Tommy Hilfiger unveils ‘world’s first’ 100% recycled luxury jeans

The launch of the jeans follows three years of research at PVH Corp's Denim Centre (pictured)

The innovative jeans are made using cotton offcuts produced at a factory level, which are taken apart using a mechanical separation process before being woven into new material. The thread used to sew the jeans is spun from recycled plastic bottles and buttons, while recycled metal will be used to create the buttons and zips.

In order to ensure the entire manufacturing process is energy-efficient and low-carbon, the garments will be finished using laser technology, rather than by hand. This innovative method is already being used by the likes of Levi Strauss.

Once the jeans are finished, they will be fitted with 100% recyclable paper tags and displayed on aluminium hangers, to ensure the entire process is free from single-use plastic. The first products made in this way will be launched as part of Tommy Hilfiger’s spring/summer 2019 collection before the end of March.

“We have a responsibility to future generations to manufacture products in a more thoughtful way to protect our environment,” brand founder Tommy Hilfiger said.

“Starting with how we design and produce some of our denim styles, we want to inspire consumers to make sustainable changes.”

The brand’s three first 100% recycled products will be tapered jeans for men, mom jeans for women and an oversized, unisex jacket. Tommy Hilfiger will aim to add at least one new product to the range each season.

Sustainability that fits like a glove

The launch of the recycled jeans to Tommy Hilfiger’s global markets follows three years of research at the Denim Centre in Amsterdam, which is owned by the brand’s parent company, PVH Corp.

Founded in 2016, the hub hosts research and development teams working to produce closed-loop garments using low-carbon, low-water processes that preserve fabric durability and appearance. It also plays host to a collection of 1,300 denim swatches, serving as a fabric ‘database’ for designers, and an academy for training retail teams and buyers on best practice sustainability measures.

Before the hub was founded, luxury fashion brands found it “nearly impossible” to create high-quality recycled denim at scale, Tommy Hilfiger’s chief executive Daniel Grieder said.

“The PVH Denim Centre addresses unique opportunities in our rapidly-growing global Tommy Jeans business, reimagining the traditional production process in terms of innovation and sustainability,” Grieder said.

“We share a responsibility to find solutions to preserve our world’s resources and drive our industry forward for good.”

Recycling for the runway

Tommy Hilfiger is one of several big-name fashion brands to have launched circular garment lines in recent months, amid rising consumer demands for more sustainable clothes, shoes and accessories.  

Last summer, C&A launched the world’s first Gold-level Cradle to Cradle (C2C) Certified jeans, – a follow-up to its range of C2C Certified T-shirts. The innovative jeans are made from organic cotton and coloured with dye derived from plant waste, while the T-shirts are designed to be recycled or composted.

Other brands, including sportswear giant Adidas, US-based womenswear retailer Everlane and outdoor clothing firm The North Face, have taken a different approach to circularity, launching garments made using recycled plastic bottles.

H&M, meanwhile, has begun to sell recycled polyester sportswear as part of its bid to become “truly circular” by 2030. In a drive to help the brand launch similar products in other materials, the company’s charitable arm recently unveiled a “garment-to-garment” recycling plant in Hong Kong.

These moves come at a time when the global fashion industry is widely seen as one of the world’s most wasteful, producing 100 billion garments and 20 billion pairs of shoes each year. The World Wear Project estimates that as much as 85% of these items will end up in landfill within three years of purchase. 

Sarah George

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