Published: July 18, 2016
G-Star writes the playbook for sustainable denim
G-Star is taking on the challenge to do good for the planet and look good while doing it.
“Our philosophy is and has always been ‘just the product,’ meaning that G-Star is focused on constantly reinventing denim. Designing denim for the future also includes taking responsibility for the social and environmental impact of our products. That is why, for G-Star, sustainability is a condition for doing business,” explained G-Star RAW Corporate Responsibility Manager Maaike Kokke.
Since 2008, Amsterdam-based G-Star has been a pioneer in sustainable denim. Highlights have included the Spring ’11 debut of the RAW Sustainable collection, consisting of three lines: RAW Nettle, RAW Recycled and RAW Organic. The brand changed the game in 2012 when it shifted its attention to using sustainable materials throughout its entire collection, focusing on bestselling styles.
With this move, G-Star has been able to increase the share of sustainable materials to around 15 percent of its collection and counting.
“Our aim is to make the entire production process of denim more sustainable. We work on innovations in all aspects of making denim, focusing on the materials, washes, dyes, the manufacturing process, etc.,” Kokke explained.
One of G-Star’s many strengths is viewing what others would consider roadblocks as creative challenges.
“Roadblocks can be passed left or right and force you to find another route to the solution and to continuously set new goals,” Kokke quipped. “We have a dedicated global team to work towards our goals and continuously improve our sustainable performance.”
Part of G-Star’s continuous progress toward improvement includes MODE Tracker, a holistic, transparent and verified progress tracking tool launched by MADE-BY to support brands and retailers in improving their sustainability performance through measuring and communicating year-over-year progress. G-Star reports its progress via MODE Tracker and give consumers the opportunity to check if the brand is “on track.”
“We developed our definition of sustainable materials together with MADE-BY. We consider materials ranked in category A, B and C of the MADE-BY Fiber Benchmark as sustainable. Of these materials, we mostly use organic cotton, recycled cotton, recycled polyester and TENCEL® in our products. We use TENCEL® in several products, including some of our most important denim fabrics,” Kokke said.
G-Star has written the playbook for sharing sustainable efforts with consumers, most notably its pioneering denim collection, RAW for the Oceans. The denim, made with bionic yarn created out of plastic waste reclaimed from the sea, has been the brand’s biggest campaign with a focus on sustainability, amplified by the support of its now co-owner Pharrell Williams.
“We were able to create demand and awareness for the ocean plastic pollution problem by communicating the serious subject of sustainability in a positive and fun way with products that have a high relevancy and universality like jeans,” Kokke said.
Being a European company, where sustainability is a hot topic in the media, G-Star realizes it is under the watchful eye of consumers calling for brands to act responsibly. Kokke said consumers want to know where a product is made and have the opportunity to make informed choices. As a result, G-Star has integrated a ‘where-is-it-made’ button in its online store to find out in which factory the product is made, one of several ways the brand aims to become more transparent.
“We see that our customers expect G-Star products to be of high quality, fashionable and well crafted, and buy our products primarily for their unique look and feel. But at the same time, they do seek the assurance of knowing that the clothing they choose is manufactured in a socially and environmentally responsible way,” Kokke said.
Carved in Blue: What, in your opinion, is the best denim city? Maaike: Amsterdam, where G-Star was born and our HQ is still located.
Carved in Blue: What was your first job in the fashion industry? Maaike: I have always been working in corporate responsibility, and when I started to work for G-Star almost six years ago, I had the chance to start in fashion.
Carved in Blue: Dark wash or light wash? Maaike: Raw, dark wash.
Carved in Blue: Who is your environmental hero? Maaike: Pharrell Williams. He uses his fame to create awareness and also does a lot for social and environmental sustainability outside of the spotlights.
Carved in Blue: What is your favorite part of your job? Maaike: The great thing about working in sustainability is that you are building on something positive, collaborating instead of competing with other stakeholders, such as other brands, in the textile industry.
Carved in Blue: What does “Carved in Blue” mean to you? Maaike: The unlimited possibilities of denim.