non, selvedge denim with a difference

We talk to Pete Hellyer, founder and creative director of new selvedge denim brand, Non.

interview adam bryce photography supplied

Tell us about the concept behind non, your new denim label?

non is conscious by design and necessity. We produce agender denim made from organic and recycled materials with Earth-friendly ethical production in clean, minimalist styles.

As a new brand, it meant every element and process could be carefully considered to minimise our environmental impact, contribute to a non-wasteful circular economy and only leave a positive impact on the communities who produce our goods from the farm to factory.

We don’t identify as a sustainable brand but want to make the best decisions possible and advocate for meaningful change within the industry and our customers.

So much of producing good denim is about the quality of the denim and construction. What challenges have making denim in a sustainable way created for you?

From the very beginning, I wanted to use the highest percentage possible of recycled material. Recycling cotton lowers its quality (as the fibre lengths shorten which affects strength and softness) which is why it’s typically down-cycled.

Working with our mill, ISKO, in Turkey, we developed an exclusive selvedge denim with a 50/50 mix of recycled and organic cotton that is comfortable to wear yet really durable — to have any claims of sustainability we knew our goods needed to last.

Environmental care is at the core of non. What are your thoughts on how the fashion industry is making progress to improve in this area?

Sustainability is everyone’s focus and rightly so, as the climate emergency is a real threat. non, itself, means now or never.

Unfortunately, there is lots of greenwashing from larger and smaller brands which are painting an inaccurate picture. Buying a lot of ‘sustainable’ fashion is still an unsustainable approach and that needs addressing. Everything we make is engineered to last — buying better and less often will go a long way.

There is also a lot of positive energy towards upcycling and customising old pieces, which is showcasing some real originality and creativity whilst preventing waste.

Sustainability within fashion is heavily built around transparency. Are there areas of your
process you want to improve upon?

Innovation and transparency are at the heart of the brand and we have areas for improvement. Eliminating synthetic material (like plastic) from our goods is a priority. We currently use recycled polyester for thread and zippers and are currently exploring organic and bioplastics alternatives.

We will be iterating our goods more like a tech company than a fashion brand. For example, we’ve launched with version 1.0 but, as we make improvements you will see a non straight jean 1.1.

Denim has a legacy — aesthetically but also environmentally — with the average pair using 13,000 litres of water and contributing 20kg of CO2 emissions in production. The fashion industry itself has a carbon
footprint worse than aviation and shipping combined, contributes to 20 per cent of global water pollution, and has systematic social and labour issues.

We are also working towards assessing and understanding the environmental impact of all our components which will help us make improvements. For example, using organic cotton grown closer to our mill would lower the carbon footprint of our goods.

There are many different types of consumers within the denim market. Who is non for?
The short answer is everyone. All styles are non-binary; we have jeans in 25-36” waist for launch and our jackets can be worn fitted or oversized as well.

Our selvedge denim fabric is a 12oz weight, which is an ‘everyday’ weight that can be worn all year round. Less seasonal clothes are inherently more sustainable.

Will the offering expand into other products or different cuts, etc?

non is primarily a design brand with an initial focus is on denim.

We plan to collaborate in other spaces and see how we can overlap ideas and expertise with like-minded
designers and brands.

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