Madewell’s Fair Trade Denim Means 16 New Sustainably-Made Styles

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A big change is happening at Madewell. The popular clothing brand revealed a bold new collection of denim on Jan. 29 that shows it's majorly switching up its approach to how it makes jeans, down to how its clothing factory operates. But before anyone panics: Madewell's high-rise jeans aren't going anywhere. In fact, Madewell's Fair Trade denim may become a new favorite.

The new collection seems simple enough. Introducing more denim styles is nothing new for Madewell, a brand known for creating the perfect jeans. (While subjective, Madewell literally named one if its collections that.) The 16 new additions to Madewell's men's and women's departments fit right into its relaxed, well-fitted catalog. When scrolling through, you may notice that the Eco Collection styles are made from organic cotton denim, and somehow, shrimp shells. But take a longer look, and you'll spot that the new styles were made in a Fair Trade Certified factory named Saitex.

Eagle-eyed fashion fans may recall the name Saitex from Everlane's denim sustainability announcements. The factory is worthy of all the praise it gets; it recycles nearly all of its water, transforms manufacturing waste into building materials, and uses solar power. But what does Fair Trade Certified mean, and how does it change Madewell's jeans?

Courtesy of J.Crew Group

For starters, the Fair Trade Certification is more about the workers who craft your jeans than it is the jeans themselves. Fair Trade USA explains on its website that when you see a product is Fair Trade Certified, that means it was made by workers earning a fair wage in a safe environment. Madewell notes some of perks the Fair Trade Certified factory workers receive, too, like equal pay, maternity leave, and paid leave.

Madewell will also now pay what is known as a Premium, which will be put towards the factory's Community Development Fund. In turn, how that fund is spent is up to a committee democratically elected by and of the factory workers themselves.

Courtesy of J.Crew Group

Fair Trade USA's website shares stories of how such funds have been used — such as one that funded a public school in Côte d’Ivoire — but Madewell also notes online that the workers can vote to receive the fund as a cash bonus, if they'd like. They're empowered to proceed how they see fit.

Some of Madewell's new Fair Trade Certified styles are for sale, while others are only available as pre-orders. For the time being, keep an eye on the brand's website for official release days, and continue scrolling down to pre-order (or just plain buy).