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10 Best Sustainable Denim Brands You Should be Shopping

Nothing is more stylish than environmentally friendly fashion.

ghi sustainable denim
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Sustainable fashion brands are becoming more popular as consumers continue taking steps to reduce environmental impact. But, how can you tell if you're buying sustainable products or if the brand is just greenwashing? The sustainability and textile experts at the Good Housekeeping Institute are here to help guide you in making more environmentally friendly fashion choices when shopping for the best jeans.

As a whole, denim production has a substantial negative environmental and social impact. Denim is typically made from cotton; it requires over 1,800 gallons of water to produce enough cotton for just one pair of jeans! Plus, with pesticides and synthetic dyes used, the discarded water can be toxic, leading to contaminated drinking water and damaged local wildlife. While there is a far way to go to make denim production less harmful, some brands are taking major strides in sustainability. Here's what to look for to avoid getting duped:

What are the best sustainable denim materials?

The best way to reduce your personal environmental impact is to patch holes and mend tears in your own denim before buying a new pair of jeans. When it's time to buy, though, here's what to look for:

  • Previously used fabrics: The most sustainable textile is anything that's already been used. Look for vintage denim or pre-loved styles on top resale sites like Depop, Poshmark, or The Real Real. This is also a great way to get a deal on a designer pair!
  • Recycled material: Next, look for items made with recycled content, such as "100% recycled cotton."
  • Sustainable fibers: Organic cotton uses fewer chemicals and water than standard cotton. Lyocell (sometimes called Tencel) is a regenerated cellulose fiber that uses a closed-loop system that's safer for the local environment and workers too.

How can I find sustainable denim when shopping?

  • Sustainability certifications: Look for recognized certifications such as GOTS organic, which means the whole supply chain is organic, not just the picking of the cotton, Oeko-Tex, which indicates the fabric doesn't have unsafe levels of any chemicals, and Climate Neutral, which indicates the offset and reduce all of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Ethical production: While it's great for a brand to make environmental improvements, it must be treating its employees fairly with proper compensation. Look for brands that are clear and honest about payment and employee treatment.
  • Lifecycle: Some brands accept donations of previously used pairs to either be recycled or resold on its site; plus, many offer a rebate when you donate!

Shop the best sustainable denim brands you can feel good about:

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1
Best Overall Sustainable Denim Brand
Levi's
Levi's

While Levi's has taken steps as a brand to lower its water usage and carbon footprint when producing new denim products, the most sustainable Levi's jeans are preowned. The brand has created an easy to shop interface for secondhand Levi's jeans and jackets. Plus, prices are a bit more affordable, so you can get a great deal on a pair of long lasting jeans. Because of the nature of resale, each style doesn't have every size available all the time. 

  • Second hand shopping site
  • Famous high quality cotton denim fabric
  • More affordable than new pairs

  • Not all sizes available for each style
2
Best Value Sustainable Denim Brand
Gap
Gap

While most sustainable jeans can cost you over $100, Gap offers sustainable denim under $50. The brand's newest Gap for Good collection features responsibly produced styles made with recycled content and organic cotton. These skinny jeans are made in a factory that recycles at least 80% of the water used. Gap hasn't taken as large of strides as smaller sustainable brands, but, because Gap is such a big player in the denim industry, smaller steps like this can actually have a huge impact. Plus, we love the brand's amazing size range from 24 to 35 with short, petite, regular, tall, and long inseams. 

  • Affordable options
  • Wide size range with different inseam lengths
  • Factories recycle water in production

  • Fewer sustainable attributes than other brands featured
3
Best Transparent Sustainable Denim Brand
Boyish
Boyish

This luxury denim brand from California is rewriting the rule book on sustainable denim. On the brand's extensive sustainability page, it's transparent in all areas of production. All styles feature either recycled content, Oeko-Tex certified materials, regenerated cellulose fibers, or certified organic cotton. The brand takes sustainability seriously right down to the recycled labels, recycled metal tags, and biodegradable packaging. We love that the brand just launched a new resale site to shop preworn Boyish Jeans — plus, it offers a great rebate if you return a worn pair. 

