I’m a self-confessed denim addict, I don’t believe you can ever have too many pairs of jeans, denim skirts or dresses, and I think it is because denim is universally cool, it works with so many different looks, and it really has to be the easiest thing to throw-on-and-go, well other than sweatpants, but definitely much more acceptable. So, when I was in Amsterdam last week I visited the House of Denim, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to promoting craftsmanship, innovation and sustainability of the denim industry with their Denim City.
If you’re thinking ‘I didn’t realise that Amsterdam was a big player in the denim market’, you’re not alone, I was a little surprised as well, I know we all know that G-Star is Dutch, but it also seems that all the big companies have headquarters in the city, apparently so many that the city has the biggest density of denim companies in the world. Yep, Holland loves its denim.
As well as showcasing the craftsmanship of denim and offering specialist training, the big drive for Denim City is sustainability, I know, we all seem to want to know where our food comes from but when it comes to clothes we are less picky, well the organisation is trying to place more of a spotlight on the practices of denim brands and the harm on the environment.
Think about this way – a pair of Levi’s 501 jeans uses 3,781 litres of water in its full lifecycle – from growing cotton, through manufacturing, consumer care at home and end of life disposal. Then you also have to add the chemicals needed to get that ‘brighter blue’ hue as well as the energy needed to make the jeans. When you think about all that you have to wonder how a retailer or brand can make jeans cheaply.
It has made me reconsider my denim choices, ask more questions of my favourite brands, so much so I would love to do a series highlighting sustainable denim practices, those jeans brands that are ‘going green’, showcase sustainable denim labels and styles, as well as look at those labels that are championing the art of recycling – like the House of Denim’s ‘Red Light Denim’, a label that is taking vintage to the next level by recycling worn denim donated throughout the city to create a new pair of jeans with a relaxed wash. More than that this label highlights the journey that the jeans have made – you simply scan the QR label and you can see the production cycle and location of your jeans.
I found the tour totally inspiring, not only was the location so dreamy, Denim city is set in a former tramworks surrounded by cute independent stores, but the House of Denim also houses a diverse archive charting the cultural impact of denim, it even has Tommy Hilfiger’s favourite pair of jeans, as well as the world’s only independent, open source laundry innovation facility, it was fun to see the recipes and tricks involved in getting the various washes and distressed vibe that is currently all the rage. Denim City also has a Jean School for aspiring ‘denim developers’, yep so if you love denim and fashion, but don’t want to be a conventional fashion designer you might want to look this place up, especially as they are launching an international course this year.