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Custom and Circular, Unspun Unveils Its Most Sustainable Jeans

“Made-to-order” and “sustainable” were at one point in fashion, two product buzzwords reserved for just a fraction of consumers with deep pockets. Robotics and digital apparel company Unspun, however, is doing its part to democratize custom and eco-friendly fashion with its new jeans collection.

The San Francisco- and Hong Kong-based company launched Genesis jeans Friday, a line of men’s and women’s jeans that aligns with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Jeans Redesign principles for a circular economy and employs its unique body-scanning technology.

Followed by a broad sweep of the denim industry and supply chain, Jeans Redesign centers on designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use and regenerating natural systems. Unspun worked with a group of like-minded suppliers to develop the jeans, including denim mill Panther Denim and eco finishing partner Frontline Clothing Ltd.

“Our planet is running out of time, and there are solutions out there to improve how we produce and think about the products holistically, from production through to end of use. It was really great to work together with our suppliers and fellow start-up innovators,” said Annika Visser, Unspun operations lead. “We really wanted to show through this product that by working collaboratively we can bring a better product to market.”

The fabric is made with 99 percent GOTS certified organic cotton denim and 1 percent Lycra, and is washed using 100 percent recycled water and Greenscreen-approved chemicals. The non-electroplated raw zinc buttons by French trims manufacturer Dorlet can be removed and reused, while threads by Resortecs, a brand of threads that dissolve at a high heat, makes recycling more feasible.

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Unspun adds a transparency element to the collection by including fashion tech firm Eon Group’s scannable CircularIDs to the jeans. This, the company stated, makes it possible to understand the jeans’ origins and ensure responsible material use and manufacturing, as well as a continuous circular life.

Though Genesis is not the first product launch to follow the Jeans Redesign guidelines, the line is the first made-to-order. Each pair of jeans is made on-demand based on a customer’s 3D body scan, accessible through the company’s app or at one of its three locations in the U.S. and Hong Kong. This ensures that the jeans have both a sustainable beginning and end. The 3D body-scanning technology, Visser said, has given the company the ability to make better-looking, better-fitting, better jeans period “by being sustainable rather than in spite of being sustainable.”

Genesis jeans are available now in a relaxed fit and retail for $215. Jeans take approximately four weeks to produce. 

The new product is an opportunity for Unspun to shine a greater spotlight on its sustainability principles—a part of the brand’s mission that can be overshadowed by the promise of accessible custom denim. “I always find myself saying, ‘but wait…there’s more’ when talking about Unspun’s sustainability mission,” Visser said.

The company, she added, is founded on the belief that technology and engineering are the future of fashion. Unspun’s 2021 sustainability goals include phasing out all cotton that is not recycled, organic or BCI and to eliminate all virgin poly from its fabrics. The company is also taking steps to reduce the amount of dye it uses, to pivot to 100 percent biodegradable and compostable packaging and use low-impact transportation to ship fabrics.  

“Through our tech, we eliminate the need for inventory, we throw traditional sizing out the door, and make jeans on-demand with body scans using your mobile phone. What would it all be worth if we don’t also make sure that our physical products are not intentional, traceable and circular?” she said. “We put impact first in everything we do and take a lot of care when we source components for our jeans. Each of our styles [has] their own sustainability story, and our mission is to make all our products circular within the next year.”

Visser is encouraged by the industry’s eagerness to work together to bring a more sustainable product to market. “We hope to see much change in the fashion industry as a result of increased awareness and passion for preserving our planet,” she said.