Patagonia is a major leader for the industry – they share a ton and when they slip up, they’re open about it. We appreciate this transparency and accountability. And their fit and style is actually really great – not what we expected at all, TBH! We encourage you to check it out.

Read about all their practices here!


WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

We really weren’t stoked about the fact that their cropped jeans and straight jeans have 30% COOLMAX fabric, a mechanical stretch denim which is a petroleum product. It’s also a textile made by a company owned by the Koch brothers. WHA??? We do understand the need for stretch given their typical type of very active customer, but we’re not sure we’re down with that.

Given everything else they’re doing right and the high quality and actually great fit of their jeans, we still elected them nonetheless.

 

LEVI’S

smallicon_black APPROVED Honorable Mention for being an industry rising star. 💫

🌐 : levis.com


WHY THE HONORABLE MENTION?
  • They’re making huge strides for the industry. For decades have been setting new standards for larger fashion brands in their innovation and supply chain policies, including their work with the NRDC Responsible Sourcing Initiative.
  • We love their innovations like their Water<Less technique, their recent development of 100% recycled jeans and their textile innovation.
  • Out of the brands we looked at, they’re super accessible around the world with many different styles available and, as many of you who might have vintage pairs already know, their jeans are super durable and last a long time. They’re classic!

WHY THEY DIDN’T MAKE THE FINAL CUT:
  • We’d like to see improvements in their holistic impact: They’ve still got strides to make in their policies on labor conditions and environment compared to others in the category. They’re a larger company than our other brands so it can take time to turn a big ship.
  • We’d like to see more transparency from them about their production and their supply chain.

Read more about their practices here!

 


 THE COMMITTEE


We researched, we analyzed, we discussed and then these fine ladies chose four brands to answer the question: WHERE DO I SHOP DENIM?!👖👖
EMMA MCCLENDON

Assistant Curator of Costume
The Museum at FIT
Industry Expert

BOB BLAND

CEO & Founder
Manufacture New York
Industry Expert

ALDEN WICKER

Founder & Editor-in-Chief
Ecocult
Context + Style Expert

MEGAN O’MALLEY

Head of Research
Project JUST
Lead Researcher

NATALIE GRILLON

Co-Founder
Project JUST
JUST Committee Member

WHAT'S NEXT?

ANY QUESTIONS?
Tune in on June 1 for a Q&A with our founders on the smallicon_black APPROVED denim brands and process. Also visit the FAQ Section on our Denim Resources page.