Nudie Jeans aims to create 15,000 pairs of jeans from the company’s unsold denim. The Swedish denim brand, celebrated for its use of organic cotton and its jeans repair program, will take its own jeans it considers to be “second-quality” and turn them into fabric for new jeans. Second-quality jeans are those with slight defects such as a discolored wash, inconsistent stitching or irregular cut. Historically, they are either sold at a discount or otherwise discarded.
Post-industrial waste recycling is a $350 billion opportunity in the Western hemisphere, according to a report from Accelerating Circularity, a collaborative initiative formed by sustainable materials community Textile Exchange. The denim brand teamed with United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) as part of the EU-funded circular accelerator, SwitchMed, to bring denim recycling to Tunisia. Nudie Jeans produces the majority of its jeans in Tunisia through companies Denim Authority and Universal Colours.
In December, Nudie and UNIDO developed a two-phase pilot project to test the recycling process at scale. Phase one involves taking 8,000 pairs of second-choice jeans and combining them with virgin denim material to make 20,000 meters of new fabric. By May 2021, the project will have produced 15,000 pairs of new jeans. The second phase will then focus on developing a post-industrial denim recycling program with Tunisian designers to further circularity efforts. Tunisia has seen increased water scarcity in recent years, making circular design an even greater priority for the denim brand.