Jeans can be a long time in the making. Purchasing a pair is just the beginning of the story. Like good friends they are with you for the journey and they constantly evolve. Over time, your jeans become more characterful. The unique signs of wear are a badge of honour, even when that wear could better be described as damage and destruction.
Jeans can be nurtured and matured. They are always a work in progress and never the finished article. They are something to treasure not to cast aside. Jeans are the canvas on which you paint your life. But what if you don't have the time, the patience or the desire to create your masterpiece? Well you can always invest in a good forgery!
Distressed, ripped and patched jeans are much valued. This is a fact which the giants of the denim world are well aware of and wish to capitalise on. Distressed jeans are nothing new but environmental concerns have made distressing on an industrial scale rather frowned upon. Destroying jeans has required the use of large volumes of water, valuable energy and even chemicals. Replicating the effects of months or even years of wear isn't easy and until now it hasn't been earth friendly. But there are now teams of experts dedicating themselves to finding a new way to destroy jeans.
Levi's and the Science of Destruction
Wearing in and then wearing out jeans is the modus operandi of the denim traditionalist. Levi's scientists are working hard to provide an alternative for those who wish to benefit from the finished article a little quicker. This research is not conducted out of the goodness of their hearts but rather for profit. Destroyed jeans can command higher prices. The vexing question has been how to bash up the jeans without destroying the environment at the same time.
In a converted grain mill adjacent to Levi's headquarters in San Francisco, an eager team spend their days dreaming up new ways to bash the living daylights out of jeans.
This bastion of innovation is known as the Eureka Center and it is producing some interesting results. Jeans are being tumbled in machines filled with ozone instead of water and chemicals. The team have also started working with lasers. These burn off the top layer of denim to create a worn and tattered appearance.
This fusion of art and science produces new jeans that look for all the world as if they have been worn to death. Nearby, Levi's archive features jeans from yesteryear which were worn by cowboys, miners and labourers. In other words, the real deal.
So how do Levi's decide on the look that they need to achieve? This is a big question because the jeans must ultimately sell.
Levi's discover new styles which they think will hit the mark by taking photographs of people wearing their jeans. These are ordinary people on the street. In this way Levi's can spot new trends. In recent times they have been noticing a marked increase in deliberate destruction, patches and repair.
So there is a team of people dedicated to finding new ways to destroy jeans. It would appear that random destruction simply will not do. The jeans have to be damaged in precisely the right way. A way that can be replicated for mass production.
In other words Levi's have picked up on the trend for creating unique jeans so that they can make jeans which aren't at all unique.
Be warned! If your jeans have been a labour of love and carefully nurtured into their unique form by months of wear then run if you see a camera pointing at you. It could be a researcher from Levi's snapping away so they can copy your creation. Only if the holes and rips are in the right places though. Some holes sell better than others apparently.