conversation

Levi’s Is Radically Redefining Sustainability

Posted on Updated on

And it all comes down to making a timeless product that the customer will hold on to for many, many years.

How do we make the fashion industry more sustainable? For Paul Dillinger, head of global product innovation at Levi Strauss & Co, it’s not enough to simply plant a few trees to offset carbon dioxide or use less toxic dyes. To make a real impact in the world, you need to help change the way people think about clothes.

Paul Dillinger
Levi’s has always been a leader in sustainability. In 1991, it established “terms of engagement” that laid out the brand’s global code of conduct throughout its supply chain. This meant setting standards for worker’s rights, a healthy work environment, and an ethical engagement with the planet. “It wasn’t an easy thing to do,” Dillinger says. “At the time, we were worried that doing this would drive up our own costs and prices.” In fact, what happened was that these practices were quickly adopted by other companies, who used it as a template to write their own rules. “We were actually leading industry toward new standards,” he says.

These days, Levi’s continues to focus on how it can push the envelope when it comes to being green. Dillinger believes that part of the solution is encouraging people to stop thinking about clothes as disposable. As a designer, his goal is to create durable jeans that customers love and feel good wearing because this increases the likelihood that they will care for them better and keep them longer. In this Creative Conversation, we discuss what it will take to create a real paradigm shift in people’s thinking about fashion.

You’re tasked with creating a product that is fairly timeless and less subject to trends. Are you intentionally changing the narrative about consumption?

Yes. In my wildest dreams, we’d be helping to cultivate a Levi’s consumer who values durability and demonstrates a real attachment to an object. We’d be nurturing the person who doesn’t purchase because of immediate seasonal change, but who purchases for lasting value. This would mean there are shared values between our brand and our consumer.

3067895-inline-s-14-levis-radically-redefining-sustainability.jpg
A publicity shot for a Levi’s collection that Dillinger designed specifically for urban bicycle commuters.

This seems to run counter to the fashion industry, which values new looks and trends.

Yes, most companies are focused on convincing the consumer that they are not pretty unless they radically change their look; they’re not going to be in, attractive, or cool. They create a false appetite that directly leads to a pattern of hyper-consumption. If someone is pushing boyfriend jeans on you real hard this season, they’re probably going to be pushing a super skinny jegging on you next season. This radical oscillation in silhouette preference is going to make you feel that the thing you just bought is no longer valuable.

Instead, what we’re trying to do is encourage our consumer to be conscious that when they purchase a pair of jeans, that is not an isolated event. The garment had an impact before they purchased it, in terms of people that made it and the waste that was involved in creating it. And its going to exist long after they’re done owning it.

What would happen if we could change culture in such a way that consumers imagined the end of life of the product they bought? So, what if we said that you could mulch your jeans, put them in your garden, and see how the decomposition of your Levi’s could feed the food that you were growing. That’s conceivably how we might dispose of garments in the future. That would prompt the consumer to think about little details like how the color was applied to the garment in the first place. Would the chemicals in the dye affect the garment, my food, and my body? This is the kind of holistic thinking we want to spur in our customers. Fundamentally, asking them to take into account the impact they’re responsible for in the whole system, from the supply chain to the eventual disposal of the garment.

VIDEO: HOW LEVI STRAUSS & CO. KEEPS IMPROVING JEANS

How do you cultivate that consumer?

It starts with the product. Take the 501: It is an anchor product that has endured over time. Sure, it has evolved in some ways, but we don’t offer radical changes in silhouette. We’re owning the history and the provenance of our brand that makes essential, archetypal pieces of clothing.

What we do is we try to maintain a fit portfolio where we ensure that we have the fit you feel best in, not the one you’ve been told to feel best in. Then we make that product available consistently. When you love a pair of jeans, you develop an emotional connection not just with that object, but with the brand. You know that the brand has served you well. If we can make clothes that are really worth loving, then hopefully people will love them longer and care for them better.

