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M&S looks to innovative solutions in denim, for a more positive environmental impact

M&S looks to innovative solutions in denim, for a more  positive environmental impact

This summer we launched our new Plan A 2025 sustainability plan, with pioneering commitments including; by 2020 100% of M&S products will have at least one Plan A sustainability attribute, and by 2025 every product will have attributes which address all priority social, ethical and environmental impacts. As the Designer and Buyer for men’s denim we wanted to see how we could play our part in building a more sustainable future, using new innovations to offer more sustainable choices in denim for our customers.

At M&S we constantly strive to innovate and offer the very best to our customers. We live and breathe everything to do with denim, and travel the world to research the market, sourcing the latest style and quality that doesn’t ‘cost us the earth’ in the process. We are already sourcing more responsible cotton, and by 2019 all our cotton will be sourced more sustainably. In addition to this, we wanted to see if we could engineer a jean that was hardwearing, had an even lower environmental impact in terms of its overall energy use, and used sustainable finishes, whilst keeping a focus on the style and quality that our customers want. 

We identified that the below were important considerations: -     

  1. Fabric – where the raw materials came from and how they were dyed

  2. Style – we wanted the jeans to have an authentic denim look, with style details that we know our customers will love

  3. Wash - the colour of a pair of jeans is usually achieved by starting with an intensely coloured fabric and then washing the dye out to achieve a final washed effect – chemicals, water and energy are used for this process

  4. Trims – as with the fabric, all components of a jean (the thread it’s sewn with, the zip tape, the back patch) have a potential impact on the environment when being produced 

Cotton that is grown responsibly is a must. At M&S we support responsibly sourced cotton through the Better Cotton Initiative which exists to make global cotton production better for the people who produce it, better for the environment it grows in, and better for the sector’s future.

We also wanted to create selvedge denim, for its authentic and stylish look, hard wearing quality and the artisan way it’s woven with self-finished edges.

We have worked with JeanologiaTM, which specialises in sustainable and efficient technologies for the garment finishing industry, to reduce chemicals, water and energy used on a selection of jeans within our collections. JeanologiaTM has also developed the Environmental Impact Measuring software, which is a tool to analyse the environmental impact in the washing process. It is divided into three categories; low, medium and high impact. The benchmark score of EIM for a pair of jeans is 33 or less for low impact, but we wanted to see how much lower it was possible to get.

We worked hard to engineer the colour of the fabric to be dyed as close as possible to the desired finished look, and then used a washing process that used less time in the machine compared to a standard wash, which meant less water, less energy and fewer chemicals were used. When the EIM results came back with a score of 21 it was a pleasant surprise, as in all of our discussions with factories and laundries we had never heard of a score this low. 

We then went on to contacting thread suppliers and zip tape manufacturers about using recycled polyester for both components. We worked with leather suppliers for the leather back-patch, which we managed to get to be bio degradable (for easier disposal at the end of the life of the jeans). 

The end result is a range of four colours of slim fit, more sustainable selvedge denim jeans, selling for £45, with recycled polyester thread and zip tape and a biodegradable leather patch. M&S also supports responsible cotton production through the Better Cotton Initiative.

So now our customers can look stylish in selvedge denim jeans knowing we’ve done everything possible to minimise the impact on the environment. We are now in search of how to reduce this score across more of our ranges.

Click here – marksandspencer.com/slim-fit-selvedge-jeans


About the author

Paul Hoare and Vipul Parmar
Paul Hoare and Vipul Parmar

Men's Denim Buyer and Men's Denim Designer

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