  • All products feature sustainable fabrics
  • Offset carbon footprint
  • New resale site

  • Some reviewers had fit issues, so be sure to check the size chart closely
4
Best Innovative Sustainable Denim Brand
Afends
Afends

Afends uses innovative hemp fabric in its jeans, in addition to 100%  GOTS certified organic cotton, both of which are regarded as sustainable fibers. The brand offers classic styles as well as funky trendy designs, such as this pair with stylish color blocking. The brand aims to be waste-free in the future and began using fabric scraps to make scrunchies and other small products. 

  • Uses hemp fiber in denim
  • GOTS certified organic cotton
  • Use fabric straps to avoid excess waste

  • Minimal size range available
5
Best Personalized Sustainable Denim Brand
Unspun
Unspun

Buying jeans online that just don't fit properly and having to do multiple returns leads to a lot of excess waste and energy usage. Unspun aims to fix this issue by designing highly personalized jeans that should fit you perfectly on the first try. You can choose the thread color, the length, the waist height and more. The fabric is a mix of Better Cotton Initiative cotton, polyester, and Tencel. After purchasing, you complete a body scan with a phone app that'll determine your perfect size. Because each pair is made just for you, the brand doesn't produce an inventory at all, leading to less waste than traditional retail. 

  • Completely customizable design options
  • Body scan app
  • Brand has clear sustainability goals moving forward

  • Uses polyester
6
Best Casual Sustainable Denim Brand
Outerknown
Outerknown

Outerknown denim is popular for its casual loose fitting styles that are super comfy for all day wear. Most jeans are made with a mix of organic cotton and recycled cotton for a ultra soft touch. The fabric is produced in Turkey and then cut and sewn in ethical factories in Los Angeles, CA. The brand's skinny jeans feature organic cotton with a bit of added COREVA (natural rubber product) for comfortable stretch. 

  • Soft 100% cotton fabric
  • Snug fit that'll stretch to your perfect fit
  • Casual designs for everyday wear

  • Smaller range of styles compared to other brands
7
Best Fashion Sustainable Denim Brand
Reformation
Reformation

Reformation is popular among LA and NYC style icons for its on trend designs in every category. The brand continues to focus heavily on sustainability. The denim fabric is a mix of Tencel, organic cotton, and recycled cotton; FibreTrace is added to the fibers so you can trace the entire material lifecycle. The best selling Cynthia High Rise jeans are available in 7 shades and sizes 23 to 31 with a flattering fit. 

  • Trendy fashionable designs
  • Uses Tencel, organic cotton, and recycled cotton
  • Tons of color and pattern options available

  • Materials and products travel extensively before reaching your doorstep
8
Best Sustainable Denim Brand for Shorts and Skirts
Etica
Etica

The high-rise Etica denim shorts impressed our textile experts for being "unbelievably soft and smooth" while fitting perfectly. The fabric is made from cotton that supports the Better Cotton Initiative and Tencel too - plus, all fabrics have Bluesign certifications. Etica offers a great range of styles, including shorts, skirts, jackets, flare jeans, and cropped options. 

  • Huge range of styles available
  • Impressively soft cotton and Tencel fabric
  • Oeko-Tex and Bluesign certified fabrics

  • Does not use recycled content
9
Best Professional Sustainable Denim Brand
Everlane
Everlane

Everlane is a popular brand for sleek professional basics. The brand's jeans have a cult-like following for having a great fit and clean-cut design. Available in sizes 23-35 and ankle, regular, and tall inseam lengths, Everlane jeans have thousands of rave online reviews saying they're comfy with "just the right amount of stretch." The brand's denim factory recycles 98% of the water used.  It's also a LEED-certified factory that uses renewable energy and air drying to reduce its CO2 emissions by 80%. 

  • Variety of trendy styles available in multiple shades
  • Over 10,000 rave online reviews
  • LEED certified factory that recycles water used

  • Focused more on sustainable factories than textiles
10
Best Ethical Sustainable Denim Brand
ABLE
Able

ABLE focuses on the human aspect of denim production, ensuring all its employees are paid fairly and have safe, equitable working conditions. The denim factory that ABLE uses recycles 100% of the water used in production. ABLE has an initiative encouraging all brands to share the wages of its lowest paid employee. Focused on advocacy, the brand invests in its majority female workforce to help end poverty. 

  • Transparent info about employee wages
  • Factory recycles 100% of water used
  • Invests in the majority female workforce

  • Cotton is not organic or recycled
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