Non is a brand-new selvedge denim brand from London. The brand’s approach to its garments is conscious by design, which means that every decision is made with sustainability and ethics in the utmost regard.
The brand was founded during the first COVID-lockdown in London in 2021. This posed the opportunity to do everything right from scratch without being tight to existing production processes. Denim is a very high-impact product that consumes a lot of water and chemicals. With the right materials and production processes, these issues can be improved. non had the opportunity to get things right from the start by working with top-notch producers only. Because of these reasons, non has achieved in a few months, which other denim brands take years to achieve. Its selvedge denim is timeless and genderless, which makes this available and long-lasting fashion for everyone.
The first thing that we love about non is that the brand is super transparent about how it conducts business. The brand communicates how its garments are made and with which partners it works to achieve this. Smaller brands usually don't share this information for fear of competitors. This makes it very hard to measure the sustainability of the brand. But this is not the case with non. One partner is ISKO, which produces its selvedge denim and is certified by bluesign® and Oeko Tex and commits to payment of a living wage. Everything not-denim is made by Dinateks and hardware is made by YKK.
Production processes are generally responsible for the largest chunk of environmental concern for any garment. But there are many other things brands can tweak to improve sustainability. The product life cycle goes through many steps, and the key is to address every step and close the loop, achieving circularity.
In this regard non has achieved some noteworthy milestones like the use of 50% recycled cotton for every product, making use of off-cut material, and the possibility to send them your old pair, which they will recycle or reuse, in exchange for a 20% discount. Packaging is also recyclable. Of course, there is some to improve upon as well. The brand does not offer repairs yet, but this makes complete sense for a brand that has been alive for only a few months. But when you look at it from that perspective, it's very impressive what the brand has achieved already, instead of what it still can do.
Another noteworthy aspect of how non runs its brand is in the materials it uses. The brand makes zero use of spandex. This substance is very environmentally unfriendly but is vastly used in the denim industry. The materials it does use are great. 50% is organic cotton that is certified by the Organic Cotton Standard and the other 50% is recycled cotton. It does use some synthetic materials like polyester for zippers and threads, but these are recycled and recyclable. The goal is to move away from any plastic at all to combat microplastics that release during washing. Non is experimenting with reducing its dependence on these fibers.
Of course, there is more to be done. The comparison with large brands can feel a bit like apples and oranges. These have vast production processes and improve the facilities they work with themselves. Non is not yet measuring the impact each pair of jeans truly makes on the environment, and it would be interesting to compare performance side to side with a pair of Mud Jeans, Nudie Jeans, or Levi’s. Also, in terms of social performance, these brands all audit every facility very extensively themselves, where non denim can work with a handful of facilities that takes care of social certificates themselves.
Having said that, non is a great brand. Its founder shows a willingness to improve and is eager to change every aspect of its business if it results in greater sustainability. This mindset has led the brand to move very quickly in a very short period and might even lead the brand into the vanguard of sustainable denim. We’re very excited about this and are curious to see where they take us from here.