New twist on a legend

Legendary denim clothing company, Levi’s, has launched its most sustainable jeans ever: Levi’s Wellthread. The new garment is engineered from organic cotton and Circulose, a breakthrough material manufactured from worn-out jeans.

The recycled Levi’s Wellthread jeans will be available in 502 cut for men and High Loose cut for women and together represent more than five years’ research in sustainable denim design.

Levi’s jeans have become arguably the most recognisable garment in the world, boasting a heritage that stretches back to their invention by Levi Strauss & Co. in 1873. 

Levi’s has launched its most sustainable jean ever, a garment made with organic cotton and Circulose, a breakthrough material made from worn-out jeans.  

Representing more than five years of research in circular denim design, the new Levi’s Wellthread jeans are a unique collaboration between Levi’s Wellthread – the laboratory to test and validate sustainability ideas through research & development – and re:newcell, the innovators behind Circulose. 

To make Circulose, re:newcell repurposes discarded cotton textiles, such as worn-out denim jeans, through a process akin to recycling paper. The incoming waste fabrics are broken down using water. The colour is then stripped from these materials using an eco-friendly bleach. After any synthetic fibres are removed from the mix, the slurry-like mixture is dried and the excess water is extracted, leaving behind a sheet of Circulose. This sheet is then made into viscose fibre which is combined with cotton and woven into a new fabric.  

The collaboration between Levi’s and re:newcell marks a significant milestone in the fashion industry’s transition to circularity. The new garment’s like-for-like fibre input means the jean can itself be recycled through existing chemical recycling processes.  

“Bringing fashion full circle, denim-to-denim, together with a brand as iconic as Levi’s is a dream come true. To make fashion sustainable, it’s important to show people that material like Circulose is a real alternative to virgin cotton both in performance and style,” says Patrik Lundström, CEO of re:newcell. 

“We want to recycle Levi's jeans in a way that doesn't diminish their quality. By collaborating with re:newcell, our garment-to-garment recycling takes an important step forward,” says Una Murphy, Levi’s Senior Designer for Innovation.  

“Recycling keeps garments out of landfills and minimizes the use of natural resources. We're transforming old jeans into high-quality materials, moving us beyond traditional cotton recycling, which shortens and breaks fibres.” 

Designed in a way that maximises recyclability so it can be regenerated into a new jean again, each part of the jean (such as trims or thread) are carefully calibrated to ensure it meets recycling specifications, allowing it to have a second life when it's worn out. Levi’s says innovations like this are what will allow it, and the wider fashion industry, to reduce dependency on virgin materials. 

“The fashion industry has long been chasing the potential of the ‘circular economy’,” says Paul Dillinger, Levi’s VP of Global Product Innovation. 

“The jeans we’ve made in collaboration with re:newcell proves that it can be done.”  

In addition, Circulose is manufactured in a first-of-its-kind recycling facility powered by renewable energy in Kristinehamn, Sweden. This translates to denim that requires less water and energy, leaving us with an overall lighter carbon footprint. 

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