Denim Unspun is a new breed of denim company that “doesn’t believe in inventory”—or any kind of ancillary material that might result in waste, for that matter.
Based in San Francisco and Hong Kong, the robotics and apparel startup leverages digital customization and automation to create “perfectly sized” jeans precisely to order.
The pièce de résistance of the Denim Unspun process is a 3-D body scanner, which employs infrared sensors and a rotating disk to gather 100,000 unique data points in less than a minute. The company maps these metrics to create a virtual avatar, which it then enrobes in “digital denim” using proprietary software.
“This method eliminates standardization of any kind by considering each and every small detail particular to you,” Denim Unspun wrote on its website. “The jeans we create are the most accurate and appealing to your shape. The strong calves you’ve earned from running uphill, or the love skin leftover from childbirth—it’s all part of the design.”
By creating product only when a customer places an order, Denim Unspun seeks to curb the inevitable waste that stems from unsellable clothing. While H&M made headlines for its $4.3 billion stockpile of unsold clothes last year, it’s hardly the the only retailer juggling overstock. Of the 150 billion garments the fashion industry produces every year, roughly 30 percent is never sold, according to Sharecloth, an on-demand apparel business. Poor sizing may sometimes be to blame.
“When you walk into a clothing store, you’re instantly wowed at how much clothing is available for you to try and purchase. But how many times have you walked into a store and left disappointed that the selection available didn’t fit?” Denim Unspun noted. “Our current paradigm finds consumers fitting into clothing instead of the other way around.”
Indeed, waste is a driving concern for the company, which counts the National Science Foundation, the H&M Foundation, venture-capital firm SOSV and Hong Kong’s The Mills among its early backers. To complement its no-inventory model, Denim Unspun is developing a 3-D weaving machine that dispenses with cutting-floor waste by not creating any in the first place.
Raw materials are another key consideration for the brand, which uses YKK zippers derived from recycled plastic bottles and Candiani Denim and Cone Denim textiles that feature organic and post-industrial fibers.
“From the inside-out, Denim Unspun jeans are truly and unequivocally sustainable,” the company added. “We can’t wait for [our] 3-D tech breakthrough to eliminate the need for panel cutting and sewing, further propelling the positive impact each pair has on our planet.”
Another focus for the brand? Localized production, which can help curtail the prodigious carbon emissions generated by long-distance freighting.
“It doesn’t make sense for raw materials to be moving around so much,” it said. “If you live in Los Angeles, San Francisco or Seattle you should be able to purchase clothing that was made where you live, or at least somewhere in your state.”