Levi Strauss has emerged as one of the more environmentally conscious clothing companies in recent years. Now the San Francisco-based fashion icon is amping up its sustainability efforts with its new “Waste<Less” line as part of its Spring 2013 collection. The most exciting feature of this collection, traditional yet edgy: each pair of jeans will include an average of eight recycled bottles within the denim fabric.
This announcement by Levi’s is just another example of the 160-year-old company’s transformation. Whether pushing the fashion industry to adopt tough new sustainability standards, slash water consumption or roll out a climate change strategy, Levi’s ranks with other apparel companies who are changing how they conduct business–Patagonia, Marks and Spencer, Nike and PUMA.
This upcoming line of jeans and jackets will include a minimum of 20 percent post-consumer recycled content within each garment. But that 20 percent is hardly churning out a dowdy line of trousers and jackets. Various materials, such as brown beer bottles, green soda bottles, those pesky clear water bottles and drab black cafeteria trays will add various levels of texture and sheen to the fabrics. To that end, Levi’s is working with various partners and municipal agencies to source waste; clean, crush and sort; and make polyester fibers that Levis will then weave within its cotton fiber–much of which the company sources via the Better Cotton Initiative.
The results are clothes that not only have a reduced impact on the environment, but beam with a polished look and allow the jeans to stand out in the hyper-competitive blue jeans market. The brown bottles in Levi’s straight fit 504 jeans add sublime depth to the indigo hues; green bottles intertwined within the 511 slim fit jeans give a sheen other faded and stonewashed jeans lack. For those who really focus on the “green” aspect of the clothes, the Standard Trucker jacket is the winner: 29 percent post consumer content and Levi’s “Water<Less” finish together result in a timeless, deep blue garment that would go well with slacks or, of course, a favorite pair of 10-year-old jeans in your closet.
Levi’s expects to repurpose over 3.5 million PET plastic bottles alone for its Waste<Less line. And what is compelling about this collection, besides its appearance, is that it brings recycling and waste diversion alive. Too often it is easy to pitch that bottle because once it is out of sight it is out of mind. But a lesson here is that that empty bottle we toss has value–dispose of it properly and you may soon end up wearing it. This collection is a lesson that what we describe as “waste” is really a resource into which companies should tap, not toss.
Leon Kaye, based in Fresno, California, is a sustainability consultant and the editor of GreenGoPost.com. He also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business; his work has also appeared on Sustainable Brands, Inhabitat and Earth911. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter or Instagram (greengopost). He will explore children’s health issues in India next month with the International Reporting Project.
[Image credit: Levi Strauss & Co.]