We’re choosing not to participate in the fashion cycle. Instead, we’re choosing to cultivate long-term relationships with the consumer and deliver against their needs. And hopefully that participates in the recalibration of consumption broadly, though that is a lofty goal.

You’re known for your forward thinking when it comes to incorporating technology into fabrics. How do you do this, but also ensure that you are making these classic garments?

Technology is a loaded word: It implies gadget. We’re engaged in scientific dialogue with a lot of different people, but not all of it lights up the way you’d expect when you think of tech. There are ideas that we’re bringing to market that you might never notice. One that comes to mind is coming out in the next six months. A lot of people expect performance from clothing now. It’s one of the reasons that yoga pants are winning the market. The solution for performance has often been a mechanical or chemical application to a garment, often in the form of a synthetic fiber blended in. Often these technologies really flatten and dull the vibe of a jean. It starts to look like franken-jean: a jean from an unhappy future.

How do you bring that performance to a garment that is, in many ways, very similar to its original archetype that is now almost 150 years old? We’ve been working on this for two and a half years. The proposition is to bring jeans to market that will be 100% cotton, but that have hollow yarn architectures. We had a polyester that was woven into the yarn, but after weaving the [yarn] together [to make the denim], we were able to dissolve it out. What happens in that process is that we have the ability to wick away moisture and hold in warm air, but the jeans look and feel the way an authentic pair of Levi’s should.

3067895-inline-s-15-levis-radically-redefining-sustainability.jpg

But I imagine that it is hard to create profound change as one isolated company.

Yes, absolutely. If you look at how the food industry has evolved and shifted, it’s not one chef, or one farmer, or one supermarket choosing to align itself around different values. It’s a whole evolving system of consciousness. Personally, I can only take responsibility for my own behavior and advocate for these values.

But I also think there are other likeminded people that we can seek out. We have a program called the Levi Strauss Collabatory where we bring small designers who share our values and help them integrate sustainability into their young new businesses. We give them the support they need to bring that to life. So we can help nurture the ecosystem.

As a large company, what are you doing to make your manufacturing process more sustainable?

I think it’s important to focus on making products sustainable in every place that we manufacture. It’s very important not to use offshoring as a way to hide the way that we are manufacturing. We believe in transparency. It’s incumbent on us to know that water is a precious resource everywhere in the world. And it’s important for everyone across the entire supply chain—from the farmers to the factory workers to the people disposing of the products—to be conscious of resource conservation. To do this, we have a life cycle assessment that looks at the impact at every stage of the process, all around the world.

It’s also about educating the customer, telling them that there are better ways to care for their clothes. You don’t have to wash your jeans every time you wear them; in fact, this is bad for them. If you hang them to dry, they’ll last longer. A simple message like that allows us to involve the consumer in a much bigger effort to carefully, deliberately draw down on resource consumption.

And importantly, when we unlock proprietary data about water or waste, the best thing we can do with that is share it with everybody. Last year, we hosted a conference here at Levi Strauss where we brought in our competitors and anyone in the industry who was interested, to share every bit of knowledge we had about water-saving best practices. If you figure out how to save water and you don’t tell people about it, you’re kind of a jerk.

*This story first appeared on Fast Company

 

Advertisements

Arvind of India Makes a Mark on Sustainability

Posted on Updated on

Arvind-cover-759x500.jpg

Since it’s founding by Indian industrialist Kasturbhai Lalbhai in 1931, Arvind has led the way in manufacturing on a global scale. Located in Ahmedabad, India, over it’s 85-year tenure Arvind has become the world’s fourth largest denim manufacturer and boasts an installed capacity of over 110 million meters per annum. But make no mistake it’s not just quantity for Arvind, it’s quality. As one of the founding members of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and an active member in Roadmap to Zero, an initiative to eliminate the use of hazardous chemicals in apparel manufacturing, Arvind was recognized as one of the Global Denim Award’s Mills of the Year for 2016.

To learn more about Arvind and it’s sustainability success, Carved in Blue spoke with Stefano Aldighieri, Creative Director at Arvind, while he was in California before heading back to India.

