Nice to meet you as well Mud Jeans! We find the story behind the circular jeans company very inspiring and are thrilled to give space for a MUD Jeans guest blog:
In 2017 MUD Jeans made a bold shift. At least, that is what it feels like to us. A shift from a start-up to a serious circular jeans company. 2017 was a big year. We now sell our jeans in 250 stores, got a new B2B portal for our retailers and we have been featured in blogs, magazines and TV shows worldwide. The last 5 years have taught us that we can achieve our goals while being profitable as a circular company as long as we keep on believing in our mission and our products. It has been a fascinating ride and we would like to share a few lessons learned with you. But first things first, a small introduction on who we are, what we do and how we do it.
Who, what & how
We believe in a world without waste. We believe in a world where everyone is responsible for cleaning up their own mess. With our circular philosophy, we want to design our products in a way that they can be reused, recycled and upcycled easily. That’s why we don’t use leather labels, but printed ones instead. Worn out jeans are shredded, cut into pieces and blended with virgin cotton. This is how a new MUD Jeans denim yarn is born. All MUD Jeans are produced using post-consumer recycled and organic cotton. Together with our mill Tejidos Royo we were able to develop a jeans fabric which consists of 40% post-consumer recycled denim.
The idea of creating our own Circular Denim Economy led to the revolutionary concept Lease A Jeans. While we are all using up our planet’s resources, it was time to stop for a second and ask ourselves: do we really need to own one pair of jeans for life? Or could we wear our jeans and send them back after use? You then become a user of the raw materials and pay only for the performance. We are very excited to announce that after launching the Lease A Jeans concept in 2013 we are now 5000 leasers strong and this is still growing.
We collect pre-loved MUD Jeans through our take-back program. If the quality is still adequate, we sell them through our vintage platform. If not, they are shredded and made into beautiful new jeans. Using RePack bags for our packages allows us to avoid plastic and paper in our logistic chain and our customers can use the reusable bags to send old jeans back to us. Besides MUD Jeans we also accept jeans from other brands. The only requirement is that the jeans are at least 96% cotton.
At MUD Jeans, we care deeply about transparency, in all aspects of our business. Consequently, we are passionate to share a few lessons learned we have encountered over the last 5 years.
We realized that small changes can have a big impact. When we opted for printed labels instead of leather ones, this was merely for recycling purposes. A mono-material product is easier to recycle. When we made this transition we never thought that we would attract a whole new target group. Our jeans now became attractive for the vegan community as we banned the use of animal products in our jeans.
You should not dwell on the lack of money or funds. A good brainstorm session and a big portion of creativity can already bring you a long way. Also, we always think big, what seems out of our reach sometimes suddenly happens. A mindset needed in order to change the status quo.
When we first introduced Lease A Jeans in 2013, the world declared us mad. This concept required a huge mentality shift, moving away from the idea of owning everything. It did bring us a lot of press coverage but in the beginning, the masses were not ready for it yet nor was our administration.
Your mission, vision and storytelling can be on point but in the end, people want to look good in the product they buy from you. When Dion Vijgeboom, who has a 10-year background in the jeans business joined the team, our products were truly upgraded and this helped tremendously in our growth.
Working at a circular company, topics such as the circular economy, corporate social responsibility and closing the loop are a part of our daily conversations and become common practice. From time to time we get so caught up in our own story that we forget that not everyone is familiar with these concepts. We have learned that sometimes we need to take a step back and tell our story all over again. What we do, why we do it and how we do it might be very clear for us, but explaining it from scratch, again and again, is substantial to our success.
As a pioneer in the circular economy, we have become an interesting case for companies, universities and organisations. Bringing a positive and ingenious story motivates people, students and companies to be a part of it and lend a hand. We get numerous emails with internship and research inquiries. In order to meet this high demand, we launched a monthly Skype meeting with Bert van Son, our CEO. During this meeting students and interested parties can ask everything they want to know about MUD Jeans.
Being a B-Corp, we use business as a force for good. This allows you to build a very loyal customer base and collaborate with other B-Corps. In the past, we had the opportunity to create jeans aprons for B-Corp Davines. Joining forces with like-minded companies and organisations such as Circle Economy can create synergies to accelerate change from within the industry.
Our customers adore what we do and love to share their stories and adventures with us. It’s very special as a brand to receive postcards, drawings and letters from customers on a regular basis. We are proud to have such committed customers. Although some of them are really critical, they are not afraid to ask us questions, which keeps us on our toes.
Today our jeans consist of 40% post-consumer recycled denim, but of course, we want more! Our ultimate goal and dream is to design jeans made of 100% recycled denim.
To explain this, we have to indulge you into the spectacular world of recycling. Together with Recovertex, we recycle old denim through mechanical recycling. Using mechanical operations to recycle old jeans withholds certain limitations, as the fibres are shortened over time and lose strength. Virgin cotton has to be added to regain durability and performance. Due to this reason we have reached the maximum of post-consumer recycled denim (40%) that can be obtained through mechanically recycling.
Hence we have to look at other technologies to increase the percentage of recycled denim in our jeans. State of the art techniques such as chemical recycling will allow us to further increase this percentage and ultimately reach our objective of developing a fabric of 100% recycled denim.
Together with the Global Fashion Agenda, we have set our circular fashion goals for 2020. In 2 years we wish to design 50% of our rivets, buttons and zippers for recyclability, we want to increase the amount of jeans collected through our take-back program and increase the amount of resold used garments through our vintage platform. Finally, we have the ambition to include minimum 20% post-consumer textiles fibres in all our jeans and we aim to develop a jeans fabric consisting of 100% recycled post-consumer textiles.
Being a member of the Responsible Denim Alliance we are working on making the jeans industry cleaner & smarter. Through nurturing collective change and aiming at higher industry standards, the Alliance focusses on two main topics. Firstly, improving the environmental impact of denim finishing, meaning the washings. Secondly, scaling up the post-consumer recycled denim production. Together with the other members of the Alliance we are working closely to improve the standards in the denim industry.
As you can tell we are very excited for the future. We hope you will join us in our journey towards 100% recycled denim.