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Video: Behind the Scenes at Saitex USA

Sustainable denim manufacturer Saitex broke ground on U.S. soil during the early days of the pandemic, officially opening its doors this spring. Now, the Vietnam-based company’s first foray into the Los Angeles market is ramping up production, and giving denim brands a more eco-conscious option for producing jeans.

Saitex USA’s facility in Vernon, Calif., houses cutting, sewing and laundry operations all under one roof. Automated technologies help the factory to reduce waste, from tens of thousands of gallons of water to pounds of fabric scraps. “Typically, you would have five facilities doing different jobs—it’s all so disconnected,” Saitex founder Sanjeev Bahl told Rivet. “Our vision has been to learn from everything that we’ve done in Vietnam, and then create microbrewery kind of factories globally at some point in time. Los Angeles has been the first step in that direction.”

Saitex USA has translated some of the manufacturer’s most successful advancements, like laser cutting and dry processing and an advanced water filtration system, to the U.S. market, company president Kathy Kweon added. “We invested in newer machinery automation, so that we could continue to engage with the skilled people who have been in this industry all their lifetimes in Los Angeles,” she said.

While Saitex’s much larger Vietnam factory produces between 50,000-60,000 units per month, the smaller stateside operation’s advanced automation has helped it keep pace. “It’s about one-tenth of the size,” Bahl said, but the L.A. facility can churn out 1,000 pairs of jeans each day, with 100 workers staffing the factory. “Typically it would take about 250 people to make 1,000 units a day in Vietnam,” he added, crediting the “methodology and the efficiency” of the L.A. location with its high output.

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Saitex USA will also benefit from the company’s new Vietnam fabric mill, which should be fully operational in August. “It gives not only Saitex, but whoever else we supply the fabric to, a unique opportunity to probably have the most sustainable fabric on the planet,” Bahl said, noting that all denim produced will be either organic or recycled. Like its factories, the mill features a water filtration and recycling system that creates a circular pathway for the valuable natural resource.

Building upon the success of its Vietnam factory’s efforts to manage water waste, the company’s U.S. cut-and-sew operation has also invested in a $2-million H2Zero filtration system to remove chemicals and dyes, cutting the average impact of a single pair of jeans from 80 liters to 1.5. Meanwhile, the facility is equipped with two laser cutting and dry process machines that burn computer-generated graphics of characteristics like fading and whiskering directly into the fabric without the use of water. Saitex USA is currently the only facility globally that uses the technology, Kweon claimed.

About 65 percent of the factory’s sewing processes are also automated, from embroidery to pocket attachments and hemming, Kweon said, adding, “we have a lot of skilled sewers who can do all of the assembly in the sewing line.”

The unique skillset of the Los Angeles workforce was a key factor in the decision to open stateside, Bahl said. “When I came to L.A. five years ago to make product, I realized that here is where the talent is,” he said. “So while the Far East is great at replication, the innovation and incubation of futuristic protocols start here. This is the base for the premium denim business to emerge.”