HNST (pronounced honest) lives up to its name with sheer low impact denim.
Circularity has been part of HNST from the start, but the company is not resting on its laurels of sustainability. In 2017, the brand prepared its first collection by teaming up with second-hand clothing and textile collectors De Collectie and Opnieuw & Co to set up 80 points throughout the Flemish region of Belgium where consumers could drop off their pre-worn denim. . The 6,000 pairs thus collected were then processed, and jeans that were not eligible for resale in their current condition became the raw material for HNST’s first denim line.
The company is now working with the European Spinning Group to combine recycled denim with new cotton and Tencel to create jeans that have less impact. From there, sustainable production continues in Europe as the blend is sent to an Italian weaving mill and a manufacturer in Portugal.
“The textile industry is dominated by big volumes and big players,” said Lander Desmedt, CEO and co-founder of HNST. “In this playground, it has been difficult to find manufacturing partners willing to produce small quantities and embark on a bold and innovative journey of trial and error. Following our intrinsic motivation has enabled us to find partners who believe in our story and are willing to make exceptions on these fronts.
HNST’s jeans already have a high concentration of recycled denim, up to 56%, but the company is working to increase that figure. The brand creates jeans that can be more easily recycled than their traditionally made counterparts. Since dealing with mixed textiles can be a challenge, HNST only uses cellulosic materials in its jeans, including natural sewing thread and back patches made of jacron, a durable paper material that resembles leather. Trims matter too, which is why the brand uses embroidered rivets and removable buttons that can be unscrewed at the end of their life. By further reducing trims, HNST forgoes interior labels in favor of printing product information directly on the interior pockets with certified Cradle to Cradle ink.
“The use of metal trim and polyester labels results in material losses of up to 30% in most denim recycling lines because the top of the jeans containing all the hard parts and labels are cut off. “said Desmedt.
Beyond its production process, HNST reflects on how its denim is used by consumers, including the impact of bleaching jeans. Currently, the company does not use spandex or other stretchable fibers, as they immerse the microplastics in water during the wash cycle. HNST is working on the development of stretch denim that does not contain synthetics.
Since its inception, HNST has avoided the incineration of 17 tonnes of old jeans. And it doesn’t stop with denim. The company plans to expand to other categories, which will also be produced using the same circular methods.
“When building a circular product, it is essential to start from waste and move up the value chain. Today the world is inundated with new materials marketed as recyclable, ”Desmedt said. “These materials can be recyclable in theory, but in practice this often turns out to be technologically or economically inefficient, or worse, impossible. The non-recyclable residues of products and materials constitute what we consider to be real waste, and to this end solutions must be found.