The House of Denim - Red Light / PCR Denim

Congratulations! This Entry has been selected as a semifinalist.

The House of Denim - Red Light / PCR Denim : Slash denim industry's water usage. Turbo-charge adoption of PCR cotton denim

amsterdam, Netherlandsistanbul, Turkey
Year Founded:
2010
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
Growth
Budget: 
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Jeans are supercool but require a shocking 7000L of water each to produce, an enormous impact.
This tally can be slashed by blending virgin cotton with recycled fibre from discarded garments (PCR).
The adoption of PCR needs to be kickstarted by organising demand and solving operational hurdles.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if we could re-use the vast resource of discarded unwearable garments to make denim, and slash the water usage/impact of the global denim industry at the same time?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The large-scale adoption of PCR is hindered by its higher effort/price point and weak demand. To solve these, we need to (a) also offer cheaper, lower %age PCR options and (b) involve the high-volume producers in Turkey. Currently most PCR projects push for high %ages (high cost). Currently, PCR garments/fibres are very hard to get into Turkey due to 'Red Tape'. Both can be easily solved, but so far no one has made the effort.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

1. develop a low (5-10) % PCR 'benchmark' standard and label 2. organise demand from big brands (involved: TH, CK, C&A) 3. organise participation from big producers (involved: Bossa, Orta) 4. lobby for customs ruling in Turkey (already connected: embassies, NL gov't, Turkish gov't & trade assoc) 5. develop customer-facing label to allow for consumer choice Once running, this label could be 'run' by existing organisations or eventually cease operation altogether. The objective is to organise supply, demand and deal flow; translate this into brand-consumer-retailer vocabulary or industry standard operating procedure. Current estimations indicate that low %age pcr can be offered at virtually no extra cost, making adoption effortless

Awards

House of Denim was founded on an IJ-Prijs stipend/award; our Red Light/PCR work are undecorated (as yet :))
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

So far, our Red Light Denim project has been a big success in media terms (http://thedenimdaily.com/k-o-en-house-denim-introduceren-red-light-denim/) and in terms of understanding challenges and opportunities. We made a 20%PCR fabric, translating into water savings of 750L per garment. As well as pushing this Red LIght project to 40%, we now understand that large-scale adoption will be best stimulated with a LOW%age route. The difference: big brands like TH will order some of their fabrics to be 5% PCR. The Mills will order discarded garments and refiber/blend them with virgin cotton. 200.000 units is a very conservative size estimate. Through such a single order alone, this project will save a million gallons of water!

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

The House of Denim initiatied the Red Light Denim as its first PCR project. Based on its learnings, we have commenced work on this 5% route, which we are calling the Blue Baseline. Four main accomplishments can be listed: 1. Successful development, use, laundry, sale of fabric and garments under Red Light Denim name 2. Tommy Hilfiger Global, CK Jeans Europe, C&A Europe have expressed their commitment to this new project 3. Bossa and Orta Anadolu, two of the world's leading mills from Turkey have expressed their commitment to this new project 4. First discussions held with embassies, consulates and senior politicians in Turkey, interest to pursue this topic The future impact will be to bring a water-saving PCR option to consumers at high-street price points, massively impacting water usage. Think 200-300L per garment, times millions of units. 'Water' will become a consideration.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

The Amsterdam-Turkey partnership is important to 'turbocharge' the adoption, due to the way the denim industry currently works. But once this has happened, all brands can work with all mills around the world to use PCR cotton in the production of Denim. Due to the demand for fast-fashion, there is an almost limitless supply of discarded garments that cannot be resold but currently end in the incineration oven. It remains to be seen whether pcr is desirable in all markets, and how far it makes sense to ship such fibres, but this model can eventually be scaled/used all around the world.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Once this plan is initiated, partners (brands, producers, governments) would be asked to support the organisation for as long as it is needed. We expect to become unnecessary in a relatively short peroid of time, because once the value chain has been created, demand/enterprise will ensure longevity. The key objective is to turbocharge the adoption of PCR, not to create another organisation or NGO.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

There are various NGO's with interests similar to ours, and a number of mills & recycling companies are also pursuing the adoption of PCR. We are different due to (a) our industry contacts thanks to Jean School and Denim City, (b) our independence - no other objective than to crack this and (c) our open, multi-stakeholder character.
Team

Founding Story

I originally founded Amsterdam Fashion Week to link together the various stakeholders & opportunities in this city but soon realised that Amsterdam is a denim hub, not a fashion one. We founded the House of Denim to connect our industry's opportunities (growth, jobs, fun) with its responsibilities & challenges (water, chemicals, etc) and take it 'towards a brighter blue'; to make it dryer, cleaner and smarter. After founding the Jean School and Denim City, we turned to specific topics such as recycling. During our first project 'Red LIght Denim' we learned how to reposition PCR, but were not able to solve 'big industry' hurdles. This 'Blue Baseline' project addresses those topics.

