San Francisco-based Everlane made a commitment last year to go from conventional cotton to certified organic cotton by 2023. This summer, they’ve launched a “Clean Denim” line consisting of shorts, baggy-style jeans, and a classic denim jacket, as part of that broader mission.
Sustainability director Katina Boutis says, “This is significant because over 70% of our fabrics contain cotton and we know it is important to use materials with a lower environmental impact — organic cotton systems promote healthier soil, cleaner water, and are safer for farmers and their local communities.”
In addition to being made of GOTS-certified organic cotton, the new lineup also includes a small percentage (less than 2 percent) of Roica® V550 yarn, which Boutis says is “the first stretch yarn worldwide that isn’t made with harmful chemicals.”
“This innovative fabric, along with the use of microplastic-free dyes and recycled trim, allows us to be one of the first companies to offer this special denim that doesn’t dirty the planet, without compromising on fit, style or comfort.”
Everlane has been working with denim mills and manufacturers that are actively looking at how denim can be made more eco-friendly, be it through using lasers (instead of water to create a weathered effect) or reducing their overall consumption of water, energy, and dyes as a whole.
This particular blended fabric innovation was custom developed in partnership with Candiani Denim, Boutis says. “We are really excited to be one of the first US brands to use this fiber innovation in denim and hope this continues to propel the denim industry forward.”
Candiani Denim is one of Europe’s largest denim mills, located outside of Milan, and led by third-generation Italian entrepreneur Alberto Candiani. In addition to working with Everlane, they’ve also provided denim to high street brands such as Levi’s and J.Crew, using their water-saving technology Kitotex, a dye that uses shrimp shells and reduces the amount of water, energy, and chemicals in the manufacturing process, the company claims.
Bringing this clean denim line to the market has been a four-year long process, Boutis says. “The beauty of this sustainability innovation is that it delivers on our product promises without compromising on style or fit. We know that denim is a dirty business — typical denim is made of conventional cotton that’s farmed with toxic pesticides, often includes elastane yarn that pollutes our atmosphere and water streams, and is dyed and finished using resource-depleting processes.”
The Roica® V550 yarn is a virgin elastane alternative that’s been around for a couple years, and has received a Gold Standard for Material Health from Cradle2Cradle, a certifying body looking at the sustainability of materials. It’s said to break down faster than regular spandex, which is what gives jeans stretch and a better fit. Elastane is hard to recycle, but Roica makes that an easier process — an important detail regarding the end-of-life of our clothes.
The three new items in Everlane’s collection come in two washes: a lighter, everyday denim and a darker, more polished denim. Given the success of their high-waisted offering, Boutis says, they decided to create shorts and jeans that had a similar fit. The third item, a jean jacket, is a classic, snug design, manufactured in Sri Lanka, and retails for $88, which makes it very price competitive with other denim jackets on the market. Though there’s a fair amount of detail provided on the materials used across the collection, there’s less clarity on the manufacturing side, although Everlane does list the factories the company uses on their website. Overall, Everlane claims to work with factories that score higher than 90 on criteria around fair wages, hours, and working conditions.
While Everlane sees all this — the transition to organic cotton and the use of more eco-friendly stretch yarns — as progress, Boutis does note that there’s more to be done. “Clean Denim is our latest innovation on the journey to making denim better for the planet, but it is not our final destination.”