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Uniqlo Introduces New Denim Finishing Process on World Water Day

With its heat-generating clothing and waste-minimizing 3D knits, Uniqlo is known for mainstreaming wearable and sustainable technology. The Fast Retailing-owned brand is applying this innovative mindset to jeans as well.

On Monday, World Water Day, the brand bowed the Uniqlo BlueCycle jeans program, an eco-friendly denim production process developed at the company’s Jeans Innovation Center in Los Angeles. Largely considered one of the fashion industry’s largest burdens on the environment and workers, the BlueCycle jeans program aims to innovates traditional denim production.

BlueCycle reduces the amount of water used in denim finishing by up to 99 percent and replaces labor-intensive sandpapering with laser technology. The water savings are measured against the company’s study of regular fit jeans made between 2017 and 2018.

To achieve this water reduction, Uniqlo said it has replaced natural pumice stones that require large amounts of water to wash away residue, with reusable, powderless eco stones. The process is combined with an ozone mist washing machine that uses nanobubbles, which breaks up the denim surface, resulting in jeans that have a softer hand feel.

Uniqlo reported that the jeans are finished to the same standard of quality as traditionally finished jeans with “just about a teacup’s worth of water.”

Uniqlo bowed BlueCycle, a new program that reduces the amount of water used in the denim finishing by up to 99 percent.
BlueCycle Courtesy

The process was described in Fast Retailing’s latest sustainability report, in which it announced plans to promote this technology across all of its brands, including J Brand and Theory.

Innovating the denim finishing process, however, is just the start. The company, which has already pledged to use 100 percent sustainable cotton in all of its clothing by 2025, stated that it is re-evaluating every step of production.

Uniqlo added that it is working with its denim partners to “purify and reuse wastewater generated by the jeans-making process, as well as reducing wastewater volumes overall.”