Team

House of Denim has a 5-strong board of volunteer board members, advised by an international supervisory board. The Red LIght/PCR/Blue Baseline projects are part of our 'Denim Institute'; initiated by our founder James Veenhoff (me) and supported by our project manager Joanne Schouten. We work in close collaboration with mills, Ngo's and brands, such as C&A. Due to the fact that our work is currently 'volunteer' style (i.e. after work and without budget), it is hard to truly drive the change necessary. If we were to win a changemakers stipend, we would set in motion the steps described and start to design the subsequent phase. For now, we are primarily interested to 'jolt' the machine into motion - and so far our partners agree this is wise.
Value Chain: Where does your work fit into the apparel value chain? [check all that apply]

Raw Materials, Manufacturing, Consumption.

Your Role: What is your relationship to the apparel industry? [check all that apply]

Advocate/Organizer.

Target Population: What stakeholder groups do you engage or empower in your work? [check all that apply]

Brands, Consumers, Corporations, Designers, Factory Owners, Policymakers, Researchers, Retailers - Department Store, Retailers - Specialty Store, Retailers - Mass-merchandise Chain, Sourcing Manager / Supply Chain Manager, Technologists, Youth.

● Intervention Focus: What are you trying to achieve / influence? [check all that apply]

Accountability, Conscious Consumerism, Recycling or Circular Economy, Transparency.

Lever for Change: Select up to 3 ways your work is helping to transform the industry.

Advocacy, Capacity Building, Organizing, Standards.

Is your project targeted at solving any of the following key barriers?

Consumers Aren't Motivated to Care: Neither Compelling Reasons Nor Easy Means to Change Consumption Habits, Sustainability is Not Yet in the DNA: Fast Fashion’s Current Model Disincentivizes Value-Driven Economies.

Does your project utilize any of the innovative design principles below?

Disrupt Business as Usual: Target Key Players Who Can Influence the Bottom Line, Transform the Chain into a Web: Link Unlikely Sectors that Open New Pathways to Sustainability.

Innovation Inspiration: When you first conceived of your project, did you think of it as applicable to the apparel industry?

yes

If you answered "no" to the previous question, which industry was your project originally aimed at transforming?

● Replicating in the Apparel Industry: If your project didn't initially target the apparel industry, how are you specifically tailoring it to do so now?
Are you nurturing or inspiring others to be changemakers? If so, how?

Our project is open for all brands and mills to join, and consumers will have a choice: water-saving or regular?

● Tell us about the partnerships that enhance your approach. How have you collaborated with others in the industry to increase your impact?

The magic is in the involvement of leading brands/companies, both on the buying and producing side of things.

Comments

I would like to see an analysis of other "energy"/emissions savings by re-using - especially locally. I get the need to re-use - but shouldn't we also look at re-using LOCALLY? You advocate shipping PCR worldwide - perhaps rework to support localised audits of PCR potential and avoid shipping ? From an "enterprise" sustainability perspective, your intention to design yourself out of the équation is admirable and beautifully simple. Would you plan to spin out the technologies or processes developed into a social (but profit making) venture? It would be a shame to see all that knowledge energy and know-how go no-where...

I would like to see an analysis of other "energy"/emissions savings by re-using - especially locally. I get the need to re-use - but shouldn't we also look at re-using LOCALLY? You advocate shipping PCR worldwide - perhaps rework to support localised audits of PCR potential and avoid shipping ? From an "enterprise" sustainability perspective, your intention to design yourself out of the équation is admirable and beautifully simple. Would you plan to spin out the technologies or processes developed into a social (but profit making) venture? It would be a shame to see all that knowledge energy and know-how go no-where...

Thanks for your feedback allistair,

you are right on both topics

re the local thing; sadly there are very few 'upcycling' opportunities locally as production and consumption of textiles are geographically separated. However one of the steps in the masterplan is local refibering, i.e. In or near main cities in n-wE. This would allow for net weight shipping if nothing else, but would probably also allow other business models to develop locally. Im thinking e.g., production of coarse yarns for use in transport, maintenance and gardening context like mesh fencing or things like sand bags.

re the energy point, ivr focused on water usAge because although refibering and shipping also pollute/use resources, water is the most finite and scarce resource in cotton producing source countries - as well as a very consumercentric csr metric :)

 

i will have a good think abiut your points though and see if i can improve my entry on the back of it.

cheers and good luck in the contest

 

james