Don't Wash These Pants: The Skinny on Raw Denim
Raw denim has been around for a while, but this season it made a splash on the runways. Now that spring is upon us, more designers are releasing styles made from the material. Check out how this fashion trend could help out the earth.
What makes raw denim different from all the rest?
“Raw” implies that is hasn't been washed, treated, or distressed, making it a lot stiffer and sturdier than the washed denim most frequently found in stores. Raw denim is typically 100% cotton and can still be made into various shapes and styles. Clothing made from “selvage” fabric is known to last longer because it's produced on a shuttle loom, which creates a tighter weave than the modern looms used for mass-manufactured denim.
How is raw denim a better investment?
Though one pair of pants made from raw denim can cost a lot more than regular denim jeans, there is a bigger payoff over time. Designed not to be washed, raw denim doesn’t fade or wear out. Instead, these jeans should be soaked and hung to dry every four to six months, depending on how often you wear them. (If you can’t stand the idea of not washing your jeans for hygienic purposes, remember that putting them in the freezer can kill bacteria.) This means a major reduction in the amount of energy and water you use over time, as well as that used by their manufacturers, which have vastly reduced their carbon emissions.
How is it more ethical?
Because it isn't predistressed, raw denim doesn't people in positions where they may be injured by or develop illnesses from working with harsh chemicals and sand-blasters.
Will it be stylish in seasons to come?
When you invest in a pair of raw denim jeans, you should buy them to fit tightly, because they will mold to your body -- essentially becoming a custom pair, fit specifically to your shape and the way you move. On top of that, these jeans have a long enough shelf life to keep you looking your best for years to come if you take proper care of them.
But how green is raw denim, really?
Raw denim is more sustainable than the pre-washed denims on the market because it is durable, doesn't need to be washed frequently, and isn't sand-blasted. But there are still issues with cotton as a crop. Organic cotton doesn't use harsh chemicals, but growing the plant is a very water-intensive process. Conscious consumption is important, and while innovations in production are fantastic, there's always more that can be done.
-- top photo from iStock/Teamarbeit
Bianca Hernandez is an editorial intern at Sierra. She recently received her MA in Visual Anthropology from the University of Southern California and has written for various publications.