OUR SUSTAINABLE DESIGN PROCESS
Our sourcing trips are like a treasure hunt. We scour vintage warehouses around the UK for good-quality denim, such as second-hand jeans, and other garments, from silk scarves to cotton shirts.
We’re always on the lookout for beautiful materials that might inspire a new collection. All our designs are expertly upcycled from existing garments that would otherwise be sent to landfill, so finding the right fabric is an exciting part of the design process.
We take our hand-selected pre-loved garments to our local East London launderette to be cleaned.
We’re proud that our denim washing process only uses seven litres of water, compared with the 10,000 litres needed to make a new pair of jeans through traditional fast-fashion production methods (the amount one person drinks in 13 years).
The garments are delivered to our East London studio, where they are graded, sorted, paired and de branded, ready for the atelier.
Every item of clothing is handled and catalogued by Anna and her team, to ensure the highest standards.
All our jeans are cut by hand in our local East London ateliers and made using traditional denim methods. We value the craftsmanship, time and skill that goes into creating our sustainable denim pieces and love the community that has built up around our business.
We only work with people who share our passion for sustainability and have the highest social and quality standards: everyone is paid fairly for their work, and nobody is subjected to Zero Contract hours. It’s a hub of creativity we’re proud to be part of.
All our branded leather patches and the backing of our belts are hand cut, pressed and sourced from local East London leather factories that have remnants from their own manufacturing processes. The colour of the patches depends on what’s available: once that colour is gone, we move onto another. It adds a quirkiness to our pieces as it means our clients can ‘date’ their jeans!
We’re always on the hunt for alternative and new suppliers to reuse discarded leather, such as from sofas and other leather goods.
We source our environmentally friendly branded buttons from YKK. The fastenings maker’s eco finish uses less water and energy, and eliminates nasty chemicals used by traditional electroplating metal finishing.
Learn more about YKK's 'cycle of goodness' sustainability process.
Our swing tags are made from recycled lavender-seeded paper: plant and watch them grow!
We’re also developing an initiative to turn our denim scraps into paper for our labels.
Our zero-waste ethos means we believe every single part of the jean can be used, right down to the last scrap. Offcuts are reconstructed as patchwork fabrics and reincarnated as new materials, such as paper, while smaller threads are turned into insulation.
The brand works with local schools and universities, providing fabric for textile classes. Scraps have also been given to the renowned artist Ian Berry who creates ‘paintings’ using denim. He created the art around E.L.V. DENIM’s pop-up in Selfridges in 2019.
Our design process is unusual: it all begins with the fabric.
We only use what we find when we scour vintage warehouses across the UK on our twice-weekly sourcing trips. It’s like a treasure hunt, and we love being inspired by the fabric of the garments that we discover.
As the only denim brand in the world using 100% upcycled materials, we’re always looking for good-quality pre-loved jeans. But as we expand our collections, we’ll seek out other pre-loved garments and accessories, such as silk scarves and cotton shirts, to create a truly sustainable capsule wardrobe. We are currently working with luxury hotels, reimagining and breathing new life into their high-quality textiles.
Our ethos is to use innovative methods and craftsmanship to regenerate fabric with plenty of life left in it, removing unnecessary waste from the supply chain and creating beautiful pieces that are kind to the planet. Each piece has its own story.
We like to think of this upcycling process as turning loss into luxury. We believe that upcycling is the future of fashion; an art to celebrate.
BLAZING A TRAIL IN FASHION
E.L.V. DENIM’s pioneering practices have been widely recognised by the fashion industry and beyond, proving that upcycling can be a successful business model.
We were shortlisted for the 2021 and 2022 BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund, and a recipient of the BFC Fashion Trust Fund for 2021 and 2022.
In March 2022, our founder Anna won Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation Award. This programme and fund enable pioneering women to fully achieve their visions for their business and change the world through the power of ideas while championing gender diversity in UK innovation.
Anna’s proposal for creating a viable textile sorting infrastructure and textile regeneration was recognised as one that could transform the UK’s textile problem into a ‘waste economy’.
We believe there’s a necessity to close the loop on cotton production by recovering materials and ensuring the UK doesn’t export, degrade or send to landfill any materials that could have a second life.
VIEWING WASTE AS A RESOURCE
Our earth needs to be protected. One way we can do this is by putting a stop to exporting our waste. Our aim as a challenger fashion brand is to improve denim waste sorting and processing, harnessing it as a resource and developing technology to use it more effectively. We want to innovate a way to create high-quality recycled fibres that are low in environmental impact, replacing virgin denim cotton fibres in the manufacturing process of new yarns and textiles.
Around 20% of vintage wholesalers’ rigid denim isn’t sold due to poor quality. What’s more, a lot of the denim being collected is stretch denim, which comprises other fibres, degrading the quality of mechanically recycled denim yarns and textiles. By improving denim waste sorting and processing, we can create higher-quality fibre feedstock for material-to-material recycling – and drive real change.
This approach is part of our mission to actively collaborate with the fashion industry and forge innovative solutions to tackle textile and waste pollution.
This is a journey, and we know it will take time. But if everyone strives to be just 1% better, collectively we can make a huge difference.
Our sustainable concepts and terms
Discarded items reused to create a product of higher quality or value than the original.
The circular economy concept tackles global challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss, waste and pollution. Driven by design, it aims to eliminate waste and pollution, circulate products and materials (at their highest value) and regenerate nature. It aims to move away from cradle-to-grave products to ensure materials can be recovered, reused and repaired, so we’re not actually adding to landfill. Find out more about the circular economy concept.
The meaning of the word ‘vintage’ is simply ‘of age’: clothes that were manufactured in a different era. To be defined as vintage, items should be at least 20 years old. So, generally speaking, something can be considered vintage if it is between 20 and 99 years old. Anything older is labelled as ‘antique’.
To transform a product or component into its basic materials or substances and reprocess them into new materials. Embedded energy and value are lost in the process. In a circular economy, recycling is the last resort.
Source: The Ellen MacArthur Foundation
A common way to recycle fabric is to break it down and turn it into a new material. A recycled fabric has been reprocessed from recovered material and is included in a final product or component.
Deadstock (also referred to as ‘dead stock’) is leftover or unsellable fabric that has been sitting around in a store or warehouse. Using deadstock fabrics gives new life to textiles that would otherwise end up in landfill.