Denim is one of the most wasteful and unsustainable parts of the fashion industry, and yet, its arguably one of the most prevalent. In recent years, however, we’ve seen dozens of brands step up to change their ways to make sure that customers can still get the same pieces they want without the heavy cost to the environment. That’s where Turkish brand ISKO comes in.
Through new technologies and certified standards, they have been able to take brands like Madewell, Hyperskin, and O’Neil into the future of sustainable and ethical denim production. Below, we talked to Rosey Cortazzi, ISKO’s Global Marketing Director, about how they’re leading the charge in changing denim for good.
Can you start by explaining a little bit about ISKO?
ISKO was founded in 1980 and has become the denim ingredient behind people’s favorite jeans, ISKO is a pioneer of Responsible Innovation™ and technology in the fashion industry.
The company has a global presence, with offices in 35 countries, and a production capacity of 300 million meters of fabric per year with 2,000 high-tech automated looms. With a total of 20+ existing patents in different markets, more than 100 trademarks and over 100 patents either pending or in the pipeline, ISKO’s commitment is focused on constant innovation and improvement. All ISKO™ products, from traditional denim fabrics to patented technologies are the result of the company’s Responsible Innovation™ approach, which consistently defines new industry standards
What is it about denim globally thats become such a huge environmental issue?
Denim has been known to be a dirty business with many toxic chemicals used in its production having a devastating effect on the environment. Obviously, at ISKO we do things differently. ISKO has an Environmental Management System in place, certified to an international standard, to ensure the management of the environmental impacts at its production facilities. Under this system, it manages energy, water, waste, chemicals, and emissions. Additionally, ISKO has a full verified Higg Index facility environment module (Higg FEM) to demonstrate its environmental performance.
To get the full picture of its own impact, ISKO has worked to obtain Life-Cycle
Assessments (LCAs) for all its 25,000+ denim products, evaluating their total life cycle from raw material to waste/recycling. ISKO was also the first denim
manufacturer to achieve certified Environmental Product Declarations (EPD ® s), providing the water usage and carbon footprint of 1 square meter of fabric, thus allowing its customers to make responsible sourcing choices. This effort led the way to the creation of the first Product Category Rules (PCR) to allow the assessment of the environmental performance of “woven, knitted and crocheted fabrics of naturals fibers (except silk) for apparel sector”
Can you speak on the ethics side of sustainability outside of environment?
Specifically how it relates to garment workers?
Aiming at raising awareness and standards of business ethics, the company is
member of SEDEX, a supply chain platform that allows brands and retailers to see how their suppliers are meeting their social and ethical responsibilities, further to this, the company supports the Social Labor Converge Project (SLCP)
contributing to the improvement of workers’ labor and social conditions
ISKO guarantees that all employees of ISKO receive a living wage, which is
genuinely rare in the industry and one of the key differentiating factors between ISKO and any other manufacturers
What are things to look for when purchasing denim? How about disposing of it?
Each year millions of tons of clothing end up in a landfill. However, if you buy a good quality jean the denim fabric should improve over time. When it comes to the end of life we’re firm believers in the mantra of Re-use, Recycle and Reduce.
How can we make sustainability in fashion more accessible? What are you doing to help facilitate that?
ISKO has always been geared toward ensuring that responsible materials are open to all levels of the market. Everything we make is done in a considered way and we are committed to the development of a more responsible industry through best practices. As a result of this attitude, we have been developing our recycling and reusing strategy with the implementation of our R-TWO™ platform. This includes textile concepts made with a mix or blends of reused cotton, obtained from production loss with Content Claim Standard certification (CCS), and recycled polyester made from PET bottles, certified to Recycled Claim Standard (RCS).
How do you see the future of fashion?
We think that fashion should be a force for good. In the future, we hope that there will be greater demands to provide concrete facts and figures. We believe in creating a global standard where the whole industry can be measured in the same way so that customers and consumers can make more informed choices. Today there is still a lot of Greenwashing going on and we would love to eradicate this.
This interview has been edited for clarity.