13 Fair Trade, Sustainable Denim Brands: Perfect Fit Jeans for You and the Planet

Image from Boyish
Courtesy Boyish

Is there anything better than a pair of perfect-fit blue jean?  Throw them on and you can easily create an incredible fashion-forward but relaxed look for any time and place. But make sure you do it with sustainable and Fair Trade denim.

The traditional denim industry is, unfortunately, a filthy business. The normal dying process uses many chemicals and therefore dramatically harms the earth. More than five hundred billion gallons of water are used yearly to create denim in the U.S. alone. This is largely due to the high volume of water needed for traditional cotton.

As more and more light is shown on the denim (and fashion industry as a whole) there are more brands stepping up to the task of creating products better for the planet. By using organic cotton, recycled textiles, cleaner dyes, and ethical manufacturing practices, these denim brands are taking the fair trade, sustainably made ethos to heart. 

In an industry that is causing so much harm, it is so wonderful to see companies dedicated to doing something right. And the best thing we can do as consumers is vote with our dollar and buy products from those looking to make a difference and a positive impact. 

1. Imogene and Willie

This husband-wife duo’s dream began when both of them found themselves jobless after their family businesses closed up. They had dreams to create something new. They put their idea to paper and in the wee hours of a chilly January day they hit send on an email sharing their dream with their closest family and friends.

They launched their brand with one single email and two products, an inaugural jean for women (Imogene) and men (Willie). Their goal to sell 250 pairs was met within just 3 weeks and the company soared from there.

Their dream to make the perfect pair of jeans to fit our imperfect bodies became a reality.  Their shop opened in Nashville, Tenn., with an accompanying repair shop. All of their jeans come with a 1-year warranty and inexpensive repair prices after that first year.  They believe in repairing versus replacing, and we are all about that, too! 

2. Nudie Jeans

This Amsterdam-based brand focused on timeless design and sustainability. Using organic denim and recycled materials it creates jeans that last and through their repair program jeans that have a second and even third life.

Before circulatory was the buzzword it is today, Nudie Jeans was leading the way. Once its jeans do reach the end of their lifecycle Nudie takes them back, recycles the materials, and creates something new out of them. The patches are frequently used in their repair shop and denim is upcycled in items like their bucket hats.

3. Buck Mason

Sasha Koehn and Erik Allen started out as neighbors in Venice, Calif., and became business partners in 2013 with the launch of their label Buck Mason.

They set up shop in a 350 square foot garage. While Sasha built the website, Erik created the line’s first jeans and tees. Quality being at the forefront of their business model, they teamed up with a local family factory to create small batch runs of their unique items. They create classic pieces that will last much longer than just a season and always remain in style.    

4. ABLE

This company’s motto can be summed up in one sentence: Jobs versus charity. It is an American-based company, with creatives located around the world. They truly understand the importance of charity to those living without the necessities that they need. But they know that giving to those communities is only the beginning.

By doing the manufacturing of the products in underprivileged communities, they are creating jobs along the way to create sustained benefits. The brand’s offering not only includes fashion-forward and responsibly made denim, but also jewelry.  

5. Citizens of Humanity

This brand needs no introduction, but many consumers might not know about its committing to sustainable denim. This LA-based team manufactures in a city that understands the importance of sustainability and conserving water due to the drought-ridden landscape.

CoH use recycled and organic cotton, both which use substantially less water than traditional denim. The laser-cut styles reduce waste and they invest in high-efficiency washers.

6. Boyish

Our go-to source for vintage-inspired, high-quality jeans, Boyish produces jeans with one-third of the number of resources as traditional jeans, by using recycled material. It’s also dedicated to eco-friendly packaging and being cruelty-free. Boyish also uses Dystar Indigo dying which has 80 percent fewer sulfates than most treatments and their dyes are plant-based.

All of the materials are organic certified and they frequently create collections out of deadstock fabrics, to divert materials from landfills.

7. Amour Vert

The affordable slow fashion brand Amour Vert paired with Agolde denim to create its collection of sustainable denim. All the denim is crafted at its factory in Los Angeles, using organic and recycled cotton. The factory is one of the only vertically integrated denim product facilities in the United States and the process uses 80-90 percent recycled water for its denim processing.

8. Reformation

Reformation is a beloved ethical clothing brand and has a number of celebrity fans, including Taylor Swift. Its vintage-inspired jeans are made from organic cotton and Tencel. Its denim processing saves thousands of gallons of water annually. The jeans are sewn in a fair trade factory in Turkey.

9. DL1961

DL1961 is a family-owned clothing brand that has been creating sustainable denim since 2008. The team oversees the entire process from fiber to finished garment to ensure quality and good worker conditions. Many of the garments are made from recycling old denim. The process breaks down old denim into smaller pieces which are then woven into new yarn and new jeans.

10. Warp + Weft

Warp + Weft provides incredible, size-inclusive, sustainable denim. The family-owned brand has been around for three decades and is obsessed with the perfect-fitting jeans. The sizes range from 24” to 48” waists. The company factory saves and recycled 98 percent of the water it uses through its vertical manufacturing option.

11. Lasso

Can never find the right fit when it comes to jeans? Lasso is here to help. The consumer sends in their measurements for Lasso to make a custom pair. Made-to-order clothing cuts down excess inventory and allows for less fabric waste. Lasso’s jeans are also made from sustainable Tencel.

12. Outerknown

Outerknown creates fair trade denim for both men and women. Its S.E.A. jeans are made in one of the world’s cleanest denim factories and are certified Fair Trade. Fun fact: the brand was also one of the first to use the now popular Econyl fiber, which is made from recycled fishing nets.

13. Sezane

The sustainable brand is known for its eco twist on Parisian chic. Its denim range is made from GOTS certified cotton and recycled polyester. The company’s clothing upcycling has given a new life to more than  13,000 garments saving them from landfills in the process. It has also donated more than  4 million euros to help charitable organizations and thousands of children.

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