Making Infinite Possible
In conversation with Ömer
Meet the visionary manufacturer making jeans that waste nothing
Many of us wear them every day but it’s easy to forget what it takes to make a pair of jeans. The dense, durable denim that makes each pair uses more than half a kilogram of cotton – which itself requires significant amounts of land and water to produce. As a whole, the fashion industry is now consuming 98 million tons of non-renewable resources each year, and the volume of clothes we’re buying is projected to triple by 2050. Meanwhile, we’re throwing clothes away more quickly than ever.
It’s time for clothes that close the loop. Instead of using virgin materials that get worn and then discarded, at Tommy Hilfiger we want to save used or discarded fabrics from disposal in landfill and put them to use as something new and beautiful. And we’re starting with a wardrobe staple: jeans.
The Tommy Hilfiger team reached out to Ömer Aksoy and his team of innovative textile manufacturers at Kipas – a fellow member of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Jeans Redesign – which has set out guidelines tackling waste, pollution and the use of harmful practices to transform how jeans are made.
Kipas’s goal is to make fabrics that future-proof the fashion industry. “Sustainability is the first element we pay attention to when we develop a new fabric,” Ömer says. “We are constantly looking for not only new yarns and fibers, but also partners and customers like Tommy, who share the same vision and ambitions.”
Why? Because, Ömer says, “‘We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.’ This famous saying reminds us that in every aspect of our lives, we need to make sure we are giving more than we take. Recycled products create a butterfly effect: they mean we use less raw material, which means consuming less water and less energy. All of this means that the world can recover more quickly.”
Sustainability is the first element we pay attention to when we develop a new fabric. We are constantly looking for not only new yarns and fibers, but also partners and customers like Tommy, who share the same vision and ambitions.
Getting recycled cotton right was an ambitious task. It needed to be not just to be sustainable, but beautiful and functional too. “It was essential that the recycled material we created was just as strong, durable and attractive as conventional fabrics,” Ömer explains. “We needed it to look and feel right, while also being totally sustainable.”
After a concentrated development phase that improved the look and feel of the recycled fabric, Tommy Hilfiger and Kipas created their first 100% recycled jeans. Launched in Spring 2019, the jeans are made entirely of leftover cotton scraps from cutting tables and factory floors, as well as thread from recycled plastic bottles and more-sustainable buttons. It was a breakthrough moment for the fashion industry, making Tommy Hilfiger the first brand to use 100% recycled cotton at this scale.
And cotton has been just part of the story. We have also launched jackets made of recycled polyester and down, and clothes made of recycled nylon.
Now, in Spring 2020, TOMMY JEANS is being expanded to include a stretch version. Our goal is to keep developing new variations of each fabric, so they can be used in more and more styles – while also increasing the amount of post-consumer recycling, to more effectively close the loop.
Meanwhile, Kipas’s production facilities will keep pushing forward – with all offices and mills being fitted with solar panels that will meet the whole company’s energy needs by the end of 2020.
Ömer believes this work is the start of something much bigger. “We are on the verge of a real sustainability revolution. Soon, sustainability won’t differentiate organizations like Tommy Hilfiger and Kipas, it will become the standard. But it’s not easy to change the entire system all at once, and it needs to happen fast. That’s why we need pioneering brands like Tommy Hilfiger that can demonstrate how a sustainable production model is possible. I’m sure other brands will follow – because they’ll have to.”