I'm a Sustainable-Fashion Expert, and These 5 Denim Brands Are the Best

Do you follow Andrea Cheong on Instagram or TikTok? If you don't, you should! She has become the trusted and approachable authority in an arena that many find daunting to step into: sustainable fashion. Breaking it down into bite-size pieces of information one can easily digest and use for more sensible shopping tactics in the future, Andrea's Mindful Monday Method is an absolute must-view if you want to be a more conscious consumer of fashion. With her wealth of knowledge and very good taste, it's no wonder we had to knock on her virtual door. Join Andrea each Friday on Who What Wear UK's TikTok channel (@whowhatwear.uk), where she'll be dissecting the latest trends and shopping phenomena. Last week, she showed you a more sustainable Lunar New Year shopping list. This week, she brings you her edit of the 5 best sustainable denim brands.

Andrea wears jeans by Frame

Let’s make this clear: the most sustainable jeans you can get are the ones straight from your wardrobe. The next best thing would be secondhand. Denim has a reputation for being one of the most unsustainable garments. The process uses an astonishing amount of H20—just try to picture 10,000 litres. You probably can’t. So that’s why they say to picture 13 years worth of drinking water for an individual. Then there’s the dyeing of denim, which often involves toxic dyes that pollute waterways. Oh, it doesn’t end there. Often, our favourite wardrobe essential is made with more elastane than “necessary”. While elastane may provide some comfort, it’s not considered a sustainable addition to what would otherwise be a natural fibre because it’s not biodegradable and is derived from fossil fuel production. However, if you're inclined to a little stretch in your jeans, look for up to 2% elastane and opt for recycled options wherever possible.


That’s a lot to get our heads around. But if the thrifting didn’t work out for you and you really do need a new pair of jeans, then here are the five denim brands that are doing their best for the planet.

1. FRAME

Andrea wears Frame jeans

Frame is already a firm favourite among the fashion crowd but its offering of eco-conscious options is relatively new. It’s really the recent partnership with Candiani that has the true denim obsessives sitting up in their chairs. This is a Milan-based textile mill that’s known for its high quality and leading the way with sustainable innovations, such as creating stretch denim that degrades in just six months. I absolutely love the Oversized Button Detail Denim Pant with exaggerated cuffs. I’d wear this with tube socks and chunky loafers or a black stompy boot.

Why it’s a sustainable buy: These are made of a biodegradable denim which really refers to the use of TENCEL sewing thread. If you’ve heard of that before but can’t quite place it, it’s a brand name for lyocell, a creation by Lenzing. Considered to be a sustainable form of viscose, it is sourced from renewable forests in Europe and recycles almost all the chemicals used in its production. It’s a big deal right now because most thread used right now, even for organic cotton products, is actually made of polyester.

2. BOYISH

Andrea wears a Boyish denim jumpsuit

LA native Boyish makes absolutely no secret of their claims to sustainability. To its founder Jordan Nodarse, this is a journey, not a destination. And it's a long road where his brand is leading the way. The Ricky jean is a flattering, high waist style that flares at the bottom. A guarantee to optically add an inch or three to your height. And those of you that love the comfort of a little elastane can rest easy knowing this has 1% and it's recycled.

Why it’s a sustainable buy: Considered both a sustainable brand and a sustainable buy, this may look like another pair of cute flares but it’s more than that. Boyish claims to use just one third of the conventional 10,000 litres it takes to make a pair of jeans. Plus, their materials are OEKO-TEX certified, which means it's been tested against 100 different known chemicals toxic to the environment and humans. And of course they release an annual report about their progress, which is actually easy to comprehend. These guys aren’t trying to pull wool over your eyes (they’re vegan) they’re just trying to get you on board for the ride.

3. E.L.V

best sustainable denim brands: E.L.V

Photo:

@monikh

Monikh in E.L.V jeans

E.L.V stands for East London Vintage Denim and as the name suggests, it’s all about using upcycling vintage in the name of circular fashion. This “reworked” aesthetic has been on the rise for a long time, dare I say fuelled by the thrift flip phenomena on Depop. So comparatively, E.L.V’s prices do seem a little intense. But as opposed to the brand simply sourcing larger sizes that are actually wearable and don’t need to be reconstructed, it sources old jeans that would have ended up in a landfill.

Why it’s a sustainable buy: An aspect of sustainable fashion that’s often overlooked is the idea of sourcing locally. Not just to reduce carbon footprint but to give back to the community. E.L.V works with services in Walthamstow, right down to the dry cleaners and manufacturers at Blackhorse Lane Atelier. They also claim to use less water than a traditional pair of jeans, at just 7 litres as opposed to 10,000 litres.

4. SEVENTY + MOCHI

best sustainable denim brands: Seventy + Mochi

Photo:

@joy_monty

Shopping editor Joy Montgomery in Seventy + Mochi dungarees

A delightful British brand that’s all about circular fashion. Using a range of recycled materials it purports to use absolutely no virgin or non-organic cotton. My preference is the Mabel jeans. Not because they're black and I constantly spill coffee down my legs but because it’s a slouchy yet elongating trouser that manages to make patchwork look chic.

Why it’s a sustainable buy: The Mabel style comes from their latest collection that scored “Low Impact” on the Environmental Impact Measurement audit. It’s made of 69% pre-consumer recycled cotton, 30% lyocell, 1% eco-made elastane. Pre-consumer cotton refers to anything that may have been a by-product. For example, factory off-cuts of other cotton textile products. Eco-made elastane applies to pre-consumer stretch fibres that have been recycled. By limiting the amount of virgin material in their collection, Seventy + Mochi is minimising waste.

5. BLACKHORSE LANE ATELIERS

best sustainable denim brands: Blackhorse Lane

Photo:

@kellyouhar / BHL / Illya 

Kelly Harrington in a Blackhorse Lane jacket

Remember this name because it is a must know if you love denim. Both a manufacturer (they work with E.L.V denim) and a brand in itself, they sell by weight or according to your textile preference: selvedge, Japanese, Turkish or organic.

What’s selvedge you ask? Only the most premium in the jean world. It’s made on a shuttle loom where the edge is self-finished. It’s considered almost artisanal and those who know, know. You can identify it by the way hems are cuffed to reveal a beautiful seam that looks like a stripe. No overlock necessary.

Why it’s a sustainable buy: Blackhorse Lane Ateliers offers a lifetime guarantee—they will tailor and repair your jeans for you for free. Although, there is a real charm to a naturally aged jean that speaks of a history of wear and tear. Its fibres are of the best quality with the classic straight indigo style sourced from Candiani. The label has an admirable ethos that they will not work with suppliers without a prior visit to their production facility. 

Watch Andrea talk through her picks below and don't forget to follow us on TikTok @whowhatwear.uk

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