The Ultimate Guide to Ethical Denim

By March 6, 2018Lifestyle
Reformation ethical denim

From durable workwear to high-fashion fabric and everything in between, denim has been a staple of our wardrobes for decades.   But which brands do good and look good?  Here’s our ultimate guide to ethical denim.

Denim is a fabric that might have been created by the gods themselves. A wardrobe staple, regardless of the season. The versatile cotton-based material breathes, is durable, stylish and is above all — comfortable. But I don’t need to preach about how great denim is, because everybody already knows this, with 1.2 billion jeans sold worldwide. Denim is the world’s most used textile.

However, what most people don’t know, is the environmental cost that can come with denim.

Denim is primarily made up of cotton, a notorious ‘thirsty crop’. For every kilogram of cotton produced, 25,000 litres of water is used. In addition, pesticides and synthetic chemical dyes often lead to toxic water pollution.

However, with the rise of the conscious consumer a number of brands have answered the call to action and are going above and beyond to meet your denim needs.


MUD Jeans 

Mud ethical jeans

Boyfriend Basin, Light Stone || International Shipping

“Be kind to this world. Recycle your jeans”

The innovative Dutch brand has crafted their own ‘lease-a-jeans’ program, where subscribers pay a small monthly fee to own their jeans. When the jeans become worn down, users send their jeans back to head office, and receive a fresh pair instead. Old jeans are recycled into new pairs and the cycle continues. The recycling process minimises water and resource wastage.

You can also own your jeans outright, knowing they’ve been made from cotton certified by the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI Cotton). This cotton has the least impact on the environment, using less water and pesticides than traditional or organic cotton. MUD also offer a selection of customisable vintage jean options, which have that great worn-in feeling, but are catered to your personal style.

Nudie Jeans 


Nudie ethical jeans

Tight Terry, Rinse Selvage Stretch || international shipping

Nudie Jeans use only Fairtrade certified organic cotton. Not only does this cotton have a 46% reduced global warming potential, but it ensures farmers receive a minimum price for growing a sustainable product. Nudie also offers in store repair to all their jeans, saving a total of 44,021 pairs of jeans from landfill during 2016. You can order a repair kit free of charge to your home.  Their signature bright orange stitching creates a standout effect, and let’s everybody know you’ve chosen ethically. Nudie also offers a range of denim jackets!

Check out how ethical your favorite denim brand is with the Good On You app.



Womens Dash, Raw Black || International Shipping

Better known for their upcycled leather jackets, the Swedish designers at Deadwood have launched a collection of denim jeans. Their jeans use GOTS-certified organic cotton and are made alongside their jackets at their factory in Bangkok, where workers are paid fair wages and encouraged to develop and express their creativity.


Monkee Genes 

Libby Straight Leg Slim Fit Organic Jeans in Light Wash || International Shipping

On trend, affordable, and with an eco and ethical conscience

When Monkee Genes designers became disillusioned with disposable high street fashion, they decided to raise public consciousness. With factories in Turkey, India and Indonesia, regularly visited by Monkee Genes, these organic jeans ensure ethical working conditions, as well as comfortable style for wearers. Their newly developed ‘ORGANIC FLEX’ material creates a springiness that balances elasticity with durability, by combining the power of cotton with polyester and elastane.


Outland Denim  

Dusty in Black || International Shipping

Founder, James Bartle, created the Denim Project in 2013, a program which helps girls recover from the sex trafficking industry to secure a career path and a living wage. With the Australian brand’s production facilities based Cambodia, staff are offered sustainable employment that truly makes a difference to their lives. Materials used in production vary from upcycled pocket linings and recycled packaging to BCI cotton, which also abides by the Global Organic Textile Standards. Outland also uses natural indigo dyes to reduce environmental impacts of traditional synthetic dyes. Overall, these denim jeans are going to keep you feeling good, as well as looking good.

Check out how ethical your favorite denim brand is with the Good On You app.


Nobody Denim 


Lover Short ||International Shipping

Australian founded and made, Nobody Denim is well known for its commitment to sustainability. Nobody recently launched a new capsule collection of repurposed denim from their seconds and excess stock items and is paving the way for ethical denim consumption. They work closely with the Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia (TCFUA), where employees are ensured fair wages and safe working conditions. Nobody Denim is also accredited by Ethical Clothing Australia and sources their material from mills in Japan,  Europe and local Australian mills. As well as selling high-quality, high-fashion denim jeans, Nobody Denim offers a range of other stylish denim products including shorts, skirts, jackets and shirts!



