Recycled denim: Have Pangaia and Evrnu made a big breakthrough?


Working with textile innovations company Evrnu, Pangaia is bringing a 100 % recycled denim jacket to market. It could mark a tipping point.

By guest author Rachel Cernansky from Vogue Business.

February 13, 2023

Caption Pangaia


Pangaia’s latest launch is an oversized denim jacket that could mark a shift for the sector. It’s the result of a collaboration with US textile innovation startup Evrnu that, both companies say, will prove recycled denim is here and ready to scale.

The Renu jacket, as it’s called, will be available on starting 16 February and is the first denim product to be made entirely from Nucycl, Evrnu’s signature lyocell fibre created from pre- and post-consumer cotton waste. For Pangaia, a brand-meets-materials science company that’s built its name on developing products using next-generation materials, the jacket is the latest milestone in a mission to prove that sustainable innovation can make a difference to every product in the fashion canon.

“We’ve been on the entire journey with [Evrnu]. When they were talking about making denim, we got excited,” says Dr Amanda Parkes, Pangaia’s chief innovation officer. “Our other denim products — while we have had innovation with nettle and hemp — have had to be washed or blended with cotton. In terms of our push to find alternatives to traditional cotton as well as reduce waste, this hits both those points and is a breakthrough on the technological front.”

Capsule collections and limited-edition products showcasing next-generation materials are becoming common as fashion sets ambitious sustainability goals. Companies are trying to figure out a path to meet those goals while winning over consumers along the way.

However, these next-gen materials are slow to scale. Generally, they have not achieved the level of quality necessary for use on their own, requiring them to be used in blends with new fibres. Evrnu says that its jacket created with Pangaia offers proof that Nucycl has the quality that brands need and that it can be integrated into their existing supply chains. At the end of its life, it can be recycled again into a fibre of the exact same quality, says co-founder and CEO Stacy Flynn. Besides the Pangaia collaboration, Evrnu has also developed a capsule collection with Zara, which retailed last December, featuring two collared shirts with 100 per cent Nucycl and a pair of wide-leg trousers made with 31 per cent of the material.

Stacy Flynn says Nucycl has a strength and tenacity that’s on par with polyester or other petroleum-based fibres. “That means it’s the first time we can take a natural product that’s made from cellulose and outperform synthetic materials. That’s the real exciting feature that we’ve worked on behind-the-scenes.”

Garments for disassembly

Evrnu begins collaborations with brand partners by emphasising the importance of how a garment is designed from the very beginning to ensure it can be fed into recycling systems down the road. “Garments require so many different components,” says Flynn. “All of [them] have to be thoughtfully reviewed so when the garment comes back for depolymerisation and regeneration, we can easily reprocess it. This is when we get into really interesting unit economics.”

Flynn concludes: “That’s really what this garment represents — all of the components were thoughtfully selected to be compatible for garment recycling.”