Report from the Summer Institute on Sustainability in Fashion & Textiles
Jorg Hartmann, from machinery vendor Stoll, started his talk by showing copies of a well-worn 1880s pair of jeans bought at auction for $60,000. The jeans were copied and the look started a somewhat eco-hostile fashion idea: clothing that is almost worn-out when bought new.
Jorg said he himself used to buy jeans, rub them on the rough basement floor and run them through the washing machine to get the look. When the industry started to sell them that way, it found it had to use virgin material because consumers favor stuff that looked distressed but had never been worn.
He dryly observed that we’re in an age of “fashion democracy.” To follow the votes, the denim industry went through three stages: first companies sewed a pair of new jeans and washed them as destructively as they could.
Then there was the manual method, where skilled workers pulled, tugged, laser-distressed, soiled, bleached and dirtied, and then washed new jeans. That’s dangerous work, and also leads to quite a bit of energy use and environmental pollution.
Now the industry has a knitting machine from Stoll that does all this automatically, and in a scrapless way as well. Who knew? Knitted distressed “denim!”
photos: Rachel Ellner