The Dutch denim brand MUD Jeans has gained fame beyond making jeans — the foreseeing, conscious denim maker operates on a ‘circular economy’ based brand model, aiming to shift the perspective of completely guilt-free consumption as a mere utopia. This means you are not just blindly buying a comfy pair of everyday jeans, but renting them with a bonus of swapping your most cherished ones against a new pair every year. Never letting go of your favourite jeans forever whilst doing good for the environment… sounds like a fair enough trade!
Savant spoke to Danique Gunning, Marketing Manager at MUD Jeans.
MUD Jeans operates on the model of circular economy. What does it mean, to put simply?
We live in a linear ‘take, make and dispose’ system, although we know our resources aren’t infinite. [The reality is], in the textile industry, we throw away a lot of clothing. We even burn it. Burning clothing accounts for 10% of the CO emission worldwide. So we have to change the way we do business. In a circular economy, there is no waste. We use old jeans — the ‘waste’ — as the resource for new denim products. We have made the circular economy practical by introducing the ‘Lease A Jeans’ concept. Customers pay a membership fee of 20€ and after that the pay only 7.5€ a month. After a year, they receive an email from us, asking whether they want to continue wearing the jeans or if they would like to switch to a new pair. Around 80% decides to switch to a new pair. Doing business in the circular economy thus means that, above all, you build long-term relationships with your customers.
“Doing business in the circular economy thus means that, above all, you build long-term relationships with your customers.”
Why do you think many brands reject taking that responsibility of being completely transparent in what they do?
I think brands should be transparent in what they’re doing because people expect this nowadays. Even though a brand makes mistakes, they should at least be honest about it and explain that they’re striving for the better.
Can consumption ever be entirely guilt-free?
It can for sure. It all starts with not buying things you don’t need. But if you purchase a circular product, you know that the materials will be reused. Also, doing business in the circular economy creates a lot of jobs in the recycling sector. But above all, you’re giving the resources back to the Earth at the end of use. This is our understanding of entirely guilt-free.
What are the general attitudes towards fashion and sustainability among the Dutch?
People talk about it a lot and only very few of them actually act accordingly. But things are changing at their own pace. More and more people have become aware of the damaging effects of the fashion industry on our planet. I think people just lack the relevant education on the topic, and they have to learn that alternatives can be as fashionable.
“Our own jeans are first sold as vintage, if they still look great. Worn-in jeans can be very fashionable, especially if you give them a redesign.”
What is the most difficult aspect in terms of educating the customer about environmental responsibility? To what extent does the education aspect of marketing matter?
Nowadays, people are so overwhelmed with information already. So it is important that the information we give about sustainability and about circular economy is fun, above all. In May 2016, we brought 3,000 returned lease jeans to our recycle factory in Valencia. Have a look at the Recycle Tour Video (link to YouTube). Through this trip, we showed that practicing in the circular economy can be a source of creative ideas and incorporate a lot of fun, too.
What can we all do to fight against the harm caused by the increasingly polluting fashion industry?
We can make sure our products are designed in such a way that they can be recycled after use. For example, we have already instructed the designers in the production process to make a difference. We are also thinking about how to reuse the products after being worn, for that we have introduced several waste streams — for returned jeans from other brands and for returned MUD Jeans. Our own jeans are first sold as vintage, if they still look great. Worn-in jeans can be very fashionable, especially if you give them a redesign. That’s what we do — we redesign the jeans on demand.