The Digital Approach to Fading Your Favourite Jeans

Alexandra Nobile



On February 27, 2018, Levi Strauss & Co. announced an exciting new sustainability initiative that ushers denim finishing into the digital era – Project F.L.X (future-led execution). By automating the jeans finishing process through digitalizing the denim’s design, a responsive and sustainable supply chain is created at an unparalleled scale. Project F.L.X eliminates manual techniques which radically reduces time to market – and puts LS&Co. on a path to reduce thousands of chemical formulations from jean finishing. The company has announced they will have “zero discharge of hazardous chemicals by 2020,” which is a huge step in the right direction.

Over the past 30 years, the apparel industry has used hand-finishing to accentuate worn, faded design elements on denim with a lot of labour intensive steps – almost 18 to 20 for every finish. This new created process that relies on laser technology reduces the number of steps to only three, almost seven times less than the original procedure. By using lasers in new ways, finishing time is cut dramatically from two to three pairs per hour to approximately 90 seconds per garment.

The original tenant of this whole approach was to maintain their authenticity. There is a lot of detail in a vintage jean, and LS&Co. first step in creating Project F.L.X was to ensure that aspect remained true. The process starts by photographing a previously-completed pair of finished jeans, then the laser illustrates the image and replicates the marks on a new pair. The revolutionary laser tool detects the rips, distresses, fading, and designs of the jean to perfectly replicate it on another pair. This advanced imaging capability is so accurate the digital files can be sent directly to the vendor and quickly scaled to mass manufacturing.

Project F.L.X is something LS&Co. plans to scale across their entire supply chain. This new operating model delivers a “cleaner” jean that fully adheres to the LS&Co. standards of craftsmanship, quality and authenticity – all critical factors crucial to the brand name. As president and CEO of LS&Co., Chip Bergh, states, “we believe it is possible to be both agile and sustainable without compromising the authenticity our consumers expect from us.”

Will you be copping a pair?

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