Levi’s Process Combines Sustainable Design, Environmental Practices
The Dockers Wellthread process utilizes specialized garment-dyeing to reduce both water and energy consumption with cold-water pigment dyes for tops and salt-free reactive dyes for pants and jackets. In addition, the apparel is dyed in the factory, not in the mill, which Levi’s says allows for greater inventory agility because the garments are dyed-to-order.
The designers also considered responsible use and re-use with the end of the garment’s life in mind. Though recycling facilities are not widely available, the company anticipates that one day they will be. Extremely long staples of cotton can be more easily recycled, so the brand developed a unique, long-staple yarn for its premium Wellthread twill.
In addition, every garment in the collection (pictured) uses 100 percent cotton, thread and pocketing. The sundries include compressed cotton or metal that can be easily extracted by magnets. Using a drying cycle is tough on fabric and hard on the environment, so the design team also added care instructions to wash in cold and a locker loop on the khakis to encourage line drying.
Levi’s says disposable, fast fashion is the antithesis of sustainability and sustainable style starts with durable materials that last. As such, the Dockers Wellthread design team studied garments from the company’s historical archives to see how clothing has held up over time, and from there created a pilot collection of khakis, jackets and T-shirts. The team reinforcied garments’ points of stress and made buttonholes stronger and pockets more durable.
More than 20 years ago, Levi’s developed a code of conduct, called its Terms of Engagement, for its suppliers. These terms implemented standards for labor, safety and the environment that Levi’s says have become the industry standard for global supply chains. The company is now piloting a new approach with factories to support programs that will improve the lives of workers in factories around the world. The Dockers Wellthread khakis are made exclusively at one of the Improving Workers’ Well-Being pilot sites.
In other examples of how Levi’s is working to make its products more environmentally sustainable, its WasteLess denim collection is made from an average of eight 12- to 20-oz. recycled plastic bottles per pair of jeans. Additionally, Levi’s WaterLess jeans use a finishing technique that reduces water use in the finishing process by up to 96 percent for some styles. In 2012, the WaterLess collection saved more than 360 million liters of water, Levi’s says.
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