Mud Jeans seek to close the loop on jeans production. Customers can lease jeans and return them for repair or recycling. This reduces supply chain vulnerability to price fluctuations whilst reducing environmental impacts associated with traditional cotton crops.
In a trend found with other commodities, cotton prices have become more volatile in recent years, seeing a recent peak when prices tripled from 2010 to 2011. Mud Jeans are made with up to 40% recycled content. The remaining material is organic cotton, a resource that is subject to similarly significant price fluctuation and supply disruption, even more so than non-organic cotton due to extra focus on the provenance of the material. Identifying the vulnerability of their supply chain, CEO Bert van Son decided to make more effective use of the material that had already been purchased.
Recovery rates in the textiles industry tend to be low, with around 25% of textiles recovered per year in the EU. After learning about business models like that of Turntoo, in which manufacturers retain ownership of their own products, and consumers only pay for the performance, rather than for the raw materials that went into the product, van Son realised that the most reliable way of getting his product back was to avoid selling it in the first place. In order to retain control of the materials, van Son decided to begin leasing Mud Jeans, with a number of options available.
Alongside purchasing the jeans in the conventional way, users can choose to lease Mud Jeans for €7.50 / month. After one year, the user has three options. They can swap their jeans for a new pair, and continue leasing for another year; keep the jeans and wear them as long as they like; or end the relationship by returning the jeans to Mud and receiving a voucher for a new purchase.
Free repairs are included in the offering. For those who have decided to keep the jeans, the company offers financial incentives to return items, to encourage recovery.
Once the jeans have been recovered, they are assessed and the materials will continue to flow through one of three loops. If the product is in good condition, it can be cleaned and re-used. Van Son points out that his competitors spend time, money and energy creating a ‘vintage’ look and feel for their products, whereas returned jeans have developed this style naturally. In some cases, repair is required, and the denim may be given a stone wash or enzyme wash. If the product is beyond repair, the materials will be returned to the denim manufacturer to be recycled. Due to the multiple options for buying and re-selling Mud Jeans, van Son sees “endless marketing opportunities” around his products, especially around maintaining and re-selling – the tighter loops of a circular economy.
One of the most appealing aspects of the Mud Jeans concept is the sense of pioneering experimentation. Van Son understands that the idea of leasing clothing will currently be unfamiliar to many, and that an efficient throughput business model could yield better short-term sales. Despite this, the CEO firmly believes in the goal of a circular economy and wants to demonstrate to the big players of the fashion world that cycling clothing is possible and profitable. Crucially, he understands the resilience that circularity could bring to his business, and how this will become an even greater competitive advantage in the future.