Brooke McEver, director of product innovation at Unspun, has spent her career leading high-impact teams to challenge and rethink modern production and design in the fashion industry. She previously started and grew the sustainability department in Bangladesh’s largest export factory, co-founded a social business dedicated to creating transparent supply chains, and mobilized the Sustainable Fashion Alliance in San Francisco. McEver is now at Unspun, a robotic and digital apparel company building custom jeans for each customer. The jeans are made with special software and a production method developed by the brand itself, working to reduce global carbon emissions by 1 percent through newly developed products and processes in the fashion industry. Their technology uses algorithms to digitally design and perfectly fit jeans automatically around the customer’s 3D avatar, eliminating the need for inventory and reducing the waste created by current production methods. The 10-second body scan is available through the brand’s mobile app or at one of its three locations in the U.S. and Hong Kong.
In compliance with its goal to build a more inclusive and sustainable economy, the brand was recently B Corp certified, meeting high standards of verified performance, accountability, and transparency across governance, workers, customers, community, and the environment.
What denim buzzword do you think is overused? And what would you replace it with?
To general consumers (non-denim heads) the concept of selvedge denim has been confusing. People think this means raw unwashed fabric, or that you can see a detail when you roll up your hem, but really it’s the pattern and shape that make selvedge jeans magic. I think this concept has been muddled for the average consumer, so it’s our job to educate them in a way they can understand it and enjoy it more.
What do you wish more consumers knew about the jeans they buy?
I wish consumers were given more tools to gauge the longevity and timelessness of the jeans they buy. How’s the fabric going to wear? is the silhouette something they will like in a couple years? Denim can age so well over time and the use phase is a pivotal part of the emotional experience people can have around denim.
I also wish we were educating customers on fits, silhouettes, and fabrics more so they can develop the knowledge and vocabulary around what they like, what they feel flatters their bodies, and what’s best for the planet. This issue is why we have 10 pairs of jeans in our closet and only wear one or two, or why we order 10 pairs to our house to try on before buying. The jean world can be an overwhelming place to navigate for the average consumer, which in the end creates a lot of waste.
If you had one request for denim brands, what would that be?
We have already seen a lot of mid-sized brands open to sharing information, sources and collaborating, but I would love to see bigger brands join in more on this process. The small and mid-size brands tend to be faster, riskier and radical on sustainable developments, and the big brands have the expertise and trusted relationships with factories and mills. So, I would love to see big and small companies coming together more and more to help the industry as a whole.
What can other apparel categories learn from the denim industry?
The denim industry still has a lot to learn, but I think we can take the idea of aging garments as an added value and think about how we can bring that emotional denim connection into other garments. I want to see more clothing categories create experiences around the wear and usage more, instead pushing people to buy more.
What was your most recent denim purchase?
Retro flare Unspun jeans I just got for myself, they are so fun with a bit of edge, and I am a groovy ’70s gal at heart. Now that I am used to custom jeans, I don’t know if I can ever go back.
What is your first denim memory?
I first developed my love for denim when working in a vertically integrated denim factory. If you ever talk to someone that develops denim you know the passion there. And the amount of processes and expertise that goes into the fabric is fascinating, I was completely captivated.