Read more at Carved in Blue


This article is one of a series on GreenStitched from Lenzing’s Carved in Blue denim blog. From conversations with the experts behind the mills that make some of the world’s most-wanted denim to the global brands bringing novel denim made with TENCEL® and Lenzing Modal® to the market, Carved in Blue shares the stories of those whose roots run deep with denim.
Visit www.carvedinblue.lenzing-fibers.com.

Meet Patrycja Guzik: Winner of the EcoChic Design Award 2016

Posted on

The EcoChic Design Award 2015-16 1st and special prize winner_Patrycja Guzikjpg.jpgThrough the next two months, GreenStitched sits down with the finalists of EcoChic Design Award 2015/16. EcoChic Design Award is a sustainable fashion design competition organised by Redress, inspiring emerging fashion designers and students to create mainstream clothing with minimal textile waste.

The interviews with these young designers will be posted every Wednesday on GreenStitched.

Today we meet Patrycja, the winner of the EcoChic Design Award 2015/16.

What brought you into the world of fashion? That ‘aha’ moment which opened doors to sustainable fashion?

Patrycja: I asked myself: what I can do as a young fashion designer without big financial capital. And I realized that the answer is really simple: I can make a difference in a fashion industry. My artwork means something more for me than just a clothes. I’m glad that I can tell story through my collections. To me sustainable fashion means living in balance. We need to change our thinking around clothes and more designers need to show consumers that we are able to make beautiful clothes using old clothes and damaged textiles.

What was your inspiration for the EcoChic Design Award collection?

pat
Image: Tim Wong, Redress

Patrycja: My interpretation of the phrase ‘Heaven is a place on Earth’ was the starting point for the The EcoChic Design Award. This corresponds to the everlasting pursuit of perfection in life, and is a condition when the feeling of emptiness and stagnation is able to be balanced, allowing us to be in harmony – to find your own place on earth. I aimed to make my clothes a shelter; a dreamy, heaven-like space that one could just settle into.

Texture, color and shape are the main codes of the collection and the forms are enhanced by the prints. My jumpers are knitted with rug-making techniques using secondhand wool. ‘Heaven Is a Place on Earth’ was also the inspiration for the colour theme with tints of black, white, blue, violet and cobalt dominating the collection.

I collaborated with a Polish illustrator, Mateusz Kolek, who designed the print based on my inspiration pack and colour palette. This print developed from lots of discussions about the theme and is a labyrinth of symbols which take you through my story. This re-printing technique has also enabled me to bring new life to discarded textiles.

3 things you learnt from of the challenge?

Patrycja: In time of the competition we went to a factory in Dongguan China to see what the typical process of production clothes looks like. Then I realized that every new, decorative line of my design drawing involve 5 more process, peoples, more water and electricity.

Of course that trip to the factory made me more aware. Every production process involved in each garment is in my hands during the time of design. It is my responsibility as a fashion designer.

What was the impact of this award on you?

Patrycja: It has been the most important experience and biggest adventure in my life so far. All the designers I met through The EcoChic Design Award are so talented and conscientious in sustainable fashion. Each of them have their own stories, own experiences, and own way perspective on things…it was pleasure to spend time and work with the group of finalists and the Redress team.

How do you think sustainable fashion can move from a niche to the mainstream?

Patrycja: Consumers are constantly wanting more and for a cheaper price. As designers, we should stop for a moment and consider why sustainable fashion is important for us today and what it means for each of us in our work. Today’s fashion industry is so fast paced and we’re constantly looking for new things made from new materials.

But it’s also important to remember that designers are able to make beautiful clothes using waste that are equally, if not more, original and creative. It’s not about wanting new things all the time.

What is the biggest misconception about sustainable fashion?

Patrycja: Using waste can sometimes be challenging, but no one said life would easy! Easy can be boring! We need to recognize that less is more: we need to slow down our consumption, change our thinking around clothes, return to our roots, not forget our past and start thinking about our future.

What is your advice for the next breed of fashion designers?

