That’s because embedded in Freedom Denim‘s DNA is the mindset that sustainability is built into how it operates, with the company using inputs such as CiCLO polyester, Tencel, Birla Viscose and Lyocell to produce its newest jeans collections.
The manufacturer recycles 42.5 percent of all the water used at its China-based mill. By 2025, Freedom Denim anticipates that number will reach 100 percent. Additionally, the plant’s solar fields generate 10.95 million kilowatt hours (kWh) annually. That’s the equivalent of the monthly electricity consumption for 1,000 homes.
But Michael Morrell, CEO of Freedom Denim Americas, knows the best practices that drive the operation—whether the materials used or the processes that take place—can still be improved upon to ensure sustainability remains a given when upcoming collections debut.
“You’re going to see much more regenerated cellulose and recycled yarns and cotton,” said Morrell. “And these are all great best practices. But even using recycled yarns and recycled cotton, you’re still typically burning fossil fuels and energy to generate those yarns. Waste gets produced, so it is not flawless. That’s the relevant word—none of it is flawless.”
Morrell noted how a Freedom Denim product like its nylon-based “Tough Rub” jeans exemplifies the best practices the company strives for. With reduced flex abrasion, the denim fabric is less likely to break in areas like the crotch or the knee.
With that in mind, Freedom stresses better-fitting products and durable products that are more likely to last longer in a consumer’s closet, thus preventing the need to produce excess jeans that could go to waste.
“Even though the consumer might buy less denim because the jean lasts longer, it’s still the right thing to do, and the right thing to produce, for the right reasons,” said Morrell. “We can’t make our products fail because we want to sell more. That would simply be ethically and morally wrong. A play in minimalism comes from that because you don’t need to buy five pairs of jeans. You can buy the best two pairs of jeans.”
In an era when greenwashing unfortunately still runs rampant across industries, Freedom Denim aims to emphasize truth and honesty in its manufacturing processes.
While apparel at large is always seeking out fabric with a zero-carbon footprint, in many ways, brands are still far from that reality, in that even the most sustainable materials haven’t reached true “zero-carbon” yet. Freedom Denim strives to embark on a never-ending mission to get closer to the goal but wants to deliver full transparency in the process.
The manufacturer controls 100 percent of its factories, raw materials, and production processes, so it knows exactly what inputs are introduced into its denim products and what should be communicated to brands and consumers alike.
While sustainability is always in the foreground, Freedom Denim isn’t losing sight of what Morrell feels sets it apart throughout its journey—a laser focus on building an emotional relationship between the consumer and the jeans they wear. In that vein, he called ingenuity a cornerstone of the manufacturer’s business, especially when developing jeans for its Fall collection.
Innovations of Freedom Denim include Low Impact denim featuring laser-friendly colors, a biodegrading CiCLO additive embedded into the polyester during the fiber-making process.
In addition to Low Impact, they offer “4 Way My Size” technology that enables a pair of jeans to fit multiple body sizes through linear compression and expansive stretch.
The technology allows the jean to become fit and forgiving, which benefits various parties: it enables the manufacturer to produce fewer jeans, helps brands control their inventory, and enables one SKU to be worn by more customers. With fewer styles fitting more body shapes, the company can mitigate the manufacturing of wasteful products.
Additionally, the mill is now offering cotton-free denim amid increasing uncertainty in both cotton supply and pricing. This alternative is made from 50 percent Tencel and 50 percent Ecovera. The company is also launching an upcoming Winter White denim collection for the fall 2023 season, comprised mainly of Cordura fabric. The durable Winter White collection is made from seeded fabric with no dye or chlorine added in the bleaching process. The minimal processing enables the denim to evoke “the color of mother nature,” Morrell said.
Like all of the manufacturer’s other collections, the Winter White collection—and the innovations that drive it—are designed to tap into a wearer’s emotions to make the product more attractive on the human body. When it comes down to it, Freedom Denim operates under the idea that shoppers want jeans that look good and make them feel good above all else.
All of Freedom Denim‘s collection concepts can be combined for ultimate performance, sustainability, and aesthetic benefits. Take their Kaleidoscope Denim and Chenille Denim concepts, for example. Kaleidoscope Denim features a multi-colored space dyed weft, tapping into consumers’ desire for optimistic, upbeat detailing in the jean. In contrast, Chenille Denim taps into our needs for plush, luxurious tactile textures on the skin after years of digital overload. While these two collections satisfy style preferences, they can also be combined with any collection concept listed above for added sustainability, functionality, or durability.
“Design is storytelling, and we put the product together and design products relevant to that emotional bridge,” said Morrell. “It’s a constant effort to focus on emotionally relevant things to the customers. Sustainability is one of them. But it’s not the only one, by any stretch of the imagination.”