What is it? The Mud Jeans Lease-A-Jeans option allows customers to borrow a pair of jeans or a denim jacket for a year while the company retains ownership. The customer pays an initial sign-up fee and a monthly usage charge and can decide whether to return or retain the item after 12 months. The returned items are either re-sold as vintage items, upcycled or recycled for another cycle of usage (Mud Jeans, 2019).
Why is this important? The fashion industry is a large emitter of greenhouse gases and creates both environmental and social problems (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2017). Commonplace fast fashion business models lead to the production of a lot of garments with short life spans and low prices, oftentimes under difficult conditions for the workers (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2017). Fast fashion is also inherently linear, with around 60% of clothing being thrown away and sent to incineration or landfill within a year of its production (Remy, Speelman & Swartz, 2016). Jeans in particular are a highly polluting clothing item and the average pair of jeans requires 7,000 liters of water in its productions (MUD Jeans, 2019).
Main resource strategy: Slowing the loop by offering product lease, a free repair service for the first year of lease and a guide on how to maintain the product. Returned items can also be resold as vintage pieces or upcycled into new pieces.
Other resource strategies: Closing the loop through the recycling or upcycling of returned clothing.
Business model aspects:
- Value Proposition: Pay-as-you-use for jeans clothing, proposing value through “a purchasing model that would free the consumer from responsibility and environmental anxiety of having a new pair of jeans” (MUD Jeans, 2019).
- Value Creation & Delivery: Customers gain access to the clothing while MUD Jeans retain ownership. After a year, the jeans can be kept by the user or are returned for another usage cycle. Additionally, customers are offered a free repair service during the first 12 months of leasing the item.
- Value Capture: Jeans and jackets are leased to customers from €9.95 a month for a period of 12 months. A once-off subscription fee of €29 is applied. MUD Jeans also take back pre-owned jeans with ≥96% cotton, both from their own production and from other brands. Customers that supply a pair of jeans receive a €10 discount or a month free lease (MUD Jeans, 2018).
Strategies for degrowth/ sufficiency: MUD Jeans openly declare their aim to work towards slow fashion and conscious consumption “by taking action, being transparent and supporting sufficiency” (MUD Jeans, 2019, p. 12). Strategies used include moving from ownership to product usage through the lease-a-jeans service and extending product lifetimes through a repair service for the leased clothing: “we try to expand the life of our MUD Jeans and empower our customers to minimize their environmental footprint” (MUD Jeans, 2019, p. 31). In conjunction with that, MUD Jeans provide washing instructions for their products to ensure that material quality is retained. The company also tries to offer long-lasting pieces through a permanent and seasonless collection of items that can be worn irrespective of current fashion trends (Steinlechner, 22.10.2020). Additionally, MUD Jeans have spoken out against overconsumption in relation to Black Friday shopping discounts and have organized alternative events such as a 2018 event create something instead of buying new (MUD Jeans, 2018) and in 2020 of “Turning Black Friday Blue” by closing the online shop and only selling vintage jeans on the day (Steinlechner, 24.11.2020).
Interestingly, the 2018 Sustainability Report also touches on business growth, stating that MUD Jeans want to stabilize their company’s growth once a production capacity of 500.000 jeans/year is reached (MUD Jeans, 2018).
Business model experimentation practices: As part of a campaign against excessive sales during Black Friday 2020, MUD Jeans entered into a collaboration with Justdiggit to sell their Vintage Jeans through a virtual shop in a video conferencing tool (Steinlechner, 24.11.2020). This was a trial of a new way of vending and the company is uncertain whether it could be feasible to repeat it as selling individual vintage jeans requires additional infrastructure and resources.
Tools, methods and approaches used: MUD Jeans are a certified B Corp (Benefit Corporation) and as such report on annual progress. Additionally, the 2019 Sustainability Report includes a Life Cycle Analysis of the jeans production (MUD Jeans, 2019).
Sustainability outcomes: According to the 2018 Sustainability Report, “for each pair of jeans that [MUD Jeans] sell, four pairs of jeans less are sold in the world” (p. 35). This however refers to the overall production of MUD Jeans, including circular design and recycling, rather than just the Lease-a-Jeans programme.
Ellen MacArthur Foundation (2017). A new textiles economy: Redesigning fashion’s future. Accessed 25 November 2020 at: https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/publications/a-new-textiles-economy-redesigning-fashions-future.
MUD Jeans (2018). Sustainability Report 2018. Accessed 25 November 2020 at https://www.dropbox.com/s/aw4g1ui0l05c2dc/MUD-Jeans-Sustainability-Report-20183.pdf?dl=0
MUD Jeans (2019). Sustainability Report 2019. Accessed 25 November 2020 at: https://www.dropbox.com/s/efusjjnizhmhrq7/Sustainability%20Report%202019.pdf?dl=0
Remy, N., Speelman, E., & Swartz, S. (2016). Style that’s sustainable: A new fast-fashion formula. Accessed 25 November 2020 at: https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/sustainability-and-resource-productivity/our-insights/style-thats-sustainable-a-new-fast-fashion-formula
Steinlechner, N. (2020, October 22nd). Seasonless isn’t reasonless. Accessed 25 November 2020 at: https://mudjeans.eu/blogs/news/blog-seasonless
Steinlechner, N. (2020, November 24th). Turning Black Friday Blue. [Blog post] Accessed 25 November 2020 at: https://mudjeans.eu/blogs/news/vintage-livestream?customer_posted=true
About project Circular X
Project Circular X is about ‘Experimentation with Circular Service Business Models’. It is an ambitious research project funded by the European Research Council (ERC) which supports top researchers from anywhere in the world. Project CIRCULAR X runs from 2020-2025. The project is led by Principal Investigator (PI) Prof Dr Nancy Bocken, who is joined by a multidisciplinary team of researchers at Maastricht Sustainability Institute (MSI), Maastricht School of Business and Economics, Maastricht University. The project cooperates with businesses who want to innovate towards the circular economy.
Project Circular X addresses a new and urgent issue: experimentation with circular service business models (CSBMs). Examples of such new business models include companies shifting from selling products to selling services and introducing lifelong warrantees to extend product lifetimes. However, CSBMs are far from mainstream and research focused on experimentation is little understood. The research aims to conduct interdisciplinary research with 4 objectives:
- Advancing understanding of CSBMs; their emergence and impacts
- Advancing knowledge on CSBM experimentation
- Developing CSBM experimentation tools
- Designing and deploying CSBM experimentation labs
This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, grant agreement No. 850159.
Using this information
When you cite this publication, please use the following source:
Circular X. (2020) Case study: MUD Jeans Lease-A-Jeans. Accessed from www.circularx.eu