Efforts to produce fashion more sustainably and fairly are growing. For the Cologne denim label Dawn Denim, social justice in the production of the products is particularly important. The Jeans Label has recently started to focus on sustainability in terms of ecology with the new Low Impact collection. However, the aim is to make the entire production process as friendly as possible in the long term. We met co-founder and creative head Ines Rust and talked to her about the process.
In the first place, Dawn Denim is concerned about being fair. Recently, however, there’s also a sustainable line. Is it the company's objective for the entire brand to become sustainable? And if so, what is the proposed timeline and plan?
The first low impact collection has identified approximately one-third of the whole f/w ’18 collection. For the upcoming s/s ’19 collection, the proportion will increase to approximately 50%. The aim is to produce the whole collection as environmentally friendly as possible. Unfortunately so far the high demands that we set on our denim pants are not that sustainable convertible as we would like. For example, it took us a long time to find a high-performance fiber, which is made of recycled materials and at the same time meet our quality requirements. Not every consumer is willing to renounce the comfort of a jean with a high stretch rate of its material for the sake of the environment. Due to that, it isn’t an appropriate solution to shift our whole collection to items that are only made of 100% organic cotton, but rather search after the appropriate and sustainable materials or develop them as long as necessary, until we fulfill our own requirements, and that of our customers. For us, it is a process to optimize the collection and each steps of its production, as well as continuously search after new developments and innovations in the manufacturing.
To what extent, can denim ever be really sustainable?
We were fully aware to call our collection “low impact” instead of “no impact.” For its cultivation and processing, cotton needs a huge amount of water. Through the use of laser technology and less chemicals, we have an impact on the water consumption within each step in the processing, as well as clearly reduce it. We have great interest in fabric innovations and are open for the use of new ones. But at the moment we’re not able to renounce the use of cotton. Organic cotton doesn’t provide an improvement for the water consumption within the cultivation, but it has the advantage that no pesticides or genetic engineering are used. The applied polyfaser is produced by the company Repreve. It is made of used old PET bottles. They are cleaned, shredded and processed into fine chips. Later on, they are melted and processed into one single thread. We are coating the polyfaser with organic cotton and Spandex. So after weaving it, we’re receiving a perfect stretch material for our jeans.
Concerning sustainability, which advantages does Dawn Denim have?
Our advantage is that we are directly onsite; we have a short distance to realize changes, control them or design them by ourselves.
Which concrete measures will Dawn Denim take to become more sustainable?
The biggest impact this year will have the solar system, which we are currently planning and have installed at the roof of our production facility, to fully gain our electricity demand from solar energy. Additionally, we’re further expanding our roof garden and are cultivating more fruits and herbs. Apart from that, we have optimized our order and rhythm of supply in a way that we can ship our goods and at the same time avoid bottlenecks or its accompanying overtime in the production. Regarding our products, we will expand the amount of sustainable materials and resource-saving processings. At the moment, we are rearranging a huge part of our non- denim qualities and recycled polyester.
In your opinion, who are the most sustainable figures in the whole production chain: the fiber company, the mills, buyers of brands, retailers or consumers?
For me personally, the current situation within the textile industry is comparable with that of the food trade just a few years ago. The awareness of the consumer is changing and we, the brands and retailers, have to provide for the availability. Create incentives. Transparency is one of the keys here. What does it mean, if my pair of jeans costs only €30? Why are some brands much more expensive than others? According to current studies, consumers always associate sustainable fashion with higher costs. If you take a look at the success of Everlane and Reformation in the US, you can see how it’s possible to reach customers in a transparent and fair manner. For us, it is contradictory to offer a modern and contemporary collection that doesn’t include the aspect of sustainability and fairness.
Speaking of consumers: How can they be better included into the further development of sustainability, in which concrete measures can be taken?
I’m convinced that, regardless of the reports by the media, most of the end users aren’t creating references to their own consumption and its effects. Consumers can only be reached by transparency and information, but without instructing them.
What role does the Social Art Project, which was recently initiated, play in this context?
With our Social Art Project “from Fairwear to Love Affair,” we want to go a step further than the conventional fairtrade approach in terms of minimum wages, subsistence levels or working conditions. We want to understand what really helps to achieve that our employees are satisfied and happy. Our playful “Social Experiment” should convey our progressive mindset by respecting local cultures and let them become a part of our brand.
Now one personal question: As a consumer, how do you behave sustainably and eco-friendly in terms of clothing?
For me what counts are Vivienne Westwood’s words: buy less, choose well, make it last. A lot of fashion subjects can be played by a foundation of high quality basics together with new accessories and a few individual components.
Also interesting articles: