Being a forward looking company that wants to continue making iconic products in the future, G-Star acknowledges the need to look into sustainable solutions. Only when creating products with minimal environmental impact, are we able to continue as a successful company. We therefore carefully consider the materials used for our products.
We can make a big move towards minimising the environmental impact of our products by looking for materials that contribute to a more sustainable future without compromising on quality, comfort and design. Consequently, we aim to gradually increase the use of sustainable materials in our collection.
We mostly use organic cotton, recycled cotton, recycled polyester and Tencel® in our products, accounting for almost 20% of our collection in 2013.
Sustainable materials often require more complex production processes and longer lead-times. Because it concerns innovative materials that are less widely available than conventional ones, fitting them into our supply chain is a challenge that we take on in close cooperation with our suppliers.
Organic cotton is cultivated without chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilisers, making it an environmentally friendly alternative to conventional cotton. In addition, organic crops are grown from non-genetically modified seeds and the majority of global production is rain fed as opposed to irrigated, consuming significantly less water.
Recycled cotton is produced from post-consumer or post-industrial waste material. The use of recycled cotton generates savings on raw materials, water, chemicals and energy.
In Conversion Cotton
Cotton in conversion is grown on land that has only recently been converted to organic cultivation (less than 2 to 3 years). Therefore, although no chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilisers are being used, residues may still be found in the soil and the cotton cannot be certified as organic cotton yet. Cotton in conversion is sold to support organic farmers and to stimulate the development of organic cotton.
Tencel® (Lyocell product from lenzing)
Lyocell is a manmade natural fibre of cellulose extracted from eucalyptus wood pulp. Eucalyptus trees grow rapidly and can thrive on poor quality land without the need for irrigated water or synthetic pesticides. The Eucalyptus trees harvested for Tencel, the Lyocell fibre from the fibre producing company Lenzing, come from FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified farms.
Hemp and Organic Hemp
Hemp is in general a high yield, low maintenance crop that is ideal for rotation. Although it requires limited amounts of fertilisers, it does not require pesticides, herbicides or irrigation water.
Organic certified hemp is grown without the use of synthetic fertilisers and retted to extract the fibre without the use of chemicals.
Linen and Organic Linen
Flax (the plant from which linen fibres are extracted) is a fast growing, renewable crop which is ideal for rotation. It requires relatively low amounts of pesticides and fertilisers.
Organic certified flax is grown without the use of synthetic fertilisers and retted to extract the fibre without the use of chemicals.
Mechanically and Chemically Recycled Polyester and Polyamide (Nylon)
Polyester and Polyamide are manmade synthetic fibres made from crude oil, a non-renewable resource. The process of refining oil, creating a polymer, extruding and spinning the fibre is energy intensive and uses large amounts of water. Recycled polyester and nylon are produced from post-consumer or post-industrial waste materials such as PET plastic bottles, apparel or nylon fishing nets; material that would otherwise have been sent to landfill or for incineration. It prevents the further extraction of a non-renewable resource.
Mechanical recycling utilises energy to re-melt the waste material. However, the resulting CO² emissions are much smaller than those produced from the manufacture of virgin fibre. Chemical recycling utilises chemical additives and involves more energy.
Recycled wool is made from post-consumer or post-industrial wool waste. As this process makes the wool fibres shorter, it is often blended with other fibres such as virgin wool or cotton to increase the average fibre length.
Ramie is a sustainable bast fibre, similar to flax. It is one of the strongest natural fibres and can be up to 8 times stronger than cotton. However, the processing of ramie requires the use of chemicals to de-gum the fibre.
Nettle is a natural fibre derived from the nettle plant that is rainfed as opposed to irrigated and grows easily without pesticides. The process to extract the fibre does not need any additional chemicals, enzymes or other auxiliaries. It makes use of the natural enzymes existing in the nettle plants itself.
PLA, short for polylactic acid, is a sustainable alternative to fibres made from non-renewable crude oil, since it can be produced with the use of renewable agricultural by-products such as corn starch, sugar or wheat. However, processing the fibre requires a relatively high amount of energy and pesticides and fertilisers are used in intensive agriculture of corn, sugar or wheat.
To boost the use of sustainable materials G-Star started the RAW Sustainable programme in 2010. The garments in this programme were entirely made of innovative sustainable materials and consisted of three lines, each with its own characteristics and recognisable label:
Nettle plants require much less water and chemicals than conventional cotton. G-Star therefore combines organic cotton with nettle plant fibres to create sustainable denim with a reduced environmental footprint.
Materials: Any blend of nettle and certified organic cotton.