Patrycja: Just make a first step into sustainable fashion. You’ll love all those sustainable fashion technique. And the moment when you see your collection on a models on a catwalk and you realized that 3 months ago these were ugly leftovers and secondhand wool yarn and old school sweaters, hats, scarfs is unspeakable.  So just start and go for it!

What is next in store for you?

Patrycja: I have just completed designing my capsule collection for Shanghai Tang, I’d now like to spend more time developing my own designs using the zero¬waste design technique, adding more everyday wear items to my existing collection. I really fell in love with this technique during The EcoChic Design Award. Farther into the future, I’d like to develop my own brand.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

You can follow Patrycja on Facebook and Instagram.

Watch Frontline Fashion, a  documentary following these talented Asian and European emerging fashion designers determined to change the future of fashion. As they descend into Hong Kong for the design battle of their lives, all eyes are on the first prize; to design an up-cycled collection for China’s leading luxury brand, Shanghai Tang. This documentary is available on iTunes here.

The next cycle of the EcoChic Design Awards is open for application from 3 January to 3 April 2017. Interested students can find more details here.

 

Meet Cora Bellotto: Finalist of the EcoChic Design Award 2016

Posted on Updated on

The EcoChic Design Award 2015-16 2nd prize winner_Cora Bellotto (1).jpgThrough the next two months, GreenStitched sits down with the finalists of EcoChic Design Award 2015/16. EcoChic Design Award is a sustainable fashion design competition organised by Redress, inspiring emerging fashion designers and students to create mainstream clothing with minimal textile waste.

The interviews with these young designers will be posted every Wednesday on GreenStitched.

Today we meet Cora, an Italian freelance fashion designer living in Spain.

What brought you into the world of fashion? That ‘aha’ moment which opened doors to sustainable fashion?

Cora: Fashion has always been in my dreams, but I wasn’t sure whether I was going to be a designer until I did a training course in tailoring at the age of sixteen. I always loved to create, to physically make things: that’s my favourite part about being a designer, together with the definition of the design concept, which is the stimulating part behind everything.

Regarding sustainability, fashion waste has always been one of my concerns. Since my very first project in fashion academy, I’ve been interested in investigating what in our society is considered to be trash.

I did my bachelor’s thesis under the supervision of designer Marina Spadafora (who recently won a big prize at United Nations for her commitment to  sustainable fashion) and she really boosted my interest in this area. After graduating, I did an internship with her at Cangiari, a sustainable fashion brand from southern Italy, working towards combating the spread of the Mafia and raising employment opportunities for women.

What was your inspiration for the EcoChic Design Award collection?

cora
Image: Tim Wong, Redress

Cora: My concept for the competition was LOVE ENDINGS, since the materials I decided to use for my collection were all related to marriage somehow.

For example, I up-cycled and reconstructed second-hand wedding dresses and vintage trousseaus, which I sourced from my network of friends and family. I saw the potential for these items to be part of new love stories through a new life. Vintage linen and all the materials from vintage trousseaus have always fascinated me: the sophisticated touch of these fabrics was my first source of inspiration. I worked on a comfortable, smooth silhouette, where asymmetrical cuts meet a delicate palette of fresh and pale colours. I also up-cycled different textile leftovers by weaving them into brand new fabrics.

Weaving took up a huge amount of time, but I did it as an artistic expression: it was my statement against the rush that fashion industry is urging to all of us all to follow, designers and consumers alike.

3 things you learnt from of the challenge?

Cora:
– The most stimulating and enriching aspect of the competition was that each participant had his/her own personal view on sustainable fashion and a different approach to deal with sustainability.

– We also had the opportunity to listen various talks held by experts and learn specific topics.

– I was quite astonished when I found out that the most pollutive stage in the life-cycle of a clothing item comes after manufacturing, and it happens during the machine-washing. I learnt that, on average, we wash an item fifty times before we dismiss it.

How do you think sustainable fashion can move from a niche to the mainstream?

