Cleaning Up Dirty Denim

By Ecouterre

Denim’s a dirty business, and Patagonia is fixing to take it to the cleaners with a new collection of sustainable jeans. Composed of 100 percent organic cotton, the relaunched “Patagonia Denim” line uses environmentally sensitive dyes that bond more easily to the fiber, employing 84 percent less water and 30 percent less energy than conventional means. All six styles—three for men and three for women—are constructed using fair-trade-certified sewing processes, which allow workers to receive fair compensation for their labor while promoting better factory conditions.


The result, according to Patagonia, is color-rich, performance-driven denim that is burdened by neither the ecological pitfalls of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sandblasting, and bleaching, nor the inhumanity of worker exploitation.

“Traditional denim is a filthy business,” Helena Barbour, Patagonia’s business unit director, sportswear, said in a statement. “That drove us to change the way our jeans are made.”

Patagonia wanted to shake up the status quo, which is typically as resource-intensive as it is environmentally destructive.

“We wanted to find an alternative solution to using the standard indigo dyeing methods we once employed to create denim,” Barbour said. “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.”

Patagonia’s new range is currently available at Patagonia stores and partner retailers nationwide, as well as online at



Ecouterre is a website devoted to the future of sustainable fashion design. We’re dedicated to showcasing and supporting designers who not only contemplate cut, form, and drape, but also a garment’s social and environmental impact, from the cultivation of its fibers to its use and disposal. Our ethos: To follow the evolution of the apparel industry toward a more environmentally sound future, as well as facilitate a conversation about why sustainable fashion matters.



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