Banana Republic's first eco-conscious denim collection delivers men's jeans that are well-constructed and ideal for cooler months - here's our review
- Banana Republic's "eco-conscious" Legacy Denim collection is the company's first line to incorporate some of its new sustainability goals. For a company of its size, it's making inroads.
- These well-constructed heavier weight jeans have a lot of stretch and are good for the colder months. The light-wash pair I tried even paired well with dress boots, a button-up shirt, and sport coat.
Jeans are far and away the most popular men's casualwear choice across the globe. Unfortunately, the world's love for denim has come at a huge environmental cost due to issues like water overuse, wastewater pollution, and cheaply made fast-fashion products that end up in landfills. In the face of this, many clothing companies are trying to clean up their supply chains.
In April, Gap Inc., Banana Republic's parent company, announced new sustainability goals for Banana Republic that include sourcing 100% sustainable cotton by 2023, reducing water impacts, and using more eco-friendly production methods.
Banana Republic's Legacy Denim collection is the company's first line to incorporate some of these sustainability goals. The collection of heavier weight jeans come in slim and skinny fits and a range of washes. More on that later. First, let's talk about sustainability.
How sustainable are they?
I emailed the folks over at Banana Republic to get a better understanding of exactly what all their sustainability claims actually mean. Here's what I found out: The denim for this collection comes from Artistic Milliners (Pvt) Ltd., a Karachi, Pakistan-based apparel manufacturer. The denim is made at its LEED gold-certified facility that uses 31% less energy and 50% water than conventional buildings and diverts 95% of its waste away from landfills, according to the company. The LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green-building certification program uses a scoring system to determine the environmental impacts of a building's design, construction, operation, and maintenance. Gold is the second-highest certification available.
Artistic Milliners and Gap are also involved in the Partnership for Cleaner Textiles (PacT) Pakistan that aims to reduce water, energy, and chemical use in that country's textile industry in partnership with the World Bank.
The new collection uses recycled materials for things like the zipper tape that the metal zipper is attached to, and the pocket bags. The denim includes 18% Tencel, a fabric made from wood cellulose that gives the fabric softness and breathability. The Tencel is sourced ethically under third-party scrutiny, according to the company.
Banana Republic is moving towards the goal of sourcing 100% sustainably produced cotton but hasn't gotten there yet. The company is involved with the Better Cotton Initiative, a global nonprofit focused on sustainable cotton growing practices, to improve its sourcing footprint.
Another area in which sustainability plays a big part is in clothing durability. A cheaply made garment is going to end up in a landfill a lot sooner than something that's well-constructed. The Legacy jeans have reinforced belt loops and double-needle stitching at high-stress points, like the crotch. They also feature something called dualFX® technology, which allows them to have a good bit of stretch and still retain their shape. The jeans are 78% cotton, 18% Tencel, 3% elasterrell, and 1% elastane.
With all that said, there are smaller denim companies - Nudie Jeans Co. and Frank and Oak, for instance - that are much farther ahead of Banana Republic when it comes to sustainable production. But for a company of its size, it's making inroads.
Look and feel
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's talk about how the jeans look and feel. They're made from 14 ounce denim, about 1.5 ounces heavier than a typical pair of Levi's. They have some heft, but a surprising amount of stretch and a soft handfeel. The heavier fabric means they can get you from fall into winter. Conversely, I found them a little too heavy for summer.
The jeans come in 41 size combinations with waist sizes from 26 to 44 and inseams between 28 and 36. They fit true to size. They only come in slim and skinny, so if you're someone who prefers a looser cut, you're out of luck. At $98, they're a bit pricey, but seem well-constructed and should last longer than many less expensive brands. They come in a range of washes from light grey to dark, medium blue to faded light blue.
I picked up a pair of the slim fit Worn Guy, lighter colored jeans with a vintage '90s vibe. The slim fit worked well with my slender build. The jeans are snug at the thigh but not uncomfortably so and tapered along the leg but don't hug the calves. They received a 4.5-star rating based on 59 reviews on the Banana Republic website.
I typically get darker-wash jeans because they're easier to dress up. I was surprised that for light-wash jeans with a broken-in look they actually paired well with dress boots, a button-up shirt, and sport coat. You're not going to get away with wearing these as business casual, but they're great for a stepped-up weekend look.
The bottom line
Hardcore denim enthusiasts probably won't flock to the collection since they're not 100% cotton, raw denim, selvage, or made in the US or Japan. The collection does give a nod to jeans culture through hand sanding and whiskering that gives each pair a unique character.
For the rest of us, Banana Republic's Legacy Denim offers well-constructed, cool-weather jeans with the added benefit of feeling a bit better about how they were made
Pros: Heavier weight denim that's great for the colder months, well-made, incorporates some sustainable-production methods
Cons: Too heavy for hot weather, a bit pricey at $98, only comes in slim and skinny fits, not as sustainable as some smaller brands
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