Cora: I don’t believe this is possible. In my opinion, the right question would be: how can mainstream become more sustainable? And my answer is: through education, through consciousness, through a deep awareness of the catastrophic effects of our current way of manufacturing and consumption and, last but least, through an expanding recognition of human rights in the developing countries.

What is the biggest misconception about sustainable fashion?

Cora: A common misconception is that sustainable fashion is not cool, or it is something only for hippies or vegans. This is not true; and I wanted to demonstrate it with my own capsule collection. I wanted to show that a sustainable luxury is possible, and I wanted my clothes to be attractive because of their sophisticated style, then subsequently for being sustainable.

What is your advice for the next breed of fashion designers?

Cora: Try to design good quality products that people would love to wear as long as possible and don’t forget to consider the environmental and social impact of each manufacturing stage and process.

What is next in store for you?

Cora: My main objective right now is to implement production and work on distribution. It’s very hard for a young, independent designer to be noticed in such a saturated market and reach new clients. I am now looking for international shops and online platforms interested in selling my collections. In the meantime, I am working on a new winter collection!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

You can follow Cora on her website, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


Watch Frontline Fashion, a  documentary following these talented Asian and European emerging fashion designers determined to change the future of fashion. As they descend into Hong Kong for the design battle of their lives, all eyes are on the first prize; to design an up-cycled collection for China’s leading luxury brand, Shanghai Tang. This documentary is available on iTunes here.

The next cycle of the EcoChic Design Awards is open for application from 3 January to 3 April 2017. Interested students can find more details here.

 

Meet Tsang Fan Yu: Finalist of the EcoChic Design Award 2016

Posted on Updated on

The EcoChic Design Award 2015-16 Hong Kong finalist _Tsang Fan Yu - Copy.jpgThrough the next two months, GreenStitched sits down with the finalists of EcoChic Design Award 2015/16. EcoChic Design Award is a sustainable fashion design competition organised by Redress, inspiring emerging fashion designers and students to create mainstream clothing with minimal textile waste.

The interviews with these young designers will be posted every Wednesday on GreenStitched.

Today we meet Fan Yu, a Fashion Design student at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

What brought you into the world of fashion? That ‘aha’ moment which opened doors to sustainable fashion?

Fan Yu: I believe in Zen philosophy, and so I respect the balance between nature and human lives. When Zen philosophy is then combined with sustainable fashion, both concept and design style should enhance the overall quality of the product. This helps to maintain sustainable fashion in simple and high-end styles – much like the concept of “wabi-sabi” which is an aesthetic that accepts and celebrates imperfection. As a fashion designer, I believe less is more.

What was your inspiration for the EcoChic Design Award collection?

The EcoChic Design Award 201516_Asia Finalists_TSANG Fan Yu_Photo credit Tim Wong.jpg
Image: Tim Wong, Redress

Fan Yu: “SAN(さん)” in Japanese is a title of a person, much like “Mr/Ms” in English. In this collection, the “SAN” is representing a Zen master Shunryu Suzuki (鈴木俊隆). The collection is inspired from his book called “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind”.

The soul of book is about an attitude called “Beginner’s Mind”. It emphasised that stay initial as beginner when you face every challenge, then you can feel real and enjoy lives in details. As a modern, energetic Chinese lady, contemporary sustainable fashion serves as good accessories to help them to stay true and stay initial; and displaying their beauty towards others.

3 things you learnt from of the challenge?

Fan Yu:

– Sustainable fashion design techniques

– Sustainable materials/textile

– Sustainable technology application

How do you think sustainable fashion can move from a niche to the mainstream?

Fan Yu: Sustainable fashion is a trend around the world.

Education and promotion is the most important factor, such as carrying out workshops, talks, competitions, flea markets and second-hand pop-up stores etc. It will be easier to spread the message of sustainable fashion to the public through these activities.

It is also important to encourage popular fashion brands to become leaders of sustainable fashion in the industry.  For example, brands such as H&M, Stella McCartney play a huge role.

What is the biggest misconception about sustainable fashion?

