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This past spring, Levi's quietly opened a lab in San Francisco geared towards innovation, where denim mavens would focus on science, engineering and technical design, with the goal of developing new products and guiding change in the the garment industry. The first product to come out of the lab were their Revel jeans for women, which use "liquid shaping technology" to mold you into a svelter version of yourself. Now the top-secret laboratory is out of the bag, and Dockers brand is announcing a second product developed there on the DL.
Last night at the Eureka Innovation Lab, the company announced a new, sustainable men's line called WellThread. Surrounded by environmentally-friendly garment making and dying equipment, media and "influencers" gathered at the lab for dinner and, after some words from Levi's CEO Chip Bergh, a panel presentation. The speakers were WellThread's designer Paul Dillinger (who is also senior director of color, concept and design for Dockers), Levi's VP of sustainability, Michael Kobori, Kellie McElhaney, the faculty director for responsible business at UC Berkeley as moderator.
Dillinger did most of the talking, describing how his disillusionment with the lack of social responsibility in the garment industry (he worked with Calvin Klein and DKNY and helped launch Martin + Osa) attracted him to academia, and then led him back to designing for the opportunity to work for the Dockers brand at Levi's. The WellThread collection was born out of fellowship with the Aspen Institute—Dillinger is the first fashion designer to earn the organization's First Movers fellowship.
He and his colleagues created a process that considers social responsibility from start to finish. They use cotton that was grown sustainably and ethically. Cold-water (for tops) and salt-free reactive dyes (for pants and jackets) reduce water and energy consumption. All the dyeing is done in the factory rather than the the mill, so garments can be dyed-to-order.
The brand also developed a unique yarn with long staples, or groups of fibers, because long-staple yarn is easier to recycle. Every garment in the collection uses 100% cotton thread and pocketing, and the metal studs can be easily extracted by magnets. The care instructions even tell the customer to wash in cold and hang-dry using the locker loop provided on the khakis.
The Eureka lab is located nearby Levi's headquarters near the Embarcadero in San Francisco, and the company tells us to look out for many more innovations to come. You can look for the WellThread collection to be available in early spring 2014. (And yes it will be available in the U.S., contrary to an erroneous report) Get a sneak peek at the collection in our gallery, along with some arty photos of the sustainable process that went into making them.
· Levi's Insiders Spill on Their Most-Wanted Merch [Racked SF]
· Mold Your Butt and Thighs With Levi's Upcoming Revel Jeans [Racked SF]
· And the 49ers Stadium Naming Rights Go to... Levi Strauss [Racked SF]