G-Star RAW: Becoming one of the world's most sustainable denim brands
For over a decade, Amsterdam's G-Star Raw has worked tirelessly to put sustainability and protecting the planet at the heart of everything it does. Read our testimonial to find out more about the journey to become one of the world's most sustainable denim brands.
A mecca of fashion in the heart of Amsterdam
G-Star RAW’s Rem Koolhaas designed headquarters are a mecca to fashion. A pantheon in the worship of clothes. Head through the formidable building’s entrance and the first thing you’ll see is jeans, shirts, shorts and skirts: hung on the walls, displayed as art and worn by the firm’s super-stylish employees. Venture into the basement and you’ll find G-Star’s archive, a collection of more than 35,000 pieces, including everything from original clothing and work wear to submarine escape suits and classic denim jackets.
Despite these treasures, the piece that symbolises the firm’s journey the most sits at the end of its RAW for the Planet Journey exhibition. Walk past the pictures of the abandoned children that the denim firm’s GSRD Foundation has helped and its range of EarthColors jeans that have been dyed using upcycled plant waste and you’ll find it. Hung on a wall is the G-Star Elwood RFTPi jean, the most sustainable jeans the company has ever made.
Becoming one of the world's most sustainable denim companies
Frouke Bruinsma, G-Star’s Sustainability & Communications Director at the time of this interview, explains G-Star’s Most Sustainable Jeans Ever.
“For me, these jeans are my proudest achievement. They are the culmination of everything that we’ve done before, of everything we have learned over the years. To make them, we created the cleanest indigo technology ever alongside textile dyeing company Dystar and denim manufacturer Artistic Milliners. They also feature eco-finished metal buttons and a washing process where 98% of the water used is recycled and the rest evaporates, leaving no water to be discharged into the local environment."
The Dutch firm is a shining example of a company working in one of the most polluting industries in the world and doing everything it can to change it from within. It started around 2006 when G-Star implemented its first Supplier Code of Conduct, which set out the social and environmental standards it expected each factory it worked with to meet. “At that time, we were growing at a fast pace and realised that we needed to show our responsibility to our non-profit organsations. In the Netherlands and Europe, there wasn’t much going on in terms of sustainability. We really had to go to the US to learn more about it.”
But it wasn’t until G-Star’s 2010 RAW Sustainable line that the sustainable commercial product journey really started. Comprised of three sub-programmes, RAW Organic, RAW Nettle and RAW Recycled, the collection used recycled and organic materials. Following a plan of Raw Responsibility, they continue to push themselves to meet increasing targets of sustainability. For example, by 2025 they pledge that 75% of their collection will be made from recycled, organic, bio-based or compostable materials.
G-Star also created the RAW for the Oceans collection from plastic waste reclaimed from the shorelines and oceans and developed sustainable dyes made from recycled plant waste. Even G-Star’s Rem Koolhaas designed Amsterdam headquarters, inspired by an aeroplane hangar, has several sustainable features, including a thermal-storage system and triple glazing.
Creating the most sustainable jeans ever
To test just how sustainable the jeans are, G-Star asked for the denim fabric used to make them to be tested by the most rigorous test available – at the non-for-profit Cradle To Cradle Products Innovation Institute, the only certification designed for circular product economy. After testing, the fabric was awarded a coveted Gold-level certification, the world’s first-ever gold standard awarded to a denim fabric.
How the future of fashion can go green
Not content with being a leader in sustainability, G-Star also shares its knowledge to help the wider-industry to be as green as possible. One way in which it does this is by sharing its innovations via Cradle to Cradle's Fashion Positive Materials Library, a database of their certified materials which is available online. “What we’re trying to do is to start a challenge with our competitors to do better and be more sustainable,” Bruinsma explains in a meeting room in the heart of G-Star’s headquarters, as designers cut out samples on tables just metres from where we are sat. “That’s a nice thing, as it means we’re all working towards the greater good. What’s great is that now many brands are working together. We can’t do it by ourselves.”