It’s time for a deep-dive into cult fashion brand Djerf Avenue, founded by Swedish fashion influencer Matilda Djerf. According to the brand “for us, sustainability is the number one aspect to have in mind when working with fashion and garment production.” But is it actually?
What Does It Mean To Be A ‘Sustainable Fashion Brand’?
Before we dive into the analysis, I wanted to start by defining what I consider ‘sustainable’ in the world of fashion. This qualification has grown and changed over the last few years – see my similar reviews for Arket, Everlane, Matt & Nat, Monsoon, and Sezane – and I now consider a sustainable brand to encompass the following four areas:
- Ethical treatment of people within the brand’s supply chain.
- Sustainable choice of materials, paired with an active reduction in carbon emissions and waste.
- Slow production processes, including (but not limited to) releasing four collections or less per year.
- Circular practices, both internally and customer-facing.
It’s very rare to find a brand that is ticking all of these boxes completely, but the good ones tend to have a mix of these (and don’t rely on just one area for their sustainable credentials).
Who Is Djerf Avenue?
Djerf Avenue is a cult online fashion brand that was founded by Swedish fashion influencer Matilda Djerf in 2019. The brand only popped up on my radar late last year, as quiet luxury and slouchy minimalism really began to trend. The brand takes inspiration Djerf’s signature style of low-effort-yet-polished looks, and claims to make seasonless, timeless pieces inspired by vintage pieces and everyday basics.
(Does anyone else cringe whenever a brand proclaims that they produce vintage styles? It always makes me wonder why they choose to make new versions of existing items…)
From this description, and the brand’s style, Djerf Avenue seems right up my street. I love vintage. I love minimal basics. And I love Matilda Djerf’s style. And they talk the talk… but do they walk the walk?
Is Djerf Avenue An Ethical Fashion Brand?
Let’s start by looking at Djerf Avenue’s supply chain. If they aren’t looking after their workers, I don’t think they can really proclaim they are sustainable…
Who Makes Djerf Avenue’s Clothes?
Djerf Avenue says they make their clothes in Portugal, Italy, and Sweden. At a top-line level, this is good: each of these countries is subject to EU labour laws and regulations. At the same time, there isn’t much more information available to view, which isn’t particularly transparent, and doesn’t show that the brand cares any further than providing the bare minimum when it comes to garment worker rights.
“All of our factories have been carefully chosen in order to guarantee high-quality standards.” The site reads. “Portugal is known for quality workmanship, respecting working conditions, premium fabrics research, and improving knowledge and technology.” It’s a nice sentiment, but talking about a country’s fashion industry as a whole doesn’t provide much insight into who makes the brand’s clothes.
In addition to this, it seems that only one item was made in Sweden. “In the town Djerf Avenue was born, we produced our Remade bag in a small Atelier run by three young women.” I respect this, but does this mean it’s a limited run? An exclusive item? How can you sustain this with just three young women making a bag that’s being advertised to over half a million followers online?
As for Italy? There’s no further mention of the country or their factories there.
What Is The Minimum Age Of Djerf Avenue’s Garment Workers?
As Djerf Avenue claims to only be working with European factories, the assumed minimum age of their garment workers is 16. However, I would feel more comfortable in seeing their own Supplier Code of Conduct to ensure the brand is only employing adults to make their clothes.
Do They Have A Supplier List Or Map Available To View?
On the Djerf Avenue site, there is an Our Factories page which lists eight of the factories they use, all of which are based in Portugal. From here, you can find out where each factory is located, when it first started, the number of its employees, and certain third-party certifications (often relating to fabrics rather than the factory itself). This makes me feel more confident in Djerf Avenue’s ethical approach, but I would be keen to see better third-party certifications linked to these factories, as well as information on their Swedish and Italian factories as well. (I have requested more information on this from the brand directly.)
Does Djerf Avenue Ensure Workers Are In A Safe And Healthy Environment?
There is no Code of Conduct, Modern Slavery Declaration, or any other policies pertaining to garment workers available to view on the Djerf Avenue site. (I have also requested more information on this from the brand directly.)
Is Djerf Avenue A Sustainable Fashion Brand?
With a middling start to this review, it’s onto Djerf Avenue’s sustainable practices. Is the brand truly sustainable, like they say they are?
What Sustainable Materials Does Djerf Avenue Use?
On their About page, the brand claims:
- We only use natural, organic, regenerated, or recycled fibers in all of our garments.
- We only use natural corozo buttons instead of plastic buttons.
- We only use organic cotton labels instead of polyester labels.
It’s a good start – but do they put this into practice? I looked at 10 items (at random) and found:
- Six items were made from a mono-material (i.e. 100% organic cotton)
- Only three items were made with recycled polyester (two blazers, and a swimsuit)
- Denim items were made from 99% organic cotton, and 1% elastane
From this research, I feel confident that the brand is choosing to use more sustainable materials than the average high street brand (although if I was paying £55 for a bandeau top, I’d expect nothing less.)
At the same time, for the higher end pieces, I would still recommend shopping for vintage versions instead. If you have £155 to drop on the ‘Forever Blazer’, it’s worth going vintage, rather than getting one that’s predominantly polyester.
