Frank And Oak minimal: Making Hydro-Less jeans
Blue jeans gone green: saving water, saving the planet
Words— Frank And Oak staff
If you’re a day-one fan of Frank And Oak, you’ll know that we started out as a small independent webshop that offered inexpensive, yet on-trend menswear. Maybe got you hooked on monthly collections of sharp menswear, maybe you saw our banner ads (they were everywhere to be fair) that proudly proclaimed that you could get all this great stuff for "Under $50". Pretty sweet.
But last year, we did a lot of soul-searching as a brand.
We decided that we need to re-examine how we make our products and why we make them. These are serious times and fashion is the second dirtiest industry behind oil. With this in mind, we found new factories and suppliers and thought hard about every product we wanted to bring to life. We decided that it was important to use more eco-friendly processes and more sustainable fabrics. It wasn’t enough to make clothing that is of lasting quality, it’s not enough that it’s also fashionable, it needs to do both of those things while being responsible.
One of the first things we looked at was overhauling how we make some of our denim.
You often hear about water waste from the beverage industry or even agriculture, but fashion—and denim specifically—is actually one of the largest consumers of water.
The manufacturing of a single pair of your average jeans uses more than 10,000 litres of water1. This includes growing the cotton (one of the thirstiest crops on the planet), dying and washing the jeans to create coveted fades and styles, not to mention all the water customers use post-purchase to wash them.
The world is facing a freshwater crisis with over a billion people in need of access to safe drinking water. Being the second-largest consumer and polluter of water, the fashion industry needs to take it upon itself to produce garments using fewer resources and that’s exactly what we’re doing.
We’ve partnered with an eco-certified facility in Dubai that specializes in the research and development of more sustainable denim production. They’ve helped us implement a new, innovative, green approach to making your favourite pair of denim. Here are some cold, hard numbers.
- Laser distressing— A 3D twin laser system replicates a worn look designed by a computer software.
- Nano-bubbles— Air is transformed into nano-bubbles in order to control denim for shrinkage and to achieve a soft hand feel.
- Ozone wash— Jeans are then added to atmosphere generators where air is converted to ozone gas to prevent the excess indigo from bleeding.
Our supplier recycles 100% of its used water along with any waste that comes from their cutting tables. They’re also fully certified for the highest standards of sustainability and ethics. With this attitude, they’ve also invested in the latest most efficient technology.
We’re using innovative new methods that will reduce the number of chemicals used to reproduce worn-in denim. The technique involves taking a photo of the clothing and using computer software to design the colouring, rips and other fine details to make a new pair of denim look aged. A 3D twin laser finishing system replicates a worn look without the use of water or chemicals.
Sustainable and efficient, these new technologies guarantee huge amounts of water, energy and chemical-usage will be saved. Previous methods could take more than six months from the start of the design cycle. The new process will also replace the manual sponging and sandpapering that has been harmful to the workers’ health.
Nano-bubbles a.k.a. E-flow is also a brand new technology on the market that does a lot to control the amount of water needed. The e-flow “breaks up” the surface of the garment that achieves a soft hand feel and controls shrinkage. Minimal water is needed and zero waste is discharged from the process. Air from the atmosphere is introduced into an electro flow reactor and subjected to an electromechanical shock that creates nano-bubbles and a stream of wet air. As seen in the illustration below, air, rather than water is transformed into nano-bubbles in order to treat the denim with a small amount of low-impact chemicals.
On top of the reductions in water use (up to 98%), energy use (up to 47%) and eliminating chemical dumping and water waste, the use of nano-bubbles also results in pre-shrinkage of the fabrics–one less thing to worry about when choosing a quality pair of jeans.
Yes, that’s right. Our denim is washed by the atmosphere. The garments are added to atmosphere generators where air is converted to Ozone gas. The gases are then transformed back into air with zero discharge–this not only cuts back on emissions but also water, energy and chemical use. The result? Denim without the excess indigo (no bleeding) or reproducing bleached, aged effects. This entire process is done without the need for water or chemicals and with a pretty significant reduction in time
Let's share the responsibility
To their credit, Levi's has been leading the way on this mindset for years now and with their vast resources commissioned a "lifecycle assessment" to discover how many resources one pair of jeans uses from "cradle" (growing the cotton) to "grave" (worst case: a landfill). The results were pretty astounding: 45% of the water used in a single pair of denim actually comes from the customer washing them.
With that in mind, we’re challenging people to think about their water and energy consumption. You don’t need to wash your jeans every time you wear them. Barring a large coffee or wine spill you can go months without washing your jeans. If they start to smell a little funky, you can simply throw them in your freezer for a day or so. It's a quick hack that should eradicate most smells. If you do wash them, we recommend hanging them outside in the summer or using a dry rack in the winter.
Our goal is to have the majority of our products made with sustainable methods by the end of 2018. This is just the first step in our commitment to being a more environmentally conscious company. We hope you’ll join us.
1. Leahy, Stephen. Your Water Footprint: the Shocking Facts about How Much Water We Use to Make Everyday Products. Firefly Books, 2014.