Unspun, co-founder
Walden Lam
Unspun, co-founder

Deep Dive

Unspun wants to offer the best-fitting jeans on the planet, but in co-founding the digital apparel company, Walden Lam sought to bring modern fit technology directly into the made-to-order manufacturing process.

While most apparel manufacturers and brands work with a third-party fit technology to bring a garment to life, Lam realized that there was a white space open for a business that can cater to the best of both worlds. The company combines a proprietary algorithm with a 30-second body scan that uses infrared sensors and a rotating disk to gather 100,000 unique data points to generate custom-fitted, “size-free” jeans.

This spring, Unspun launched a virtual customization tool that enables shoppers to get a digital view of their jeans on a 3-D avatar made with their measurements. Using the tool, they can input preferences for drape, their hem length, rise height and more. The Unspun consumer-facing app uses a fit technology from TG3D to generate shopper measurements, and then the denim-specific algorithm applies the data to one of four styles of jeans, ranging from slim-fitting to relaxed cuts.

As part of Lam’s vision, Unspun has goals to be a “zero-inventory denim brand,” with the aim for its tech to cater to shoppers’ specifications that it can divert fashion waste from landfills and incinerators. Already partnering with H&M’s Weekday brand to produce waste-free denim, Unspun’s next step will mass producing waste-free 3D-weaving machines. Lam hopes that by putting these “microfactories” on multiple continents, brands can manufacture closer to end consumers and cut costs and carbon.

What is the biggest misconception that consumers have about sustainable denim?

Innovative materials = sustainability. They are a huge part, but consumers often overlook processes, durability and circularity.

What can the denim industry do to ensure a positive post-pandemic rebound?

Denim has a unique window right at this moment—workers around the world are adjusting a hybrid work arrangement where denim (vs. formalwear and loungewear) is the look of choice. If our industry can be a bit more inclusive in fit and messaging, we can address a huge need right this moment.

Skinny jeans: Over or a new staple?

Fashion always goes in cycles. My wife, who is not a good fashion bellwether, is still rocking her skinny jeans on the weekends, and I find no fault in that.

How can denim retail improve?

Fundamentally, the interaction between the consumers and brands must evolve from a transactional one to a relationship one. Retail embodies that physical temple for community relationship building. Real estate is too expensive to act as stock warehouse/storage facilities. We always have had a dream about this denim manufactory concept where manufacturing, laundry, laser-whiskering are done in a coffee shop or retail setting where customers can chill, customize and get their jeans made and washed in this environment.

How many pairs of jeans do you own?

About 12 pairs, mostly prototype jeans. I should do a better job trying out jeans from other brands. I love Denham, Levi’s, Chrome Hearts, Japan Blue and Kapital.

Which jeans do you wear the most, and why?

(Shameless plug) Unspun glacier washed tapered jeans. There’s a humbling backstory. For the longest time, because we do custom on-demand, minimum order quantity of one, no manufacturer wanted to help us with wet processes. The glacier washed jeans were the first product we created with our manufacturing partner Frontline. This pair of jeans keeps me grounded on our mission to push the boundaries of the industry.