Madeline Abel - DL1961

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DL1961 - A Sustainable Denim Choice

At the Fall 2021 Coterie show, Storytelling for Sustainability student Madeline Abel had the opportunity to sit down for a 30-minute interview with Sandia Sivilli, VP of Sales at the sustainable denim brand DL1961.

Growing up, sustainability was a huge part of my life without even realizing.

My mom, being a single mother raising two girls, cared very little about fashion and creativity and a lot about education and independence. When we would go shopping, it would be at the Salvation Army or Old Navy, and my mom always bought items with the intent it would last us years. She never bought into trends, let alone believing in them in the first place. She was like this with everything she bought. She worked hard for her money and received little support from my father, so she believed if something was good enough for her coin, it had to last. It took me a while to understand, but now I absolutely love this about her and have grown to be the same way. I refuse to buy something if the quality is not there and I know it won’t last, but I will save up to buy pieces that are worth the money.

Jeans were always a struggle in my household, every pair my grandma bought would end up ripping or fading in a couple months, leaving us with cheaper options. Those never fit right, would tear, and always made me feel extremely self-conscious.

Jeans are an important everyday garment that millions of humans wear for an array of occasions. One would think since denim is so popular, people would be investing in their pieces and making sure they are going to last. Yet this seems to be far from the truth. So many teenagers nowadays turn to low-price brands for their denim and other basic garment needs. This promotes fast fashion and continues the polluting cycle of making low-quality denim.

On average, it takes 1,800 gallons of water to make the cotton for one pair of blue jeans. That's not the only issue though—the water used to make the jeans becomes full of toxins and dyes and is often dumped back into the natural waterway it was drawn from. This cycle continues thousands of times each day to make cheap jeans. 

Processes like this often leave me hopeless. Until I discovered the brand DL1961, which is reimagining the denim-making process and setting extremely high standards for competing brands. DL1961 has mastered the craft of making sustainable denim products and are proud to share their story.

Founded by husband and wife Faisal and Maliha Ahmed in 2008, the couple has created an inspiring sustainable business with the potential to become the blueprint for future denim brand CEOs and entrepreneurs. The factory where production takes place is called Artistic Denim Mills, located in Pakistan and run by 7,000 employees.

DL1961 has managed to reduce their water use in the jean-making process to just 10 gallons per pair. Not only have they decreased the amount of water they use by 1,790 gallons, they also clean and reuse the water. One of their factory buildings is solely used for solely this purpose. DL1961 uses fibers, such as Tencel and Modal, to create the soft, sustainable denim in their classic jeans and have mastered ozone and laser technology to create unique washes you can’t find anywhere else. The average price point for a pair of DL1961 jeans is around $200, not bad when you consider the materials and processes they use. When you buy a pair of these jeans, you’re not only buying the denim, you are paying for all of the little details and steps it took for that pair of jeans to reach you.

A lot of Americans are so comfortable paying a small price for clothing that is cheaply made, they don’t see quality products as worth the price when they come around. Eventually, I hope people will realize investing in sustainable pieces is much cheaper than buying a new pair of low-quality jeans every year. Not only does it help consumers' pockets in the long run, but also the Earth.

The mass consumption that happens in this country, along with manufacturing we do overseas, is a huge contributor to the devastation of climate change. A greener future is full of small, sustainable businesses that focus on quality over quantity. To create this future, the mindset of the masses has to change. We can no longer live wanting new material items so frequently; we must buy with integrity.

I have begun this process myself with the help of my mother’s values that she instilled in me. I realize the value my coin has and the support that comes with it. Brands like DL1961 will continue to flourish as consumers realize the power they have.