For the last couple of years, I’ve been trying to live a more environmentally conscious lifestyle. I was brought up to recycle and to care about my impact on the planet. My dad was particularly environmentally conscious, as he loves to spend time outdoors exploring nature. But in the past 5 years I’ve come to realise that recycling is only one part of the puzzle. I set out to stop over-consuming, to only buy what is necessary, and to make informed choices about the things that I do buy – especially in the clothes and beauty department.
One of my greatest challenges in sourcing sustainable clothing has been to find the perfect pair of jeans. As if finding a well-fitting pair wasn’t a big enough challenge without adding sustainability to the equation! There are a fair amount of companies out there now producing jeans with a conscience, but they’re often inaccessible to British buyers or prohibitively expensive. I don’t want to preach, I have fallen off the wagon a couple of times – heading to Gap in my desperation because I knew that they would fit me without any drama – but it doesn’t make me feel good. I believe that the hassle of searching for the indigo coloured needle in the haystack will be worth it in the end and I hope you can benefit from my experience. The more people asking for these products, the more choice there will eventually be in the marketplace. Here are a couple of British brands I’ve tried so far.
Howies are a small company in West Wales. They make a lot of activewear, such as running gear and waterproof coats. Their ethos is to create quality clothing that lasts and has a low impact on the environment. They use fabrics such as organic cotton, merino wool, Lycocel, ventile and recycled fibres.
I gave the Manon skinny jeans in indigo (size 28 x 31) a go. These are no longer available, but they have currently got a similar pair of stretch skinny jeans on their website for £75.
These jeans are really comfortable apart from a slight niggle (more of which later). They’re advertised as skinny jeans, but I do find them a little bit loose around the calves and knees. They’re made for an active lifestyle so I suppose I shouldn’t mind. They are lightweight, so much so you can hardly feel you’ve got them on which makes them super comfortable. The colour is great, a dark blue with a greyish tint that goes perfectly with any other colour. My only niggle with these is that the waistband has less stretch in it than the rest of the fabric in the jeans. I feel that the waist is narrower than other jeans in the same size. I did try to exchange them for a half size up as I thought I had seen a 29 on their website. Their customer service team rang me soon after to inform me that they didn’t do any half sizes and that the next up was a 30. We had a little chat about the sizes and I felt confident that the 28 would do, so they sent them back to me – great customer service! I’m still trying to wear them in (or loose a tiny bit of weight around the middle). However, as they’re so comfortable I’m definitely going to keep them and will be buying from Howies again. Their sales are also worth a look. If you time it right, you can get some great sustainable outdoor/sports gear in your size.
Monkee Genes are a company that have been around for a while. I first came across them in 2009 when their vibrantly coloured jeans drew me to a shop display. I never bought those purple jeans (they were a bit too small) but remembered the brand when I started looking for sustainable jeans.
The company is proud of its sustainability standards, using mainly organic fabrics (depending on the line) that vary from cotton to bamboo fibre. They champion social and animal welfare, vetting factory standards and ensuring every worker received a fair living wage.
I tried on a pair of the bamboo washed skinny jeans in size 30 (leg length is 33 as standard).
The fabric of these jeans feels amazing, much softer than a standard cotton fabric. They’re stretchy but quite hardy too. From past experience I knew that Monkee Genes sizes tend to run quite small, so I ordered a size up to what I would normally wear. The jeans took about a month to arrive after I placed the order. I emailed customer service to ask what the problem was and they replied that the jeans had to be shipped in from another warehouse and would be dispatched to me on the following day. Once they had been dispatched, they arrived quickly and I eagerly tried them on only to be disappointed. The size 30 was too large around the waist but still wearable. However, my legs were swamped. I usually go for a medium leg length, 30 or 31 inch measurement suits me, but these are 33 as standard. I haven’t been wearing them because they really do need taking up by a seamstress (or whenever I get a sewing machine). I’m a bit ashamed about the waste I’ve incurred in ordering and not wearing them, but I didn’t want to send them back because they’d taken such a long time and faff to reach me in the first place. My verdict: great product for people who have long legs or are prepared to visit a seamstress. Monkee Genes do have a wealth of styles and colourways which is what makes their product so exciting. They frequently have sales on and discount options if you sign up to their newsletter.