501 Shorts  || International Shipping

The original inventor of the denim jean, Levis is continuing to pave the way in the industry with high environmental standards and transparent supply chains. Evolving the company to focus on caring for the planet and people, Levis uses Better Cotton and encourages sustainable laundry habits in consumers. Levis truly offers variety in denim products from jeans to jumpsuits. Go straight to the source for all your denim needs.

Jackets and Shirts

Kings of Indigo (K.O.I) 

Kings of indogo ethical denim

 Gladys  || International Shipping

Inspired by American classics with an eye for detail, this Dutch designer has big dreams — to be the number one sustainable jeans brand in the world! With the Triple-R philosophy (recycle, repair, reuse) at their core, K.O.I are 100% transparent about their supply and production chain. Aiming to use 100% sustainable fabrics in the next three years (currently at 90%), majority of fabric is GOTS certified organic cotton sourced from European suppliers, with manufacturing occuring in the Mediterranean. K.O.I also incorporates other sustainable fabrics in their collections like linen, hemp, modal and wool. Check out their full denim collection which includes jeans, shorts, jumpsuits, dresses and jackets, for all your sustainable denim needs.

Jack & Jones 

Earl Jos 968 Denim Jacket || European Shipping (international stockist)

Owned by Dutch-based Bestseller, this stylish menswear brand aims to integrate sustainability into the heart of their business model. With jeans regarded as the backbone of Jack & Jones’ business, as such 75% of all raw material used in their products is cotton. Jack & Jones are now members of Better Cotton Initiative with big plans to use 100% sustainable cotton sources by 2020. In 2011 Jack & Jones created their Low Impact Denim project which aims to use less water, less energy, and lower chemical inputs during production of jeans and denim products than traditional jean manufacturing processes. As well as sustainable jeans, Jack & Jones also have a range of denim jackets, which will you keep you feeling warm, whilst looking cool.

Check out how ethical your favorite denim brand is with the Good On You app.


The Reformation 

Johnny Overalls || Ships Internationally

Everybody’s favourite eco-friendly brand has launched a new jeans and denim range — Ref Jean. Ref Jeans uses only deadstock or sustainable fabrics in their new denim line, and every pair of Ref Jean saves 1,468 gallons of water (compared to conventional pairs). Along with Ref Jean, they launched The Wet Program. This program sees 1,000 gallons of water cleaned with the National Forest Foundation for every pair of jeans bought. Check out their new denim range which also includes jackets, and overalls.

Once you’ve found the perfect denim garments, make them last by treating them well. Find out ways to care for your denim babies !

Have you tried any of these great denim ranges? Let us know in the comments what you thought of them!

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Editors Note: Ratings correct at the time of publication.

All images via brands mentioned.


Maddie Dockrill

Author Maddie Dockrill

Maddie studies science, and is passionate about the environment and sustainability. Her interests include animals, travelling, and sleeping in.

More posts by Maddie Dockrill

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Cat says:

    What about the new jeans from Amour Vert? or AGOLDE

  • Aimee says:

    Yes!! Such a good and timely post, I needed to pick up some jeans today for a photoshoot and quickly used the good on you ap and discovered levi’s had a big tick. Thanks so much x

  • great denim roundup! i wear monkee genes and nudie; both are crafted with hard-wearing and long-lasting denim {nudie has leather patches, but a spokesman said they’re considering animal-friendly options in the future}. i’m now a fan of armed angels because of their commitment to protecting the environment, farmers and garment workers and animals as well. i’m really surprised to see levi’s here and their high rating struck me because of their history of worker rights abuses, and even after signing onto greenpeace’s detox program, their commitment to clean manufacturing and to the health of the workers does not reflect the standards set by other eco companies {saving water is just one step in a multi-layered process, and worker well-being programs are good, but paying a living wage is just as important; while better cotton is a step in the right direction, organic cotton is a viable option}. i’d love to see a heritage company like levi’s succeed, but i’d like to see them commit to making changes that consider their workers’ lives in a truly holistic way.

    • says:

      Hi Christina
      Thanks for the comment! As well as highlighting the high performing brands like Mud Jeans, Outland Denim and Armed Angels it’s important that Good On You distinguishes better and worse performance by mainstream brands. In addition to the positives you note Levi’s are one of a relatively small number of apparel brands that have committed to setting science-based targets for reduction in emission of greenhouse gases. The Science Based Targets initiative is a partnership between CDP, the World Resources Institute, WWF and the UN Global Compact. You can read more about how we rate brands here and you can read full details of our Levi’s rating in the free Good On You app.

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