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Levi’s, Dockers, Sheep Inc Moving Sustainable Apparel Ever Forward

Dual launches from Levi Strauss include recycled denim Levi’s and Water<Less Dockers; while carbon-negative wool sweaters from Sheep Inc come with full supply chain transparency.

Levi's releases most sustainable jeans to date

Image credit: Levi's

Today, Levi Strauss & Co launched Levi's®’ most sustainable jeans yet — made with organic cotton and Circulose®, a breakthrough material made from 20 percent recycled denim and 20 percent sustainably sourced viscose. 

The Levi’s recycled denim collection — available as part of the Levi’s® Wellthread™ line in Men’s 502™ and Women’s High Loose styles — is the result of a unique collaboration between Levi’s® and re:newcell — the Swedish innovators behind Circulose, marks a significant milestone in the fashion industry’s transition to circularity. Its like-for-like fiber input means the garment can itself be recycled through chemical recycling processes; and production of the garments greatly reduces the water, chemical and CO2 footprint associated with conventional denim.

Expanding on ongoing efforts by the fashion industry to overhaul the resource-intensive and polluting processes behind conventional denim production — including the creation of C2C Gold Certified™ jeans by both C&A and G-Star Raw, and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Make Fashion Circular initiative — the new, recycled jeans represent over five years of research in circular denim design.

“We want to recycle Levi's® jeans in a way that doesn't diminish their quality. By collaborating with re:newcell, our garment-to-garment recycling takes an important step forward,” notes Una Murphy, Levi’s® Senior Designer for Innovation. “Recycling keeps garments out of landfills and minimizes the use of natural resources. We're transforming old jeans into high-quality materials, moving us beyond traditional cotton recycling, which shortens and breaks fibers. By using high-quality fiber, Levi's® jeans last longer, and designing for circularity allows our old jeans to become new jeans again and again.” 

Designed in a way that maximizes recyclability so it can be regenerated into a new jean again, each part of the jeans — trims, thread, etc — is carefully calibrated to ensure it meets recycling specifications, allowing it to have a second life when it's worn out.  This approach will not only help Levi’s® and the fashion industry to reduce dependency on virgin materials; but at their end of life, these recycled denim garments can then be put back through re:newcell’s recovery system and yield viable material output for future use.

“This is a sustainability challenge that we’ve been wrestling with for years, so it’s really exciting to see an aspirational concept become a familiar pair of Levi’s jeans,” says Paul Dillinger, Levi’s VP of Global Product Innovation. “The fashion industry has long been chasing the potential of the ‘circular economy.’ The jeans we’ve made in collaboration with re:newcell prove that it can be done.”

Learn more about Circulose and Levi’s new recycled denim collection


Dockers® celebrates 10 years of Water<Less® with limited khaki collection

Image credit: Dockers

Also today, another Levi Strauss brand, Dockers®, launched a special collection highlighting the 10-year anniversary of the company’s Water<Less® techniques. Water<Less significantly reduces water use in production — specifically the dyeing and finishing processes — and has helped save more than 3.5 billion liters of water since its introduction in 2010.

The Dockers® 10 Year Water<Less® collection features Dockers’ popular Alpha Khakis, as well as a Spread Collar Button-Up Shirt, Utility Button-Up Shirt, a t-shirt, and a hoodie. While Dockers says 47 percent of its current line is already produced with Water<Less methods, this special collection features a washed, worn-in look which requires specific dyeing and finishing — steps that are normally difficult without a significant amount of water. Through Water<Less techniques developed by LS&Co., Dockers can reduce the amount of water normally used in this garment finishing process by as much as 96 percent. In addition, the collection’s khakis feature internal trim guides to extend the life of the pants as they wear by allowing an easy transition from full length khakis into crops or shorts. 


Sheep Inc sets new standard for sustainable sweaters

Image credit: Sheep Inc

Meanwhile, British startup Sheep Inc has created a gender-neutral line of Merino wool, ZQ-certified, 100 percent biodegradable sweaters. The company describes itself as the world’s first carbon-negative apparel brand (Swedish outdoor footwear company Icebug achieved climate-positivity [an interchangeable term] in 2019, as well; but, the more the merrier!) — and it is pushing the industry to do more in terms of sustainability practices and educating the consumer as to the true human and environmental cost behind a product.

Sheep Inc says it achieves full product transparency through a tag on the hem of each Sheep Inc sweater, which contains an NFC chip that details the garment’s full journey through the supply chain, and displays the CO2 impact at every stage of manufacturing — which the customer can access with the tap of a phone (no app required).

For Spring/Summer 2020, Sheep Inc. introduced a light knit collection made from New Zealand ZQ-certified Merino Wool. The wool is spun into Cashwool® yarn in a North Italian mill powered by 100 percent renewable energy. Each sweater is knitted in an 18-gauge fine knit, using state-of-the-art 3D knitting machines for minimal waste, then finished with a hand-sewn wool detail from factory offcuts. Each sweater is 100 percent biodegradable but designed to last you a lifetime.

The lifecycle assessment (LCA) for Sheep Inc sweaters is calculated by a third-party auditor (Carbon Footprint Ltd.) and is consistent with Natural Capital Partners' CarbonNeutral protocol — the global standard for carbon neutral programmes. The result is a full cradle-to-grave carbon footprint that measures every part of the sweater’s journey — farm, scourer, yarn mill, knitter, usage, end of life and transportation. Any remaining (currently) hard-to-remove CO2 in the supply chain is then mitigated by investing in biodiversity projects around the world.

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