Today, MBDC — the world’s foremost advisors in material health, product design and the Cradle to Cradle Design® framework co-founded by William McDonough and Michael Braungart — is proud to support C&A as the world’s first retailer to offer Cradle to Cradle Certified™ GOLD denim jeans. MBDC worked closely with C&A and Fashion for Good over the past year to address challenges to designing such a complex product, evaluating and optimizing the garment for human and environmental health, recyclability or biodegradability, renewable energy use and carbon management, water stewardship and social fairness.
Designed in partnership with Fashion for Good, co-founded by McDonough and the C&A Foundation as a joint-industry, open-source initiative that aims to support the transformation of apparel culture toward a circular economy, C&A’s new Cradle to Cradle Certified™ denim garment release is accompanied by the toolkit, Developing Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Jeans.
Back in December, G-Star RAW announced the development of the first-ever Cradle to Cradle (C2C) Gold level certified denim — a fabric made from 100 percent organic cotton, grown without any synthetic fertilizers or toxic pesticides, and the cleanest indigo-dyeing process to-date. This new toolkit includes concrete solutions on how to take such fabrics and create complex products and projects such as jeans, which contain multiple technical and biological nutrient components (from thread to zipper) to reach full product certification at the GOLD level. Additionally, the Assessed Materials Almanac — also part of the toolkit — specifies materials and ingredients currently assessed for C2C certification with regards to Material Health available for use in the fashion industry. This is the first time such an in-depth overview is publicly available to enable brands, retailers and manufacturers to get started on their Cradle to Cradle Certified journey.
“By improving, innovating and sharing the full recipe for its jeans, C&A has not only created an elegant product designed for good, it has paved the way for all jeans to be made inspired by the book, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way we Make Things,” McDonough said.
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Efforts behind both Fashion for Good and C&A’s Cradle to Cradle Certified™ GOLD denim jeans exemplify McDonough’s Five Goods: good materials, good economy, good energy, good water and good lives.
Key challenges in creating C&A’s Cradle to Cradle Certified™ denim jeans included the amount of materials from both the biological and technical cycles that came together to form the final product, and the levels of supply chain partners providing all the necessary materials. Mixing materials from the two cycles can reduce the material reutilization potential if they cannot be separated at end of use, and multiple tiers of suppliers can complicate assessment at the factory process level. As a result, C&A created a network of collaborators that included MBDC and partners Eco Intelligent Growth that together planned the dynamic assessment and created innovative solutions that have a positive impact during manufacturing, use phase, and end-of-use and next-use planning for the product.
Another challenge faced was the physical flexibility of the garment. Advances in elastane chemistry by Asahi Kasei allowed for comfort and stretchability, while also maintaining the biocompatibility of traditional denim fabric that is a key assessment criteria for the Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Product Standard.
“Many products result in what are called ‘monstrous hybrids,’ where they combine both technical and biological nutrients in a way that cannot be easily separated without degrading the material and rendering it non-recyclable or biodegradable,” said Jay Bolus, President of Certification Services at MBDC. “C&A’s jeans provide an answer to this problem in the way they are designed, using materials that can be taken apart and split between the two nutrient cycles. It’s quite revolutionary for an elastane material like this to hit the market, because it enables denim to be flexible, durable and the biological materials to be separated from the technical pieces, like buttons and rivets.”
In 2017, MBDC also played an integral role in optimizing C&A’s Cradle to Cradle Certified™ GOLD T-shirts, a compostable garment that illustrated the possibility of sustainable fashion for the mass market. In addition to C&A’s T-shirts and jeans material health assessments, MBDC evaluated processes at Cotton Blossom and Pratibha Syntex, the two India-based manufacturers who helped C&A develop and produce the certified products, and were happy to find both manufacturers already operating best-practice programs for water treatment, social fairness, energy efficiency and renewable energy.
"Designing the most sustainable jeans was a challenge where teams worked diligently for more than a year,” said Jeffrey Hogue, C&A's Global Chief Sustainability Officer. "We are extremely pleased with the result. All of the components have been successfully optimized to make sure that only good materials are used. During the process, only renewable energy and high social standards were applied, leading to a product that is designed for its next life."
Cradle to Cradle Certified™ products are awarded at five levels from the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute (BASIC, BRONZE, SILVER, GOLD and PLATINUM), with each level imposing a more rigorous set of requirements. The lowest score in any quality category (Material Health, Material Reutilization, Renewable Energy & Carbon Management, Water Stewardship, Social Fairness) establishes the product’s overall score.
For more information on the denim jeans optimization process and how to begin your company’s own assessment, visit MBDC.com.