In conversation with Bert Van Son, founder of Mud Jeans & a veteran in the Fashion Industry
Where old jeans are given a second life, they are being transformed into the perfect fitting jeans. I was given the privilege to visit Mud Jean’s headquarter in Al-mere, Amsterdam. Fortunate to meet the amazing team who made this possible.
Leading this amazing team of passionate individuals was their founder Bert van Son. Bert is a self-less and creative individual, through his interaction with his team and our conversations, I was able to see his love for this planet and his passion in making it sustainable for future generations. 35 years in the industry, Bert is still actively breaking boundaries in Fashion and revolutionising sustainable practices in the industry.
Would you like to share more about Mud Jeans?
We are Mud Jeans, we try to change and make an impact in the fashion industry. As it’s the second large polluting industry in the world.
From the raw cotton, to the product in your shelf there’s a lot of steps why things can go wrong. Steps like producing the cotton, dyeing the cotton, spinning, making the fabric putting the patterns, transporting to the factories, all those things many things goes wrong. So we try to change, we try to use organic cottons for our jeans and also recycled cotton.
In the beginning, we thought this beautiful organic cotton, how can we get it back after use? And that’s when we invented lease a jeans.
Lease a jeans means you can use my jeans or our jeans and once you’re done you’re ready wearing it after one year or later know for sure that we will reuse all the jeans to make cotton.
There’s a factory we worked with together in Spain. A big plantation. They are very experienced with recycling all cotton. So there’s two different steams of old cotton. One is from the cutting table we call that pre-consumer waste and there’s also the jeans you’ve been wearing and I have been wearing that we call post-consumer waste. So we use Post-consumer waste it’s very difficult because can be a little bit dirty or things like that.
Currently, the maximum we can use today is 40% recycled post-consumer waste and 60% of new organic cotton.
So with that, we are the only ones in the world using this fabric at this moment. Maybe next year there is one doing better, we will try to improve the stages. If you imagine the huge volumes and I’m only talking about cotton, I don’t even talk about the man-made fabrics, the natural fibers by cutting the linen. If you take cotton there’s 24 billion kilos produced every year and if you then think it takes about an 8000 liters of water. But they’re normally polluted because normal cotton probably would use pesticides, insecticides and everything.
You can imagine the profit you can make for the earth, when you can start recycling cotton. So that’s why we want to do this.
What is Mud Jeans trying to achieve? How & Why you are doing it?
We’re still a small company. We are growing fast and my aim is be an example in the fashion industry. Together with my team, very hard working people that are here. We have ten people now, we have four owners in the company and everybody puts in a lot of effort.
We don’t have big salaries, we have this small office we are at right now but the most important thing is that we make beautiful jeans.
The fitting is perfect because that’s important for the Consumer and then when the consumer hears the story that they can give the jeans back to us for recycling, he can know that he has a pair jeans not made by two little children or the dye stuff is not made from dirty indigo or polluting indigo it is clean dye stuff. We use all those things well you can you can realize that you have a good pair of jeans.
Bert do you mind sharing your experience in the Fashion industry?
I’m in the business, the garment business for 35 years now. So are some of my colleagues and we said we cannot go on like this in this business.
We cannot deny my generation of people we have created the world that’s not possible to give through to your generation.
Because we created the linear economy, which is a take, make and waste linear economy that’s not possible. We have to make it circular and so we thought how can we make the most impact in garments? All through you take the biggest product in garments, which is the jeans. We start with that and we can ensure that this can be circular and hopefully other companies will follow us. Also hopefully consumers will understand the importance of this and this is the challenge we have, we are working for five years.
We feel that people, they like what we are doing, we get a lot of positive comments and a lot of Bravo’s and everything but it not enough. Not enough people do it really. This is a little bit my frustration today, that we are offering you as a consumer this possibility still you don’t take it why? So this is what I have to find out and be smarter. To touch the people and say “okay, listen we have this opportunity for you decide as a consumer with your dollar to vote for what you want to buy.”
If you decide to buy something very cheap, you know that somewhere in the chain something has gone wrong. If you buy from a company, any company if it’s transparent and explains where it’s made, what and how then you can decide with your dollar to do this conscious purchase. So that’s what we need from you, that’s what you’re doing thank you Cheryl. (For spreading the awareness.)
How do you define Fashion Sustainability?
It’s actually a paradox, it’s a contradiction in the area of work. Fashion and sustainability don’t go together. Because fashion is you every time you want something new, you have to follow trends, you’re pushed to-do something that actually is not necessary.
Clothing used to be to protect yourself. Okay to look good also. But the whole fashion thing came when people said this year you have to leave a carry this color or this material or this look.
There’s a lot of push wrong pushes from the market. Why?
So actually it should go back again to a performance item and also of course I agree you want to look nice as a person that doesn’t matter but we have to try to be smart on it.
Fast fashion is really something every week or every two weeks some new collection coming out and it says you have to have this. Is that necessary? I don’t think so. Otherwise I wouldn’t have started this company.
It’s everybody’s own choice but you have to think of the future, the earth will survive.
The earth will still be there but if we continue in as a human beings, humanity, what we do today, we know that it’s ending one day. Everybody knows this, raw materials will be in the air we create around, this is problematic because its heat is increasing.
So I think we have to change our habits and the good thing is that there are a lot of solutions.
There’s a lot of technical technology coming up with solar panels. Everything is today possible, we just have to implement it. Start being smarter and we can still have good life and to do fantastic things and have fun. it’s important to have fun.
What is the one thing that consumers can start to do? And start being more conscious about what they wear?
Well I saw some research now, that when you wash man-made fibers clothing in the water. this Nano tiny bits of polyester and plastics are coming into the water and this is very bad because it comes into the sea. Then it’s eaten by the plankton and I know they gets eaten by the fish again and so on and it comes back on your table.
I think we should all start wearing natural fibers or if we use man-made fibers like Patagonia is doing. How they make a special bag in which you can wash it. So that it doesn’t give all this plastic that’s one of the most important things and then second thing is let’s reuse all the resources.
Let’s reuse, let’s try to get back old clothing and recycle it again. Now recycling is very difficult when you mix all kind of clothing. If you have all polyester and cotton all mixed, it’s very difficult to make something out of it again. People are now recycling it but they’re more down cycling into isolation material or those kind of things. The advantage we have with our little closed loop is that we have cotton we recycle into cotton yarn and we use it on high-end product again. Which is the jeans that’s a better way of doing it.
I would say this there’s only one thing for sure in life and it’s that everything changes so let’s change the way we treat fashion. Let’s change it in a more sustainable way