Fan Yu: People think that sustainable fashion is rubbish, for example, they would think the clothes are old, dirty, damage, second-hand, uncomfortable, disgraceful or have poor finishing (patching everywhere).

What is your advice for the next breed of fashion designers?

Fan Yu: Be yourself. Do not be the kind of person you hated when you were young.

What is next in store for you?

Fan Yu: Preparing for my fashion label. Keep explore sustain fashion techniques and promote to my friend of designer.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

You can follow Fan Yu on his website, Facebook and Instagram.


Watch Frontline Fashion, a  documentary following these talented Asian and European emerging fashion designers determined to change the future of fashion. As they descend into Hong Kong for the design battle of their lives, all eyes are on the first prize; to design an up-cycled collection for China’s leading luxury brand, Shanghai Tang. This documentary is available on iTunes here.

The next cycle of the EcoChic Design Awards is open for application from 3 January to 3 April 2017. Interested students can find more details here.

 

Meet Belle Benyasarn: Finalist of the EcoChic Design Award 2016

Posted on Updated on

The EcoChic Design Award 2015-16 Thailand finalist_Belle Benyasarn.jpgThrough the next two months, GreenStitched sits down with the finalists of EcoChic Design Award 2015/16. EcoChic Design Award is a sustainable fashion design competition organised by Redress, inspiring emerging fashion designers and students to create mainstream clothing with minimal textile waste.

The interviews with these young designers will be posted every Wednesday on GreenStitched.

Today we meet Belle, a fashion designer from Thailand.

What brought you into the world of fashion? That ‘aha’ moment which opened doors  to sustainable fashion?

Belle: I have a background in textile design. As I weave different fabrics, I see the importance and need to be aware of the things I make. I believe it is my responsibility to understand the long-term effects. As fashion design students, we typically spend the bulk of our time learning about designing and making, but we rarely do we consider the environmental impacts we cause through our production as well as what happens after we have sold our designs. I want to be part of the new generation of designers who raise the standards of the fashion industry.

What was your inspiration for the EcoChic Design Award collection?

unspecified
Image: Tim Wong, Redress

Belle: The fashion industry is one of the largest polluters in the world. As I am aware of the amount of waste created in the process, I saw the potential of using them with my specialty as a weaver. I was inspired to use a technique I call “Up-cycle Weaving” in my collection – which is all about reinventing new materials. For my EcoChic Design Award collection, I re-weaved various types of waste fabrics including waste leather and end-of-roll textiles I sourced from a local bag factory in Thailand to create a sustainable collection that looks wearable in everyday life.

3 things you learnt from of the challenge

Belle:
– Believe in your passion. Search for an opportunity and express it.

– It may be difficult to balance aesthetics and design sometimes, but the most important  thing is to do what you like and be proud of your creations.

– Sustainable is around the corner. It is in your everyday life.

How do you think sustainable fashion can move from a niche to the mainstream?

Belle: It all comes down to the way consumer perceives sustainable fashion. Aesthetics will be important . The designer has to prove that there can be a balance between sustainability and aesthetics; then people will start to believe it.

What is the biggest misconception about sustainable fashion?

Belle: Sustainable fashion is not about designing an outfit from the garbage or plastic bottles that you purchase from supermarket. We must consider the source of the materials well as who makes it.

What is your advice for the next breed of fashion designers?

Belle: Believe in yourself. Be confident. There will always be someone who likes your work.

What is next in store for you?

Belle: I’m currently running a woven textile studio under my name. I’d like to provide a new creative approach to textile design by exploring unusual materials as well as a sustainable approach.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

You can follow Belle on Facebook.


Watch Frontline Fashion, a  documentary following these talented Asian and European emerging fashion designers determined to change the future of fashion. As they descend into Hong Kong for the design battle of their lives, all eyes are on the first prize; to design an up-cycled collection for China’s leading luxury brand, Shanghai Tang. This documentary is available on iTunes here.

The next cycle of the EcoChic Design Awards is open for application from 3 January to 3 April 2017. Interested students can find more details here.