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How Seven Senses Creates Sustainable, High-End Denim

As mills from around the world invest in innovation and technology, Seven Senses is gaining attention from high-end designers like Rick Owens by embracing the ancient hand-spun textile technique, Khadi.

Launched nearly three years ago by Amit Anurag and Andriana Landegent, Seven Senses is a “village and home-based business” in India that employs a network of 35 weavers and few hundred spinners to produce luxury selvedge denim.

Made with zero synthetics and a proprietary dyeing technique that creates a brighter, more intense shade of blue, production requires nearly no water or electricity—something virtually unheard of in the denim manufacturing world, but instead draws on the artisans’ senses.

Social sustainability
Seven Senses is a labor of hometown love for Anurag. Wanting to incorporate a sustainable manufacturing method while finding a way to bolster local economy, Anurag and Landegent launched Seven Senses in Anurag’s hometown of Bihar, India as a social enterprise.

The duo collaborated with KDB Samiti-Kattint Dhuniya Bunkar Samiti, an official Indian non-governmental organization working in Bihar, to set up shop. However, Landegent points out that Seven Senses is a self-funded company and functions as a NGO, buying cotton and distributing it to the workers to perform the spinning and weaving. Employees are paid 10 percent more than NGO guidelines and are paid in cash because banks are limited in the areas of production.

Needing a minimum of 10 spinners to support a single hand-powered loom, the process is meticulous. To produce three meters of fabric, Landegent said 64,000 meters of yarn is needed to be spun and the loom can take up to two days to thread. Fabrics range from 20 to 200 thread count. Landegent said weavers produce about three meters a day of the 3×1 fabric.

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Designer appeal
Seven Senses’ limited production and hand-woven techniques appeal to top tier designers that can afford to add more creativity into their collections. Fabric sells for $25 to $60 a meter.

While the company does not work according to season, Landegent said it is open to collaborating on colors with designers. “We found out that because Seven Senses is so different…luxury fashion brands are able to do more with it,” she said.

For instance, Landegent said designer Rick Owens, “looks at the fabric, finds it amazing and will design a product based on the fabric.”

Next phase
Seven Senses will launch Reclaimed Senses, a more affordable line for the mid-tier market, at Munich Fabric Start (Sept. 5-7). Instead of hand weaving, the company places machinery like old vintage power looms and shuttle looms in workers’ homes.

Reclaimed Senses buys mill-made eco cotton yarn from certified mills, then hand-dyes the yarn using 100 percent natural indigo by hand on a hank, a type of dyeing process where the yarn is looped over a hook and repeatedly washed in water then dipped and saturated in dye for an extended period of time. Reclaimed Senses sells for around $17 a meter.

The company has other ideas in the pipeline, including another product line with an even lower price point and industrialized production and developing new machinery based on traditional techniques. “It’s heritage with innovation,” Landegent said.

As a company working in some of the most impoverished regions of the world, Landegent said Seven Senses wants to show the world how small enterprises can make a big impact on local economies. “And we do not forget where we are working in India, so we look at the people and find a local solution to uplift everybody in the chain,” she said.