With around 1.2 billion pairs of jeans sold annually and up to 1,800 gallons of water used to produce each pair, denim has come under severe eco scrutiny. But where to start when it comes to sourcing a pair of more sustainable jeans? Some brands are more thorough than others and they all score highly on different fronts; factor in the style and fit and choosing is a minefield. Here are my top online options for women.
Kowtow: the New Zealand label founded in 2007 has exemplary credentials. It uses 100 per cent organic, fairtrade cotton grown only with rainwater, companion planting, crop rotation and green manure. The smart, wide-legged, high-rise jeans (£180) are complemented by a full womenswear range, including a work-elegant, seamed jacket (£243) – all in soft, high-quality denim dyed with certified organic washes. eu.kowtowclothing.com.
Boyish: the Los Angeles-based brand creates denim with a vintage 1970s look. It uses a third of the usual water amounts, eco-friendly dyes and low-energy washing that uses less water, while 20 per cent of its fabric is recycled. Standout summer styles include the flattering straight-leg Kirby cropped jeans ($148), which also come in a pinstripe fabric, and a pale-wash, easy jumpsuit ($188). boyish-jeans.com.
Outland Denim: the Australian make that has been given a boost by the Duchess of Sussex majors in humanitarianism. The small factory set up by founder James Bartle in Cambodia in 2011 provides employment for victims of human trafficking and teaches them sewing skills. Key styles, such as the relaxed cropped Abigail (£180) and Meghan’s favourite skinny high-rise Harriet (£160), are made using mainly organic cotton, and Outland now has its own low-pollution washing and finishing plant. outlanddenim.co.uk.
Mud Jeans: a fast-growing Dutch brand with a “circular economic model”. This means all its jeans currently contain 40 per cent recycled fibre, while its high-tech production facilities in Tunisia use lasers instead of chemicals and recycle 95 per cent of water used. It also offers repairs to its jeans and returned worn-out pairs are recycled. Simple, low-key styles like the Cropped Mimi or Skinny Hazen (both €119) are built for longevity, not trend. mudjeans.eu.
DL1961: a denim innovator that combines plant-based indigo-dyed American denim fibres with lyocell cellulose fibres made in Germany from renewable wood and recycled cotton scraps. Styles like the Hepburn wide-leg, high-rise cut-off ($189) and the Jerry cropped high-rise, straight-leg turn-up ($199) are easy-going with a fashion twist – produced in a solar-powered Pakistan factory, using just 10 gallons of water per pair. dl1961.com.