Levi’s® Water Less™ Launch in the U.K.

Last thursday we were excited to attend the Levi’s® Water<Less™ event in east London. Levi’s has been at the center of many ethical initiatives recently, such as their Sandblasting ban, reported on last year. This next project sees Levi’s using an average of 28% less and in some cases up to 96% less water for their line and introducing new initiatives throughout the garment’s life cycle to lower the impact denim has on the environment.

In their bid to donate 200 million liters of water to communities around the world, the collection fuses style and sustainability. Fabrics and finishes look and feel the same but have been made using significantly less water, thus making the production process much more environmentally friendly. The launch was accompanied by an amazing installation in their Regent St flagship store by Ian McChesney which is definitely worth visiting the store to see.

We interviewed Geert Peeters, SR Vice President of Levi’s Global Supply Chain, to find out more:

Many companies bought out eco ranges a few years ago but the eco-buzz seems to have tailed off in recent times. How does this concept differ and do you think sustainability is being given the importance it deserves?

What makes Water<Less so great is that you don’t see or notice it is an eco or sustainable product.  We have created a product that has the same great look but achieved through applying processes that reduce the impact on the environment. By doing it this way the technique becomes more embedded in what we do.  Its part of our sustainability vision to make sure that whatever we do in the supply chain, we reduce the impact on the environment as much as possible. Which is quite different than saying, “Here is our eco range or product.”

How do you think laser technology is going to affect the future of the denim industry?

It is one of the technologies that we use as part of a wider array of techniques that is indeed less impactful to the environment. But we are also using many other tools that are sometimes less sophisticated.  If you look at how we achieved Water<Less, it often, in hindsight, came down to relitively simple adjustments and using common sense. But combined with, say dry ozone, which is another example of a new laundry technology, we can offer products that don’t compromise on look but are much less impactfull on the environment.

As a leader in the world of denim, your actions really affect the industry. What is your next step for sustainable denim?

First of all today we celebrate Water<Less – we have already 17% of our collection in Water<Less and we want to build on that. We are also starting a new ‘Better Cotton’ initiative at one end of the spectrum and we recently launched a program where we advise people to wash their  jeans less often – thats another way to engage and educate people. There are various projects that we have started within our supply chain (of which we have most control over) also with our raw material vendors and cotton suppliers and then again with the consumer and the amount they wash the product. So we are focusing on the holistic view and the life cycle of the jean. And I’m sure in the not too distant future we will be announcing what the next step will be, because we believe there is still a lot to do. An important part of our time is dedicated to further research and development of what could be the next step to get there . It’s a journey without an end but its important we make a very strong commitment on that journey. We want to lead the industry and we want to  show our competetors that it’s the right way to go and we are also happy for our competetors to make steps forward.

We’ve already applied the Water<Less finishing technique to last year’s successful Curve ID range of jeans. When you look at the consumer who wants the Curve ID jeans: she may or may not know that it was made with less water but she knows what she loves and I think that’s what this product is really about- you give the consumer the fit, fabric and finish but also, whether they know it or  not, the sustainable benefits. If you don’t get the right style and the right look, they’re not going to buy the product, so that’s what is key here.


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