DL1961, the family-owned, sustainability-driven denim brand led by cofounder and CEO Sarah Ahmed, has just launched its Fall 23 collection today, furthering the brand’s pledge in engaging in socially responsible and environmentally friendly business practices.
“Sustainability isn’t just a hot topic or an overused term anymore — it’s a global concept that can be embraced by all individuals regardless of their background,” Ahmed comments, stating that sustainability has been at the core of DL1961 since the brand first launched in 2008. “Our focus was to deliver a perfectly fitting jean while innovating and creating sustainable products. This has become a core element of our brand identity, and environmental responsibility is embedded in all that we make.”
Exactly how sustainable — or unsustainable in this case — is your favorite pair of denim? As global sales of jeans continue to rise, the market value for denim fabric is estimated to increase to over $35 billion in the next 4 years, all with a series of detrimental impacts that lie underneath. More than 10,000 liters of water are used, and 16.2kg of CO2 are released as manufacturing emissions to produce one single pair of denim. According to latest studies, emissions linked to the production of denim are comparable to flying a plane around the globe 2,372 times or driving a petrol-operated car more than 21 billion miles.
One of DL1961’s key strategies in minimizing its environmental impact is the use of recycled and regenerative fibers. The brand incorporates post-consumer waste, such as plastic bottles, into its denim production, reducing the demand for raw materials. Additionally, DL1961 implements regenerative farming practices, which focus on restoring and improving soil health.
In an industry where sustainability is often glamorized, I ask Ahmed what sustainability really means for her in the day-to-day running of the business operations. “For us, it really means constant questioning, auditing, and improving. It means never being satisfied by the status quo, even if we established that status quo ourselves.” Ahmed says growing up seeing the family’s denim grew from manufacturing to vertically integrated global brands is “both exciting and scary.”
“By owning and managing the entire production process from start to finish, we are able to carefully monitor and improve each step. This means we’re constantly auditing from an efficiency perspective to minimize waste financially and in terms of physical resources. And thanks to software like Jeanologia’s EIM, we can keep track of resources used for every single pair of jeans, giving us transparency and accountability.”
Even during the tough conditions imposed as a result of the pandemic, Ahmed’s team chose to invest and grow in its sustainability efforts. “We partnered with Recover™ to open an in-house textile recycling plant and divert textile waste from landfills to make sustainable, recycled fibers for our jeans.” Talk about daring decisions during a time when most factories opted to shut down operations.
The brand also understands the importance of transitioning to renewable energy sources to combat climate change. From embracing solar power to reducing reliance on fossil fuels, DL1961 minimizes greenhouse gas emissions associated with traditional energy sources, while employing clean dyeing technologies that keep the use of harmful substances to the minimal, providing a safer and more sustainable alternative for consumers and its employees. Currently, an impressive 98% of water used at DL1961 is recycled throughout its production processes and more.
“At DL1961, we start our production by shredding pounds of old denim into smaller pieces and weaving them into new yarn with specialized eco-friendly fibers that have high-performance stretch — ultimately creating a product that fits perfectly, is durable, resilient and most importantly — sustainable.”
If you ask Ahmed what she considers as the biggest challenge since she became CEO, she will not hesitate in pointing out that she faces a lot of the same challenges any consumer company is facing — too much brand saturation, a race to the bottom for pricing and social media noise. But Ahmed also knows firmly what stays unwavered, always: “At DL1961, our focus is simple: how do we make customers feel valued when it comes to their purchases. At the end of the day, they are the investors in our brand, they are the ones that help us grow and bring us closer to our environmental and business goals.”
DL1961’s new collection is now available at www.dl1961.com.