Jaden Smith and G-Star RAW Join Forces to Make Fashion More Sustainable
Back in March, shortly after the release of its 'Most Sustainable Denim Ever’ – using the cleanest existing indigo technology – G-Star RAW announced that it would be launching another sustainable denim collaboration in partnership with Jaden Smith. A few days ago, it officially launched the collection Forces of Nature during Hypefest, a debut streetwear consumer event in Brooklyn.
Frouke Bruinsma and Sean Peron. Photos: Courtesy of PR.
Smith’s work with G-Star began after he was introduced to the brand by Pharrell Williams, who has been an ambassador of the brand for some time now and shares its commitment to design innovation and its focus on sustainability. Much like Williams, Smith seems like a fitting and timely addition to the brand’s ongoing efforts in setting new standards of sustainability in the fashion industry. A recognizable face in the world of fashion since he was a teenager, making the cover of publications like Interview or, more notably, appearing in Louis Vuitton campaigns, Smith has also been vocal and active in addressing issues regarding the environment. Earlier this year, after gaining awareness of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, he and his father founded Just, an eco-friendly bottled water that fabricates its packaging from almost entirely renewable resources.
This new Forces of Nature capsule collection, which was drawn and envisioned by Smith, features denim pieces that are Cradle to Cradle Gold Level Certified, meaning that it followed a rigorous and monitored manufacturing process that ensures water conservation and utilizes renewable energy as well as recyclable materials. Aside from introducing their brand to a new generation by way of Smith’s multifaceted stardom, Forces of Nature is also a testament to G-Star’s commitment to truly try and make a difference in an industry that is responsible for a great part of the world’s pollution.
Despite their busy schedules, in part due to this launch, Frouke Bruinsma and Sean Peron, respectively G-Star’s Corporate Responsibility Director and Marketing Strategist, made time to talk with us about their partnership with Jaden Smith, how sustainability became a key variable in the brand’s development, and the future of G-Star.
What do you look for in the artists and collaborators you curate for projects like Forces of Nature?
Sean Peron: At G-Star, we are always looking to collaborate with artists and talents who are striving to do something new in whatever field of creativity they play. In the case of Jaden Smith, we found a shared passion to really explore the boundaries of sustainability and push the limits of clothing design – in our case denim design – to make a collection as sustainable as possible. This is a great example of a true collaborative effort: G-Star has brought to the table its experience in denim innovation and sustainable denim design, and Jaden has brought to the table his multi-faceted creative experience across music, art, and communication, and his passion for the environment. In working this way, we’ve been able to create something new and unique in the market that we would not have been able to make ourselves.
G-Star RAW x Jaden Smith Forces of Nature capsule collection. Photos: Courtesy of PR.
This collection marks yet another partnership, Pharrell being an impactful one – how did the partnership with Jaden come about?
Sean Peron: If you asked Jaden, he’ll tell you that he’s been a fan of the brand for many years. But the start of the actual collaboration came through Pharrell, who brought Jaden and G-Star together a little over a year ago. Pharrell believed that Jaden’s design aesthetic and passion for sustainability would be a great starting point for a close collaboration. We’ve been working with Jaden for over a year on product design and development, as well as a marketing communications strategy and content rollout.
In what manner does the collaboration offer a new outlet or outlook that benefits & promotes all parties involved, including the artist?
Sean Peron: We’ve learned so much in the process while working with Jaden, and his vision has helped us take our sustainable designs further than where we were when we started together. For Jaden, he’s been able to channel his creativity and passion for the environment though a new outlet – denim design – and we hope that the collaboration process has helped him to find new ways to bring his message to the world.
The RFTP initiative began in 2006, which impressively precedes sustainability and environmental concerns becoming a sale point or a marketing tool – what drove G-Star to take that initiative and carry it on?
Frouke Bruinsma: Over a decade ago, we realized that sustainability needed to be integrated into the heart of our business in a formal way, and that’s when we officially started our Corporate Responsibility department. It has been an ongoing process ever since, a whole evolution of setting the agenda on track with the size of our business. Innovating for the future includes taking responsibility for the social and environmental impact of our products. We know that when we design and produce, we must do that for the future; if we still want to be here as a denim brand in 20, 50, or even 100 years from now, it is crucial for us to think innovatively about the impact we have on people and the planet.
The effort was progressive and most likely not easy, from drafting a code of conduct to managing the discharge of hazardous materials. What are some of the important challenges you faced while transitioning into this more responsible form of production?
Frouke Bruinsma: There are usual challenges, such as costs and time. However, the biggest challenge is how to scale and accelerate the adaptation of our innovations in order to have a meaningful impact. We as a brand alone cannot change the entire denim industry. This is why, when we developed the world’s first Cradle to Cradle Gold Certified Denim Fabric with our partners, we made an open access to actual denim fabric and our findings to other brands via Fashion Positive Library. This also allowed us to share the revolutionary hydrosulfite-free indigo technology we have introduced during the making of this fabric, with other mills so they can adapt positive denim practices in their own productions. Furthermore, our design and creation of this most sustainable denim fabric in the world sets the new standard when it comes to the principles on how we design our future denim fabrics as well as how we optimize our existing ones.
There is also a twofold effort, one that focuses on the impact of manufacturing, and then one that aims at contributing to bettering the state of the planet (say with RAW for the Oceans, or protecting endangered forests) – how and why did the focus evolve from one to another?
Frouke Bruinsma: When we started back in 2006, our main focus was on the social aspects in our value chain, improving social conditions of the employees in the factory. Quickly after that we began to look at materials, finishing, washing, and the impact of our brand on people and planet. It has been a process or evolution of setting the agenda in track with the size of our business. You cannot look only at one element but need to look at impact you have on both people and planet.
G-Star RAW x Jaden Smith Forces of Nature capsule collection. Photos: Courtesy of PR.
If you had to pick, what would be one of the most important accomplishments under the RFTP?
Frouke Bruinsma: Our Most Sustainable Jeans ever, which are the result of our long-standing ambitions to push the boundaries and to continuously innovate for the future, as we strive to have a circular approach to how denim is made and used. We like to call it our current masterpiece. It would not have been possible without the work we did over the last 10 years on social and environmental development/progress in our value chain to achieve the Cradle to Cradle gold level certification which is a very rigorous certification that looks at material health, material reutilization, renewable energy, water stewardship, and social fairness.
It’s safe to say there is still much to do and yet, much has been done by G-Star since its decision to lead by example and position itself as a pioneer in sustainable innovation. What’s next?
Frouke Bruinsma: A clean and a circular denim industry. We are committed to ensuring that all raw materials used in our products are grown and manufactured in a responsible way that preserves (natural) resources and respects human as well as animal rights.