Levi’s takes help from sustaintech company Renewcell to upcycle the iconic 501 jeans
The Swedish sustaintech company’s pioneering Circulose fibre is getting implemented in more and more brands.
20 Jan 2022

By now, we should all be aware of how devasting the fashion industry is to our climate. For jeans manufacturers that are so dependent on cotton, it can be a tough task to sustainably grow and harvest cotton without leaving a substantial footprint on land, water and natural resources consumption.

Although there’s a lot of work to be done (around 73% of the consumed cotton fibres are either burned or thrown away after use), jeans manufacturer Levi’s is taking steps in the right direction in making use of pre-owned cotton fibres. The American jeans brand has turned to Swedish Renewcell in creating recycled (and recyclable) versions of the iconic 501 model. The model is made with a mix of Renewcell’s Circulose fibre, a sustainably sourced viscose made in part from recycled denim and organic cotton.

Large-scale mechanical recycling facilities have been around for decades, but sustainable recycling textiles is a tricky process. Traditional techniques can break down natural materials such as cotton, but the resulting fibres are weak and not durable, having to be blended with synthetic fibres to make them stronger. This, unfortunately, means that they can’t be recycled again.

Renewcell’s Circulose fibre works as a substitute to these synthetic fibres. The company spent five years developing the technology used to break down any cellulose-based fabric, either pre-consumer waste or post-consumer waste, and can now produce 4,500 tons of Circulose every year.

— We are still early stages in apparel’s move towards real circularity, which is so necessary given how consumptive and wasteful this industry can be, says Levi’s VP of design and innovation Paul Dillinger, adding:

— We’re hoping to show ourselves and the industry that it really can be done and that we can deliver a more sustainable product that saves resources, still looks great, and meets the highest quality standards.