Rent your jeans for a responsible fashion!

Through a subscription model, the Dutch company aims to create a sustainable jeans production process, in a particularly polluting sector.

If you were asked which industry pollutes the most, you’d probably answer something like oil, coal, air travel, or maybe even the internet. One you might not think of, though, is fashion. Generating 5% of total CO2 emissions, it is nonetheless the second-biggest polluter on the planet, only beaten by the oil industry. One reason is that the process involved in clothes manufacturing isn’t really eco-friendly. It takes on average 8,000 liters of water to produce a single pair of jeans, and 2,700 to make one cotton shirt. Cotton alone accounts for 35% of the world’s insecticide and pesticide use. That’s not even mentioning the horrible slaughters involved in the manufacturing of fur clothing. And switching to synthetic fabric isn’t any better for the environment. It’s actually quite the opposite, as a polyester shirt has more than double the carbon footprint of a cotton shirt.

Another reason is that we just buy and throw out way too many clothes. We buy 400% more than 20 years ago, and 140 million kg of clothes are burned every year. From its headquarters, in Netherlands, MUD Jeans is trying to change our relationship to fashion, to make the industry more sustainable. In order to do that, the company built an eccentric business model. Instead of buying jeans straightforward, you have the option to lease them. You will then pay a monthly fee for one year. After that, you can decide whether to keep the jeans, automatically stopping the monthly payments, as your jeans have been paid. Or you can return them, get new ones in exchange and keep paying a monthly fee. MUD Jeans will then take care of your used jeans and recycle them.
The subscription model to engage a community.

According to Dion Vijgeboom, co-owner and head of products at MUD Jeans, the subscription model appeared to him as a way of keeping an eye on the full life cycle of his jeans, making it as green as possible, even after the product has been sold to consumers. “We were manufacturing jeans that were made with organic cotton, in an ethical and sustainable way, but after the jeans were sold we couldn’t take care of them anymore. That’s why we came up with the subscription model, so that we can be responsible from the product until the end of its life cycle.”

The subscription economy is a paradigm shift. The company-customer relationship no longer revolves around one-off purchases of goods or services. This new business model is much more about establishing a long-term relationship in which the customer regularly pays, receiving a continuous flow of services and support in return. In the case of MUD Jeans, it means, for example, that the company offers free repairs on jeans that are being leased. The customer can either send them to MUD Jeans or get the repair done at a local shop and get refunded afterward. In addition to ensuring a great customer service, the subscription model hence allows the company to make its jeans live longer.

“The subscription model also helps us create a strong community, so that our users feel really involved, keep in touch, ask questions… They are engaged and motivated to change things and create a whole new circular economy,” says Eva Engelen, head of CSR.

A second life for jeans.

In addition to this subscription model, the company is also trying to make its production as local and green as possible. “Throughout our supply chain we try to make smart product and production decisions so we can minimise our ecological impact, and create a safer working environment for our factory colleagues”, explains Eva Engelen. “Our fabric mill Tejidos Royo, in Spain, is self-sufficient in terms of energy through steam turbines, and a water waste management system filters their production water before it is released back into nature.”

They also only use organic cotton and rely strictly on local producers to minimize transportation. Through this process, the company has been able to build a much greener manufacturing process, which could serve as an inspiration for other actors in the industry. “In 2016 we have conducted an LCA study together with BlueDot to quantify MUD Jeans’ CO2 emissions and water usage. This research pointed out that MUD Jeans production emits 61% less CO2 compared with industry standards, and that we save 5,500 liters of water per jeans”, states Eva Engelen. Finally, used jeans that are sent back by customers are fully recycled and turned into new products. Right now, the company’s jeans are composed between 23% and 40% of post-consumer recycled denim. They hope to one day push this figure up to 100%, creating a fully circular economy.

This article was written by our partner Sparknews.