The same goes for the brand’s denim. With a pair of jeans retailing at £110, I’d recommend shopping at a denim-first brand instead. The same goes for this denim jacket, which just looks cheap. For £150, you could get far better from a denim specialist.
Is Djerf Avenue Taking Steps To Reduce Its Impact?
If a fashion brands wants to claim its sustainable, I think it also needs to consider its own planetary impact as a company. Essentially, I want to see an active reduction in carbon emissions, energy usage, water usage, waste production, and more.
According to the brand’s About page, D.A. has “opened a warehouse in the US to be able to ship all US orders to customers by truck.” This means it divides its shipping operations between two warehouses, one in Sweden and the other in Pennsylvania, U.S. This is definitely a step in the right direction, but it’s beginning to feel like all activity the brand takes to be sustainable has to be paired with strong benefits for the brand too.
This suspicion is further confirmed by the qualification: “Our EU warehouse is predominately for customers in the EU, however, we may ship from this warehouse to the US in particular circumstances regarding stock availability.”
Everything the brand is doing to be more sustainable seems to be tied to some additional benefit to the brand, whether that’s cost-saving, marketing, or additional customer service. It’s not a bad thing, but it does indicate there may be limitations to the brand’s sustainable practices.
Is Djerf Avenue a Slow Fashion Brand?
On their About Page, the brand says “We believe in timeless designs that will work for years to come.” This has me thinking that the brand prioritises slow fashion, but do they actually?
When I checked the Djerf Avenue site in October 2022, I found 133 styles of clothing on sale. The size of this range is indicative of an independent fashion brand, albeit a well-established one that may not be focused on reducing its production in the name of sustainable fashion. At the same time, brands like Filippa K and Mother of Pearl sell a similar number of product lines, and do so while still flying the slow fashion banner.
Djerf Avenue provides a good range of sizes in their garments – and inclusivity is so important within sustainable fashion. Out of the 10 items I looked at (at random), I found all of them catered to sizes XXS to XXL as a minimum. This gets snaps from me.
The brand qualifies that “When possible, we produce made-to-order garments to minimize waste“, however it’s not clear which pieces are made-to-order or not. Sharing this would be an improvement.
How many collections does Djerf Avenue produce per year?
The true metric that will tell us if Djerf Avenue is a slow fashion brand is the number of collections they drop each year. This isn’t obvious from their site alone, so I’ve contacted the brand for more information (and will update this section upon receiving a response).
Is Djerf Avenue a Circular Fashion Brand?
Finally, let’s talk about circular fashion. What is Djerf Avenue doing to reduce its reliance on new materials, and adopting circular practices related to regeneration and recycling?
Internally, the brand says “we collect all of our returned items with flaws for either re-make projects or for re-sell availability.” This is amazing, quite honestly. I rarely see this kind of transparency around returns, and they further this by saying “We never throw away or destroy faulty items.” Considering they provide one free replacement for every customer, this is quite a commitment too.
This policy may be a sneak peek into what Djerf Avenue plans next. According to their site, they are soon to be launching a resales platform called Re-Sell Djerf Avenue. Do I think returns will be sold through here? Most likely. Is this a bad thing? Not at all. My one caveat will be how resellers are rewarded – will it be with points or discounts to spend on new? If so, it falls into the trap of brand-owned resales platforms being greenwashing.
But! Before we get to returns or resales, Djerf Avenue does provide one extra nicety. They say “We always offer customers to take any flawed items to a tailor or dry cleaner at our cost instead of returning them to us, to extend the lifespan of all garments.” I have never seen this practice before, but I am 100% here for it! This shows a true commitment to both the clothes they make, the customers they serve, and making their clothes last. Love it.
So, Is Djerf Avenue *Actually* Sustainable?
I’ll be honest, I was pleasantly surprised by the efforts that Djerf Avenue has taken to be sustainable. Unlike many influencer brands, Matilda Djerf and her team are embracing a lot of different practices to reduce the brand’s impact on the planet.
That said, I do have a few notes for you to take on-board if you plan to shop Djerf Avenue in its current state:
- Djerf Avenue needs to provide clearer, more consistent information about all of its garment factories and policies on its website, and demonstrate how it’s going beyond legal minimums to care for workers. If you’re hot on garment worker rights, I would be hesitant to shop with them.
- The brand produces garments that prioritise better materials than most, but it does pass on the cost of this to customers. For many of its high-design pieces (jackets, blazers, etc.) it mixes in recycled polyester to save on cost. In my opinion, you can get better quality items by shopping vintage or with independent specialists.
- Djerf Avenue’s sustainability practices seem to be tied to driving additional benefits, i.e. reducing the cost of shipping, improving customer service, or having good talking points for marketing. This is not a bad thing, but it does indicate that the priority is making money first, sustainability second.
Overall though, when it comes to sustainability, Djerf Avenue gets a pass from me (albeit a middling one). Their sustainability practices tend to be customer-facing rather than integral to the brand as a whole, but they are putting new and innovative approaches into practice that other brands haven’t even considered yet!