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How One New Jersey Washhouse is Doing More for Denim

Down by the railroad tracks in the gentrifying Journal Square neighborhood of Jersey City is a somewhat hidden gem for denim mavens and companies just across the river from New York’s fashion center.

Bill Curtin has built BPD Washhouse into a product development hub, testing ground and training center for denim and non-denim brands, designers, retailers and startups.

“Our main focus here is development,” said Curtin, in an interview at the 6,000-square-foot facility. “We want to take what’s in a designer’s head and get in on a pair of jeans or a garment. We want to be useful to the designer. If someone comes in here and they don’t know exactly what they want, we need to extract that. We’re here not just to execute, but to understand what they want.”

During a tour of the inside and outside of the washhouse, Curtin pointed out the old location across the freight tracks where BPD was prior to moving to the current larger facility in September. Curtin noted that he’s just repainted all the walls white and is in the process of re-opening windows that had been covered over to bring light into building. Other refurbishments are being planned, as well.

“We’re the only facility on the East Coast that can do wet and dry processing on denim,” Curtin said. “Our main focus is taking a raw denim jean and turning it into their vision, their tear sheet or their 3-D sample.”

That coupled with a keen eye for innovation when it comes to denim processing, is what the washhouse has been known for. BPD can do wet and dry processing for leather jackets, accessories, shoes, knits or woven fabrics that aren’t indigo.

What’s more, according to Curtin, “We are so close to New York City and the accounts that if there’s an emergency–someone’s hair is always on fire in fashion–we can react to that and say ‘OK, you want to come to the front of the line, there’s a little extra charge, but we can make sure you get want you need Monday morning and have it set up for you.’ We want to become useful to them and be able to deliver what they’re looking for from the aspect of timing and execution.”

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Among the myriad of BPD’s dry processing capabilities are hand-sanding, 3-D whiskers, 3-D application, grinding and destroy.

“Destroy is huge right now,” he said. “When it comes to destroy, you can’t get two people in the same room to tell you what they like. It’s so diverse and has so many aspects to it and is so time consuming, but it’s peaking right now.”

On the flip side is wet processing, where BPD can do stonewashing, enzyme washing, overdyeing, tinting, garment dye, lab dipping and any process that involves color.

“Right now color is very big in denim, where you have PFD [Prepared for Dyeing] denim, which is basically white denim that gets overdyed. And you have piece-dyed denim and non-denim for casual product,” he explained.

Curtin noted that most of what the company works on is cotton-based with some stretch fiber, as well as rayon and Tencel. “We don’t get into dyeing polyester, unless it’s just minimal content,” he said.

But more than just the core product development business, BPD is looking to do more for the denim sector.

“For some of the big brands in New York City we do what we call a rescue program, where we can take samples that need to be redone, and everything we do formula-wise is transparent and transferable,” Curtin said. “There’s no secret formula and what we do can be accessed in any global supply chain. When you come out of here, you have your 3-D sample and you have your formula at the same price.”

Smaller brands and local companies frequent BPD too, renting the facility for a per day fee, and they’ll do all their development for the season.

For BPD, it’s been about being useful to brands and mills, not just making sales.

“We’re not looking to be a production facility,” Curtin said. “Occasionally, we’ll do some mini-production on a capsule collection. And if someone says we have 400 T-shirts they want to garment dye, we can do that.”

BPD has consulting contracts for some brands, and it works to help direct their overall processing, traveling to the countries where they have production to facilitate that end, and act as a go-between with the factory.

“If we solve one major problem that doesn’t go into the stores and have to be returned to the vendor, then the expense of using someone like us is minimal and the investment pays off in spades because they avert disaster,” Curtin said.