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Brands you didn’t suggest: We only looked at brands submitted by you our community. We very well might have missed a few that totally deserve to be on here. So let us know in the comments and the next time we check out denim, we’ll research them for you! You’ll notice some brands that you might own also didn’t make the cut.
Unfortunately, some brands you know and love might have great practices, but they’re not open about them right now. We can only do so much digging and we want to encourage brands to be open with all of us about what they do and what they still have to work on. We hope this project will encourage more brands to be transparent like the brands we selected above!
In-depth on each textile: We did research into many of the denim blends being used by these brands but we weren’t able to research every single product each of these brands produce.
Criteria we may have missed: We have a specific set of criteria that we looked at and we feel it’s really comprehensive. But that said, if you feel there is something we should have considered, let us know! This is a PROJECT after all and we want your suggestions.
We have a multi-step process to reach our final list. You can read more about our process here. We researched all the brands that our community submitted. Here’s the list.
You’ll see that some popular brands you may know like Citizens of Humanity, Joe’s, AG and Hudson aren’t here in the JUST Approved list. We researched a long list of brands submitted by our community and added some ourselves but given how many different types of denim are out there, we couldn’t get to everything. You can see all the 70 brands we researched here. If you have another brand you think we missed and should research for Project JUST, let us know in the comments.
We feel that there’s no point in recommending any brand to you if it doesn’t have great style and fit. So when we looked at each brand, the committee looked at the brand’s style and read reviews on fit. Several of the brands we tried on ourselves, too. We also looked at whether it was easy to buy the brand – no sense in recommending it to you if it’s impossible to find it, or to be delivered it right to you!
There are a ton of brands out there making denim! So we started by looking at what our community submitted to us for review. We had over 100 submissions. You can see all the brands we looked at here. There were many reasons some pretty good brands didn’t make the list:
That said, it’s totally possible we missed some brands who deserve to be on the list. If you think we missed one, please let us know in the comments!
In addition to two members of the JUST team, we had three experts, two coming from and focused on the industry perspective, and one focused on the context and style. For denim, we had Bob Bland of Manufacture NY and Emma McClendon from FIT for the industry perspective. For context and style, we had Alden Wicker, a journalist and blogger from Eco-Cult.
We’re tackling another JUST Approved category starting in July! If you have a category you think we should include, jump over to the JUST Approved denim page and place your vote!
We’ll tackle this category again in the new year. In the meantime, we’ll keep adding brands, including denim brands, to Project JUST so check back. If you want to submit a brand for consideration, you can do so on our brands page!
Send us an email and we promise to get back to you ASAP!
For each JUST Approved category, we’re putting in a lot of work to determine how awesome a brand is specific to the industry or sector it’s in – because we believe it’s critical to fully understand the context of an industry in order to properly evaluate a brand.
Our research found that there are four key stages in the production of denim:
Each stage requires the use of multiple resources (ex. water, labor, energy), and the improper use of these resources is what results in a resource or stage-specific issue. Got that? Don’t worry, we’ve highlighted what we believe are denim’s key issues below. 👇
However, if you are looking for a deep dive into the business of denim, check out the Denim Context Spreadsheet our research team developed, which was used as a framework by the JUST Approved Committee to better understand the context of the industry.
Denim is produced using cotton fibers, and cotton cultivation is extremely water-intensive: it is both heavily irrigated and fertilized, and uses large amounts of water in its manufacturing and packaging process, as well. In addition to this, the denim finishing process – which includes dyeing and washing – also utilizes large quantities of water, leaving denim production with a considerably high water footprint (1 pair of jeans = 2,900 gallons of water! source: waterprint).
Herbicides and Pesticides: Conventional cotton production requires the heavy use of herbicides and chemical pesticides, which contaminate soil and water sources, and can have extremely harmful health effects, particularly on cotton farmers.
Chemical Dyes: “Distressed” denim provided by a number of denim manufacturers is frequently produced at the cost of several chemical-intensive washes. Not only do workers suffer serious health risks from spraying jeans with harmful chemicals to produce “acid washed” looks, but chemical run-offs from some of these manufacturers are also dumped into water bodies, turning them into a noxious indigo-blue – an example of this being the infamous Pearl River in Xintang, China.
Stage: Raw Material (growing cotton), Fabric Production (dyeing and finishing), Garment Production (texturizing and finishing)
Sandblasting involves fine sand being channelled into an air gun and then sprayed at high pressure onto denim in order to make the fabric look worn. It is a fast, cheap and dangerous way to manipulate garments into certain styles, but is incredibly harmful to workers – serious harm results from continued exposure to silica.
Stage: Garment Production (finishing – to give denim and jeans a distressed look)
Laser and ozone processing of jeans is both more worker and environment friendly.
WHAT? Fact, at least, according to anthropologists Daniel Miller and Sophie Woodward. And since we’re all about facts at Project JUST, here are a few #funfacts to get your Trivia Night game on – in your blue jeans, obviously.
Legend has it that the word “denim” is derived from the name of a sturdy French fabric called “Serge de Nîmes“, which came from a beautiful, historical town in Southern France called Nîmes (from Nîmes = de Nîmes = denim). The twill fabric was so durable that it was used for workwear by sailors in Genoa, Italy, where Indigo-dyed, blue denim was born and came to be popularly known as “jean”.
Getting papered? Not really. American dollar bills are printed on a cotton blend that’s a mix of 75% cotton, 25% linen. They’re produced by a single company – Crane – that until about a decade ago turned to the garment industry for its raw materials, specifically denim. Best said by the Atlantic: “the company bleached and otherwise processed the denim scraps, converting 501s into fives and ones.” But the advent of skinny, spandex-filled jeans has threatened the supply of cotton available for Crane, who has now had source the fiber itself, instead of relying on repurposed denim. Spandex 1, Recycling 0.
It’s no secret that famed American Pop artist + impresario Andy Warhol loved his blue jeans – he wore them everywhere. He even inspired Mick Jagger to put them on the cover of the iconic Rolling Stones’ album Sticky Fingers. Always one to make a statement – in art or fashion or otherwise – Warhol famously said: “I want to die with my blue jeans on.”
The 1950s saw a turning point for denim, when actors like Marlon Brando in The Wild One and James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause turned blue jeans and leather jackets into symbols of quintessential youth rebellion – so much so that they were actually banned from American high schools across the country, which only made kids want them more. #marketingwin
A pair of the world’s oldest (arguably) blue jeans from the 1800s – faded, torn and naturally distressed (!) – was discovered in an all but forgotten mining town in Nevada, USA, and were auctioned on e-bay for an incredible $46,532 in 2001. They were bought by Levis Strauss & Co., the same company that had made them over a hundred years ago. What goes around does actually come back around.
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