Madewell Wants to Replace Your Linen Pants with Its New Summerweight Denim

Made from a hemp-cotton blend, these jeans are breathable and wrinkle-free.

Madewell summerweight denim
Part of the new Summerweight Denim collection.


Pulling on a pair of jeans in the middle of summer may seem like a terrible idea, but ethical jean-maker Madewell thinks it can convince you to do so willingly. Its newest collection, called Summerweight Denim, is designed to replace linen as your go-to choice for summer bottoms—a bold claim, one might say, when linen has such a great reputation for cool breathability.

But linen does come with wrinkles and no one likes to deal with those! Madewell has zeroed in on that fact, hoping that shoppers will be attracted by Summerweight Denim's wrinkle-free advantage. The fabric is made from a blend of hemp and cotton; it is moisture-wicking, breathable, and lightweight. As described in a press release: "It’s time to say bye-bye to your old school linen and hello to a more durable, sustainable, low-maintenance, and naturally-cooling fabric."

What makes this fabric so sustainable? It's the hemp. Mary Pierson, senior vice-president of Denim Design for the company, tells Treehugger: "Hemp is a fast-growing and low maintenance crop that is rain-fed, doesn’t require irrigation, and great for the soil. It’s also extremely versatile, with the fabrics made from it offering breathable and moisture-wicking properties. All of these amazing capabilities make hemp the perfect fiber for our summerweight denim collection. They also look and feel like old school authentic denim, while providing a light and airy feel that is three times stronger than cotton."

Hemp's benefits go beyond these. As an agricultural crop, it uses far fewer chemical inputs and less water to yield three times more fiber per hectare cultivated than cotton. It can be grown in a range of locations worldwide where cotton cannot be grown, is fully biodegradable and/or compostable when used purely or blended with other natural fibers, and possesses natural antibacterial and UV-protecting properties.

Pierson says that because hemp fibers are naturally breathable, absorbent, and help regulate temperature, the Summerweight Denim collection is perfect for warmer weather. And if jeans are just too much for you, there are shorts to be had, as well.

Plus Curvy Crop Jeans
Plus Curvy Crop Jeans. Madewell

The entire collection is certified by Fair Trade USA. This, Pierson writes, "aligns with our goal of achieving more than 90% Fair Trade Denim by 2025... To date, we’ve increased the amount of our Fair Trade Certified products produced by 10x, which is the equivalent to contributing nearly $580K back to the factory workers’ funds, impacting 13,700 employees."

Furthermore, Madewell's 2020 Do Good report reveals impressive commitments to a range of initiatives, such as becoming certified by Bluesign to reduce chemical usage in denim production; partnering with Cotton’s Blue Jeans Go Green program to turn more than 1 million old jeans to date into house insulation; reselling its own used products in partnership with thrift retailer thredUP; promoting eco-friendly garment care; and committing to sourcing 100% sustainable and virgin-plastic-free key fibers for all materials by 2025.

Madewell has recreated a number of its popular styles using the summerweight fabric, so you can choose between vintage crop jeans, boyjeans, or skinny jeans with high-rise waists, classic or curvy fits, and plus sizes. See all options here.

View Article Sources
  1. Duque Schumacher, Ana Gabriela, et al. "Industrial Hemp Fiber: a Sustainable and Economical Alternative to Cotton." Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 268, 2020, p. 122180, doi:10.1016/j.jclepro.2020.122180