RAW Recycled blends post-consumer denim with organic cotton to give a second life to the material. The use of recycled cotton generates savings on raw materials, water, chemicals and energy.
Materials: Any blend of recycled cotton and certified organic cotton.
RAW Organic is made of organic cotton that is cultivated without chemical pesticides and fertilisers, making it an environmentally friendly alternative to conventional cotton.
Materials: 100% certified organic cotton.
With the launch of the RAW Sustainable programme we introduced these sustainable materials to our designers and suppliers. Since then sustainable materials have taken a permanent place in our design and production process. In 2012 we changed our focus to using sustainable materials throughout the entire collection with a focus on bestselling styles. With this move we have been able to increase the percentage of sustainable materials from 1 to 10.1% in 2012 to almost 20% in 2013.
Since then, RAW Sustainable is the name for all items in the collection made with sustainable materials. RAW Sustainable items are recognisable by a RAW Sustainable label and are indicated as such in the G-Star online shop.
Textile Exchange describes our progress as follows in its 2012 Organic Cotton Market Report:
“G-Star went from using organic cotton in a niche programme in order to introduce sustainable materials to designers and suppliers, to using organic cotton throughout the entire collection with a focus on bestselling styles. With this strategy they made a BIG STEP UP in volume and deserve congratulations for their commitment and hard work.”
In the Textile Exchange 2013 Organic Cotton Report, G-Star is ranked 5th in the Top Ten Organic Cotton Users by Growth.
According to Textile Exchange, organic cotton still represents only a small fraction of all cotton produced, counting for less than 1% of global cotton production. Access to organic cotton and other sustainable materials is still a significant barrier to increasing the use of these materials in the fashion industry.
Textile Exchange is a non-profit membership based organisation that works to increase the global market for sustainable fibres, with a special focus on stimulating farming and trading of organically grown cotton.
G-Star is a member of Textile Exchange and supports the efforts of this organisation to minimise the harmful impacts of the global textile industry and maximise its positive effects. For more information about Textile Exchange, please visit www.textileexchange.org.
We are working with our suppliers on various innovative dyeing and finishing processes, including ozone bleaching, laser treatments and natural tanning of leather, that have a reduced social and environmental impact:
Styles in Hydrite Denim fabric are made using innovative dyeing and finishing processes that generate a big reduction in water (up to 95%), energy and chemical usage in comparison to conventional processes. In addition, these denims are dried in the air with a rotating system that is able to dry 40.000 jeans in 25 minutes, instead of using conventional dryers. Hydrite Denim is available in the G-Star collection since the Spring/Summer 2013 collection.
As of the Autumn/Winter 2012 collection, several coats are made from a special compactly woven fabric called Stover Nylon. With an innovative weaving technique, the fabric is woven into a tight compact weave. This generates a high degree of water repellency without the need for chemicals.
We publically announced in November 2010 to ban the use of sandblasting in our production process and to stop the sale of sandblasted products as of end 2011. Sandblasting involves the use of pressurised air to spray sand against garments to abrade the fabric and achieve a ‘worn and faded look’. When the proper measures and precautions are in place, sandblasting is a safe technique. Without proper measures and precautions in place, sandblasting can cause serious illnesses to the workers that practice this technique due to the exposure to silica dust (a compound found in sand). From the very beginning that G-Star used sandblasting, strict health and safety requirements were set and we looked into alternative techniques to get the same look for our denim. To prevent any residual risks, we publically announced in November 2010 to ban the use of sandblasting in our production process and to stop the sale of sandblasted products as of end 2011. All our suppliers have been specifically informed about the ban on sandblasting. Monitoring of compliance with the sandblasting ban is included in our regular compliance process.
The G-Star Materials Policy lists our restrictions and requirements for ethical sourcing of raw materials. The standards in the Materials Policy focus on animal welfare, nature conservation and human rights. It includes a ban on fur and angora and requirements for down, leather, wool, wood and cotton.
Attention to sustainability starts at the design stage and continues throughout the entire manufacturing process. This makes it important for us to work together with suppliers that share G-Star’s values. That is why all of G-Star’s suppliers are expected to operate according to the requirements as listed in the Materials Policy, to inform their employees, suppliers, subcontractors and subsidiaries about the commitment, and to provide information on the origin of the raw materials at least on a seasonal basis.
To further increase transparency in our supply chain, we are currently working together with our suppliers and other stakeholders to trace back the origin of raw materials and identify solutions to ensure an ethical sourcing of raw materials such as certification or supplier nomination.
Find the G-Star Materials Policy here.