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Levi’s unveils its most sustainable jeans to date

By Danielle Wightman-Stone

21 Jul 2020

Global denim brand Levi’s has launched its most sustainable jeans ever, made from organic cotton and Circulose, a breakthrough material made from worn-out jeans.

The sustainable jeans represent more than five years of research in circular denim design for the brand and will be available as part of its Wellthread line in the classic 502 tapered fit for men and the High Loose style for women, a modern interpretation of a classic '90s style with a loose leg and flattering high rise.

Each pair of jeans are formed of 20 percent recycled denim, 20 percent sustainably sourced viscose, and 60 percent organic cotton, in addition, the denim also reduces the water, chemical and CO2 footprint during manufacturing. But more than that, the new denim jeans have been designed to maximise recyclability, the brand explained in a statement, as it wanted to ensure that its new sustainable jeans could be regenerated into new jeans again, from the trims to the thread.

Commenting on the sustainable jeans, Una Murphy, Levi’s senior designer for innovation, said: “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.

“Recycling keeps garments out of landfills and minimises the use of natural resources. We're transforming old jeans into high-quality materials, moving us beyond traditional cotton recycling, which shortens and breaks fibres. By using high-quality fibre, Levi's jeans last longer, and designing for circularity allows our old jeans to become new jeans, again and again.”

New Levi’s made of Circulose are fully recyclable and circular

Levi’s Wellthread research and development lab has collaborated with Re:newcell, the Swedish startup behind the Circulose innovation, to bring denim full-circle, by carefully calibrating the design process to ensure its meets recycling specifications to allow each pair of denim to have a second life when it's worn out, as well as allowing Levi’s and the wider fashion industry to reduce its dependency on virgin materials.

“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 that consumers can actually buy and wear,” added Paul Dillinger, Levi’s vice president 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 proves that it can be done.”

The jeans utilise Circulose, which Re:newcell makes from repurposing discarded cotton textiles, such as worn-out denim jeans, through a process akin to recycling paper, where it breaks down the waste fabrics using water, as well as stripping the colour and removing any synthetic fibres. The slurry-like mixture is dried into a sheet of Circulose that is then made into a viscose fibre which is combined with cotton and woven into a new fabric.

To ensure that its Wellthread jeans made with Circulose and organic cotton could, in fact, be recycled, again and again, Levi’s used Re:newcell’s like-for-like fibre input to demonstrate that the garment can itself be recycled through an existing chemical recycling processes to create jeans that are fully recyclable and truly circular.

“Bringing fashion full circle, denim-to-denim, together with a brand as iconic as Levi’s is a dream come true,” said Patrik Lundström, chief executive of Re:newcell. “To make fashion sustainable, it’s important to show people that a material like Circulose is a real alternative to virgin cotton both in performance and style. I can’t think of a better proof than putting truly circular Levi’s 502’s into stores worldwide.”

The Levi’s recycled denim jeans are priced 115 pounds / 148 US dollars each and are available on the Levi’s App and on Levi.com.

Images: courtesy of Levi’s