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Collaboration Creates Cone’s and Levi’s Darkest Natural Indigo

Levi’s WellThread continues to be the denim giant’s driver of sustainable change. The R&D lab worked with Cone Denim to develop a custom organic cotton fabric dyed with natural indigo, resulting in the darkest natural indigo shade they’ve ever produced. 

The fabric features in the Fall/Winter 2022 Levi’s WellThread collection, spanning a men’s Type III Trucker jacket, 551z and Stay Loose Taper jeans to women’s Baggy Dad fit jeans, Type II-inspired Trucker jacket and Western-style shirt dress. 

“Our triumph this season is definitely our natural plant-based indigo dyes,” said Paul Dillinger, VP, head of global product innovation at Levi Strauss & Co., adding that the dyes use less water and fewer chemicals. “We continue to work hard to find plant-based indigo solutions that are capable of the reach we need of standing up to commercial washes.”

The unique fabric is the product of Levi’s ongoing exploration of Stony Creek Colors’ plant-based, pre-reduced IndiGold indigo dye. 

In 2021, through its participation in Fashion for Good’s Accelerator Program, the Springfield, Tenn.-based natural dye manufacturer started providing IndiGold to select denim mills used by Levi’s to run performance trials with different denim dyeing systems. With the goal of “unlocking key learnings around shade application and other efficiencies,” the project aimed to have garments dyed with IndiGold dye on the market by late this year or early next.

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Cone Denim’s work with Stony Creek Colors precedes Levi’s. In 2015, the mill unveiled Natural Indigo Selvage Denim, a line of fabrics produced with vintage American Draper X-3 shuttle looms at the now-shuttered White Oak mill in Greensboro, N.C.

The F/W ’22 WellThread collection unpins the message expressed in Levi’s refreshed “Buy Better, Wear Longer” campaign, which encourages consumers to prioritize durable and timeless garments that can be worn for generations. 

The fabric, back patch, Red Tab, zipper tape, stitching, embroidery and care labels are all made from 100 percent cotton. By using a mono-material strategy, Levi’s said everything in the new WellThread collection is designed to be recyclable.

As with every WellThread collection, each piece is made in a Worker Well-Being facility, where the company, in partnership with the Levi Strauss Foundation, supports investments in gender equity, health and economic security. Garment finishing, too, is performed with screened chemistry, meaning that safe and clean chemicals are used—including innovative enzymes and plant-based softeners.