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Woman wearing blue denim from Nudie Jeans
02 Apr
Woman wearing blue denim from Nudie Jeans

Wear, Repair, Reuse: How Nudie Jeans is ‘Creating Tomorrow’s Vintage’

We explore the “Great”-rated brand’s efforts to reduce waste in the denim industry

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Denim today has changed a whole lot from the 19th and early 20th-century trousers that started it all. What was born from a need for clothes that could withstand the repeated abrasion, stretching, dirt and wear that came with long days of (often manual) work has, ironically, morphed into an industry rife with fast fashion brands creating trend-driven jeans and denim jackets that wouldn’t last a minute under those stressors.

But there is another way to do things. And “Great”-rated Nudie Jeans is showing the industry that transcending the take-make-waste fast fashion model can be done through creating more thoughtfully, and taking responsibility for garments long after customers have bought them.

Why designing for longevity is key

Nudie Jeans was founded more than two decades ago in Gothenburg, Sweden on the principle of making jeans that become part of your life long-term and only get better with wear.

Today, its range covers more than denim but the ethos remains the same. “We want to create clothes that you fall in love with, and that you have a relationship with and want to keep for a long time,” says designer Emma Andersson Sköld. “And if you ever need to get rid of the garment, we want that garment to find a new person who falls in love with it. That’s what we mean when we say we want to make vintage, not garbage.”

That starts with the design phase and thinking about garments that live beyond the microtrend of the moment, adds product manager Victoria Cederfeldt. “The whole hype around clothes is a problem. It’s not sustainable to buy new clothes, use them a few times, and then throw them away.”

We want to create clothes that you fall in love with, and that you have a relationship with

Emma Andersson Sköld – designer

‘Vintage’ is often used interchangeably with ‘old clothing’, but its true definition speaks to quality and lasting design—something Andersson Sköld says is fundamental for Nudie Jeans: “It’s easy to think that what becomes vintage is what has a timeless style, like workwear that has looked pretty much the same for several decades, and that’s true, but it could just as well be the opposite, something that is really unique and stands out and therefore becomes a garment that people remember and have a strong relationship with.”

Behind the scenes of Nudie Jeans' denim production

Creating lasting denim: Behind the scenes of Nudie Jeans’ product manager Victoria Cederfeldt and designer Emma Andersson Sköld’s product development process.

Crafting ‘Forever Jeans’

Nudie Jeans dubs every pair it makes “forever jeans” because they’re made to outlast their owner and be handed down to generations to come—with a few repairs here and there, of course. And “forever jeans” isn’t just a campaign name or buzzy phrase, it is an overarching philosophy that guides the brand in its endeavours.

This starts with denim woven from organic cotton that’s sourced responsibly from select suppliers, which is then carefully sewn together by manufacturers that also align with the company’s values. You can see for yourself exactly where an item has been thanks to ‘Product Transparency’ notes alongside products on Nudie Jeans’ website, which details the suppliers involved in many steps of production.

The brand’s designers, including Andersson Sköld, also play a key role in ensuring that its products stand the test of time—“we often ask ourselves ‘is this too trendy?’ to avoid making something that’s just part of a short-term trend,” Cederfeldt explains.

Left: Berit jacket in Classic Blue, Clean Eileen jeans in Casual Blue; right: Gonzo Western Guitar Shirt in Black, Tuff Tony jeans in Rinse Onyx Selvage, Uno Everyday Tee

Man and woman wearing Nudie Jeans

Left to right: Elsie Rib Tank, Rowdy Ruth jeans in French Blue, Danny Rinsed Denim Jacket Black, Tuff Tony jeans in Snake Eyes Selvage, Western Belt in Black

Wear, Repair, Repeat

When your jeans fade in the places they usually crinkle or fold, and when the yarns start to weaken and scuffs appear, then it’s a cause for celebration, not to throw them out. These patterns of wear and tear show a life lived and experiences had, argues the brand. “[Denim] is one of the few materials that people think becomes more beautiful with age,” says Andersson Sköld.

And when the denim does need some attention, repairs are free of charge at all of Nudie Jeans’ stores (customers who don’t live near one can seek out a Repair Partner or order a DIY kit). Since it launched in 2008, the initiative has proved highly successful, and the brand has breathed new life into around 500,000 pairs of its jeans by mending them.

But it doesn’t stop at repairs—customers can also trade their unwanted Nudie Jeans items for a discount on a future purchase, and in exchange, the brand will clean, repair, and resell the clothes to someone new. This is all part of its Reuse program, which helps to minimise the amount of products going unworn or reaching landfill, and in 2023, the brand collected around 20,000 pairs of jeans in its stores for the initiative, subsequently selling more than 4,000 repaired and reinvigorated pairs.

Denim is one of the few materials that people think becomes more beautiful with age.

Emma Andersson Sköld – designer

For shoppers, this program makes it easy to play a part in reducing waste in the fashion industry, and as many regular second-hand buyers can attest—there is a real sense of satisfaction in finding your new favourite piece of clothing and knowing you’re prolonging its life.

The fashion industry has changed dramatically around Nudie Jeans since its founding in 2001, but the brand has remained steadfast in mission is to create clothes that last a lifetime, and show the value in cherishing and rewearing the clothes you own. ”To truly make a change for the better, we have to make it stylish not to change our style every week,” it says.

Editor's note

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