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New Programs Bring Denim Production to the Classroom

Jersey City, N.J.-based BPD Washhouse and a team of representatives from Macy’s recently visited the Newark School of Fashion Design to educate a group of future designers on the world of denim.

Known for its denim finishing and shibori workshops, BPD presented its Denim 101 course on the wet and dry process techniques used in commercial washhouses. Later this month, the washhouse will welcome the same group of high school students to its facility for hands-on training. Students will have the opportunity to create their own wash effects and further learn helpful terminology and real-life tips for bleaching, dyeing, tinting, and more.

The partnership between BPD, Macy’s and the Newark Board of Education was formed in November following Macy’s donation of $10,000 to the school to show future fashion professionals how design concepts become reality. As part of the program, students are mentored during the class by Macy’s designers and product developers.

“The novel idea here is to work with high school students to help them explore their creativity and instill confidence in themselves to make meaningful decisions about their careers in design,” said Bill Curtin, BPD Washhouse owner. “The outreach is a rewarding experience for all involved.”

BPD Washhouse and the White Oak Legacy Foundation announced separate courses for denim production and washing in 2022.
BPD Denim 101 Courtesy

Equipping U.S. students with this specific skillset nods to the pattern of bringing denim production closer to home in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, which caused a nearly two-year disruption of the global supply chain. A recent McKinsey & Co. survey of 38 chief procurement officers at clothing companies showed that most—71 percent of respondents—plan to increase their nearshoring share.

The White Oak Legacy Foundation (WOLF) is another U.S.-based denim program that recently unveiled a Denim 101 course slated for March 29-30, bringing spinning, dyeing and weaving skills to future denim professionals.

The location of the course is significant as well—students will learn the exact dyeing and weaving skills once used at the restored Revolution Mill and White Oak Cotton Mill in Greensboro, N.C. Shuttle looms are being operated by W.O.L.F. to make selvedge denim fabrics.

“White Oak Legacy Foundation is dedicated to ensuring that these skills are still taught in the U.S.—and at their origin source,” WOLF states on its website.