Industry News 8/3/2015

B$Z: Patagonia Sets Out to Change the Filthy Business of Denim

With its new denim collection launching today, Patagonia is changing the way denim is made and raising the bar for environmental and human rights practices – using innovative, environmentally friendlier dye, Fair Trade Certified sewing practices, and 100% organic cotton grown without pesticides, herbicides, or synthetic fertilizers.

The filthy business of conventional denim drove Patagonia to rethink the entire process. Typically, denim production involves the use of dangerous chemicals to grow conventional cotton; dying it produces millions of gallons of wastewater; and, too often, jeans are sewn in factories where workers may not be treated fairly.

Patagonia’s new dyeing and manufacturing process, which was developed by Archroma, uses Diresul® RDT dyestuffs that bond more easily to cotton, eliminating the resource-intensive and environmentally destructive indigo dyeing, rinsing and garment washing process used to create traditional denim.

Greatly reducing the environmental impact of the denim supply chain, Patagonia is using 84% less water, 30% less energy and emitting 25% less CO2 than conventional synthetic indigo denim dyeing processes. 

All Patagonia denim is made with organic cotton that is grown without chemical or synthetic fertilizers, poisonous pesticides or herbicides. The entire process results in a color-rich, durable style – avoiding the environmental downsides of sandblasting, bleaching and stonewashing jeans.


“Traditional denim is a filthy business. That drove us to change the way our jeans are made,” said Helena Barbour, Patagonia’s Business Unit Director, Sportswear. “We wanted to find an alternative solution to using the standard indigo dyeing methods we once employed to create denim. It took several years of research, innovation, trial and error, but the result is a new path for denim. We’re hopeful other manufacturers will follow suit and help us change the denim industry.” 


As part of the company’s commitment to improve factory workers’ lives, Patagonia Denim is Fair Trade Certified™ for sewing. The Fair Trade program’s market-based approach helps workers receive fair compensation for their labor, while creating better working conditions and safeguarding against the use of child labor. In addition to the six denim styles, Patagonia has grown its Fair Trade clothing styles from 33 in spring 2015 to 192 in fall 2015. 


To further promote awareness about the denim industry’s numerous environmental and social harms, Patagonia launched a campaign in August, “Because Denim is Filthy Business.” The campaign, which runs across Patagonia’s website, social channels and catalogs, focuses both on the problems with the current denim manufacturing standards as well as solutions for change.


Watch a video on Patagonia’s denim dyeing practices here.


The Fall 2015 Patagonia Denim collection includes three men’s and three women’s jeans that are rugged, stylish, performance-driven and up for anything, whether it’s Bouldering in the Buttermilks or dining out in New York City.