Getting Green with Boyish Jeans’ Jordan Nodarse
WORDS BY : NOAH PHAM | PHOTOS BY : KEVIN IPALARI
Sustainable, eco-friendly, green, natural … it’s gotten to the point where we see these millennial terms on almost every product we come across. But how common is it that we actually know what these businesses are doing to claim the title? For Jordan Nodarse, the founder of Boyish Jeans, he’s really opened up his company for full transparency — something that most companies just don’t do. In every aspect of the garment production, including actually sourcing from all-organic cotton farms, Jordan’s aim is to push the industry and open conversations for all aspects of a business to be better to our planet.
This past week with Basic Space Experiences, Jordan hosted an intimate educational workshop to teach guests the proper ways of planting — and taking care of the rest of the planet. Just before guests arrived, we asked him to school us personally on his brand of green.
How did you find yourself involved in the garment industry?
I just wanted to make myself some skinny jeans when everyone else was wearing bootcuts, in like 2002? I’d take some Levi’s and and cut them up and make them nice and tight — I broke my mom’s machine several times before I finally bought myself one. I realized that I had a knack for making jeans when my friends started asking to buy them.
When was this?
14 years ago, when I was 14. I made it a full-time thing in 2007. I built a relationship with an LA-based factory and started my own line. At the time the economy was crashing, which was kind of the best time to do it. I was working for other companies; I started Girlfriend for Revolve. Then worked on Reformation’s jeans because I was so into the sustainable aspect of fashion and what I could do to change that. I helped them build their denim collection with the consideration of sustainability. And finally I started Boyish. I wanted to take it to the next level — not just by creating sustainable jeans but I also wanted to create a platform for education for the conscious consumers.
I wanted to be the opposite of the rap lifestyle of drinking and partying. I wanted to teach people to be better and to care about the earth, what they’re consuming and about others. That’s the whole concept of what Boyish is built off of.
Were you always interested in preserving the earth and sustainability? How did you find this niche to apply this to your business?
Living in SoCal in general, you’re taught a form of appreciation for the earth. You’re given a passion for caring about how the world is treated. I surf and hike a lot; I go to the mountains and the desert, so I’ve always been out in the environment, which made me appreciate it. When I started making jeans and speaking to chemical factories, for instance, I learned how bad the industry was. I also learned there were more earth-friendly options, but everyone was choosing bad options. I don’t know if it was because they didn’t care, or because of ignorance about the effects their decisions have. That’s why the educational platform of our company and creating transparency is important to not having any hidden lies.
Are these bad decisions that companies are making due to cost efficiency?
I’m not sure if we can exclusively blame costs, though I know it’s a contributing factor. At the end of the day, sustainability translates to efficiency. You’d be choosing chemicals that are more efficient because waste is inefficient. Right now because sustainability is newer, it requires investment, investing in time and machinery to figuring it out. There’s always a return on capital for ingenuity. You’d actually save money longterm. For instance, machines that save water will save you money.
Was it difficult for Boyish to find this balance and efficiency? Is that something you’re still learning?
Sustainability is a process, not a perfection. You’re never going to be 100% sustainable or what you want yourself to be. But you can be constantly evolving. That comes down to understanding your supply chain. That’s the real issue with a lot of companies that want to be sustainable. They may just have an ozone machine in one step of their process and consider themselves sustainable. That’s just greenwashing — consumers are buying the products because of this misdirection.
"Life is suffering — and I'm not saying that it has to be difficult, but there will be obstacles constantly. If you don’t start looking at those obstacles that will make you stronger, then you’re never going to evolve. Without proper stress, there is no evolution."
So why do other companies conduct business this way?
Enlightenment really, ignorance is bliss? A lot of people aren’t inquisitive enough. Some companies just hire a person to look into it and they tell them all these things and it ends up being too expensive or something. The most difficult part is doing it everyday. Life is suffering — and I’m not saying that it has to be difficult, but there will be obstacles constantly. If you don’t start looking at those obstacles that will make you stronger, then you’re never going to evolve. Without proper stress, there is no evolution. Things get worse and worse until you end up with products that damage the earth. How can we make this better? People are asking the wrong questions. It takes passion.
How does the Boyish production process differ from that of other companies?
We like to have full transparency in our facilities. We start with the farm. A lot of buyers usually just buy the fabrics and send it to the factory, where everything else is done. They’re not double checking anything, not asking for certifications. At the end of the day, if there’s a problem, they’re just going to blame the factory. It’s the easy thing to do. With us, we try to look at things, all our vendors, farms and partners; we want to be successful and we want them to be successful. We make sure our cotton is certified. We make sure they have the tools they need. The reason why we’re able to do these things because we find people and tell them what we’re doing. We’re very transparent with our goals and open to test things out together. You need to have trial and error. A Lot of sustainability for us is learning and failing. With us, the whole point of our manufacturing cycle is that every little thing we produce and test, we send them to labs to see if it has any harmful substances, carcinogens, and we’re also getting certifications for every process. We work off of a lot of certificates to make sure we do things right.
What’s your take on the government’s policies on the topic?
I stray away from politics because the government is totally corrupt and manipulated; it’s solely looking keep to profits high and the costs low for businesses that pay so much money to our officials. The current administration has pulled us out of every environmental accord and thinks global warming is a joke. There’s currently no environmental support. The people should have the power, but lack of education means they’ll vote for those who do nothing for us. Money will continue to go to the 1%. It’s completely imbalanced. We try to add more balance to the system by educating our consumers through our products and what we do, hoping they’ll ask questions of other brands. The only way to shift things is to educate.
What’s your take on the government and their policies on the topic?
I stray away from politics because the government is solely looking out for companies that will keep their profits high and the costs low. The government is totally corrupt and manipulated now. Businesses can give so much money to officials. The person who’s in charge now has pulled us out of every environmental accord and thinks global warming is a joke. There’s no government when it comes to environmentalism. The people should have the power as long as their educated for that. But lack of education means they’ll vote for these people who will do nothing for us. They’ll keep giving their money to the 1%. It’s completely imbalanced. We try to add more balance to the system by educating our consumers through our products and what we do and they’ll ask questions for other brands. The only shift is to give consumers the education and power on what they’re buying.
Give us some consumer tips on how to be more conscious.
Be flexible. Once people gain interest in sustainability, the first step is just to go as natural as possible. Stray away from plastics and anything that’s oil-based. Patagonia replaced all their wetsuits with plant-based rubbers over petroleum by-products. It’s not 100%, but it’s better than what it was. If you care about the products you’re buying, you should find information about the process. Check to see if a brand is trying to hide any information. Reach out to companies and learn about the products you’re purchasing.
So you’re having a workshop with Basic Space Experiences tonight, how did you develop a green thumb?
I’ve always loved plants and the outdoors. You really appreciate the moments when you escape from the city. Even if it’s a small hike in the mountains or getting into the ocean, the feeling you get sort of connects you to plants. Before, I’d get one-two plants a year and they would die. Like I had so few of them that I didn’t think of them much. But over the years after buying more, my attention would grew and I started to care for them. It’s a very zen sort of atmosphere for me. It gives you that connection to life and taking care of things and seeing them prosper, teaches you patience. I started learning about composting coffee grounds and about nitrogen, things like that, the natural principles. It taught me to learn about biology naturally. I always look for fun ways to learn things. This led to learning about how chemicals affect plants. It’s a familiarity. Once I started getting the plants, I started seeing how much they can create such a great energy in my home. They’ve helped with my allergies and kept the humidity in my apartment higher, which has a lot of health benefits. Lots of positives.