Uniqlo L.A. Jeans Innovation Center focuses on transparency
Uniqlo has increased its transparency by sharing sustainability practices and innovations taking place at its Gardena, CA-based denim factory, the Jeans Innovation Center (JIC).
Key denim innovations that the company shared in a recent media tour include an eco-friendly alternative to stone washing and a laser lightening treatment.
While traditional stone washing uses pumice to distress the fabric, the JIC is using what it calls an "eco stone". The eco stones create the same wash effect but reduce environmental impact by bypassing the pumice mining process.
The JIC is also creating its faded washes through alternative laser technology. Traditionally a factory would have to use harsh chemicals and multiple wash cycles to lighten dark denim. The process was time consuming and had a large environmental impact through water use and chemical waste. JIC is instead using lasers now to lighten denim in a matter of minutes through a burning process that is much cleaner overall.
Fast Retailing, the parent company for both Uniqlo and J Brand, opened the LA based factory in November of 2016. The company tapped Masaaki Matsubara as the director of the JIC. He was formerly the head designer at AG Jeans.
Uniqlo calls LA the "global hub for information on jeans". The city was the heart of the premium denim movement of the 00's. It continues to manufacture the majority of premium denim in the US. Accordingly, setting up a denim innovation shop in LA makes sense from a marketing and manufacturing standpoint.
The first JIC developed denim is now available in Uniqlo stores and online. Men's and women's styles utilize a variety of fabrics including lightweight stretch denim and sweatshirt pile. Price points range from around $30 to $50 per pair.
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