When it comes down to it, apparel shoppers are typically looking to buy clothes that not only fits them, but also looks good on them too and ultimately, make them feel good about themselves. As Freedom Denim expands further into North America, having already manufactured fabric for some of the top apparel brands in the country, the denim manufacturer seeks to tap into what is meaningful for the consumer wearing the product by understanding the human psyche.
“At the end of the day, there’s an emotional relationship between the wearer and the garment. It’s the reason we have a mirror in our homes,” Michael Morrell, president and senior partner, Freedom Denim North America, told Rivet. “It’s the reason that someone tries on multiple pairs of jeans before they decide on the pair” that’s worth their “hard-earned money.”
Morrell, who represents the sixth generation of his family to work in textile and apparel manufacturing, noted that when Freedom Denim sets out to produce new denim collections, the company’s mindset is quality above all to fulfill these consumer desires.
For example, Freedom Denim runs a percentage of a unique man-made fiber into its denim to create abrasion-resistant qualities that preserve the material from breaking in the long run. While a 98-to-2-percent cotton-to-Lycra ratio would take 90,000 rubs to burst, putting as much as 11 percent of this special fiber into the warp yarn takes that total to a much more economical 540,000 rubs before the jeans break. This resilience saves the knee, seat, and, most importantly, the crotch from breaking out.
“These are real issues to the wearer. It’s giving lifespan to the jean. The best jean in your closet lasts a lot longer, Morrell said. “And that’s something we see coming out of Covid. The customers want more for what they pay, whether it be technology, whether it be longevity, or whether it be fit or health and wellness, they need a reason to buy the jean that is much more meaningful than a year ago.”
The Freedom Denim team prides itself on offering sustainable denim fabric; 40 percent of the water used to make the denim is recycled water and the company’s solar fields produce 30,000 kilowatts per day. Starting in 2021, the team will only use recycled polyesters or polyester with the biodegradable CiCLO additive that enable synthetic, plastic-based fibers to behave like natural fibers when they degrade and in just a fraction of the time. As part of the pivot, Freedom Denim will no longer use virgin polyester within its manufacturing process unless otherwise requested. Additionally, Freedom Denim is continuously searching to incorporate sustainable fiber into its mix of products—everything from modal and Lyocell to PLA fibers and regenerated Cellulose.
One of the company’s newest offerings, the “Low Impact” polyester, includes the CiCLO additive, which enables inorganic materials such as plastic to degrade like an organic material such as a tree leaf or a banana peel. The polyester is designed to cater to the “end of life” consideration of a denim product so that it doesn’t harm the environment well after being discarded. While normal polyester takes 750 years to degrade due to the plastic included, this Low Impact polyester can degrade in as little as seven years.
In Morrell’s opinion, while sustainability and transparency today remain the “icing on the cake,” the “cake” itself is still the look, fit and functionality combined with the technology of the jeans and how they all together reach the consumer. Sustainability has to be strategically injected into a more extensive mix of other characteristics, including the right technology, the proper wash, the right fit, and the suitable materials all rolled into one. Customers are looking for fabrics that not only have storytelling, but multiple stories in a single fabric.
“The truth of the matter is if the garment doesn’t fit exceptionally well, fill their needs in the value proposition, the jean does not reach the person. The emotional relationship has to be bridged, or the garment will not move in this market. Even though the price is relative, it’s not everything; it must be much, much more,” Morrell said.
The Freedom Denim product mix ranges from top and bottom weights to prints and piece dyes, as well as whites, PFGD and even seed products, in which the cotton seeds are left intact within the fabric.
The company most recently introduced what it calls “My Size technology,” which consists of a 90 to 100 percent stretch fabric made from fit-forgiving yarns. The material is designed to have a “soft and supple squeeze on the body” that contours the figure without bagging. This soft squeeze eliminates the deformities in denim jeans that occur if the wearer isn’t the exact size and shape for the garment.
“You’re able to get a wider variance of the shape of the human body into one silhouette, where before with a very tight, hard squeeze on the human body, you weren’t able to do that,” Morrell said. “You would have to make all these different SKUs to fit all these different body shapes and sizes. A double-zero has about two body shapes coming off the natural waist down through the hip, but a size 10 has as many as five body shapes coming off natural waist, so if you run one SKU, now that one SKU can fit a much wider range of bodies and even skip a size. It’s completely fit-forgiving to the human body.”
For retailers and brands that are perhaps looking to downsize their SKU count and cut down returns rates, the “My Size technology” jeans could be a great asset, particularly as consumers do more of their shopping online.
Another product, called Oxygen Denim, is a polyester that consists of 99 different materials. The polyester is designed to convert the heat energy radiated by the body into infrared light to open up the capillaries of a wearer’s veins to increase the amount of saturated oxygen in their blood. Morrell said this is measured by infrared light reflection and peripheral oxygen saturation (SpO2) tests, which measure how much oxygen the blood carries as a percentage of the maximum it could hold. The denim product can help improve endurance, regulate temperature and even reduce muscle fatigue.
Freedom Denim also offers “fresh denim,” using an antimicrobial polyester that includes zinc oxide, designed to destroy bacteria and prevent photons from the sun from damaging the wearer’s skin. These polyesters also provide the benefit of preventing jeans from holding odors, thus requiring fewer washes.
Regardless of the diverse offerings Freedom Denim strives to offer its brand partners, the end message is always the same for the consumer: making them feel good about their purchase, both inside and out.
“Apparel is fundamentally one of the greatest communication tools that we have,” Morrell said. “Clothing not only bridges that emotional relationship with ourselves—how we feel about ourselves, whether we wear them low, whether we wear them high, whether we wear selvage, whether it’s skinny, tight, or stretched—but further to communicate an outward statement into society, again it is the reason we have mirrors in our homes. We should never forget its role, Freedom Denim surely will not.”
For business inquiries, contact Michael Morrell at Michael@freedomdenim.com or Shwaita Grover at Shwaita@freedomdenim.com. The Freedom Denim showroom is located at 515 Greenwich St, Suite 501, New York, NY, 10013.