Not enough is really said about the costs of making a pair of jeans. Not monetary, but ethical. Denim Geek received an E-Mail yesterday asking if we could explain a little about fairtrade and organic jeans and suggest a few pairs which are well worth a sniff. The current world jeans market is currently valued at over $50 billion US dollars.
Denim is made from cotton, which is not the most ethical fabric you can wear on your bottom half. Only 2.5% of all farmland is used to grow cotton, but cotton accounts for 10% of all pesticide use and around 22% insecticide use worldwide. Cotton crops also consume vast amounts of water. Uzbekistan is the second largest exporter of cotton in the world and their Aral Sea has almost been completely drained because of water need to sustain their cotton industry.
There has been human rights issues with Uzbekistan too. The cotton grown there is not harvested and processed by hi-tech machinery but is instead harvested by men, women and school children, plucked from schools and places of work and given strict harvesting targets to meet. You can download the Environmental Justice Foundation’s excellent report on cotton in Uzbekistan here and sign their petition encouraging retailers not to buy Uzbekistan cotton. Ethical shoppers will want to source fairtrade cotton, which can not tackle water consumption but can cut down insecticide and pesticide use.
As well as the cotton issues, there are also issues surrounding production lines. Many of the vast numbers of jeans on sale in UK store today are produced in Eastern Europe or North Africa, with terrible working conditions. With all the problems involved, it can only be a good thing that larger denim companies are looking into ways of using as much organic fairtrade cotton for their jeans as possible.
At the top end end of line exists a range from former Harvey Nicks buyer, Sharkah Chakra. These jeans are hand-woven using organic, fairtrade cottons and organic dyes and instead of bleaching, sunlight is used to create the perfect fade. Sharkah Chakra jeans will set you back around £200 and are finished with exquisit attention to detail and organically sourced solid gold rivets.
A favourite brand of Denim Geek’s, Nudie Jeans are also working hard to ensure all of their denims are made with ethics in mind. You can check out the Nudie website at www.nudiejeans.com.
For around the same price, you can also check out Kuyichi’s. The company works directly with the Peruvian farmers who supply their organic cotton and encourages them to become shareholders in the company. Kuyichi is also a member of MADE-BY, a Dutch network of socially responsible fashion labels.
Buying organic jeans is more expensive but if you want the people responsible for creating your jeans to earn a decent wage, of course you’re going to have to dig a little deeper. Always check your labels.