The Future of Laser: Exclusive Interview With François Girbaud
By Samuel Trotman

The Stylesight denim team sat down with industry legend and denim guru, François Girbaud to discuss laser technology.

Jan 24, 2013
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Industry legend and denim guru, François Girbaud has always been at the forefront of laundry innovation. Although his inventions have been been so widely used they have become one the worst environmental processes in the textile industry. Today, Girbaud stands to reverse the damage and has been the face of Jeanologia’s innovative laser and ozone technology. We quizzed him on his passion and the future of laser.

You were the pioneer of stonewash, but you’ve now become heavily involved with new more ecologically friendly technology. Why is this?

When you’re at the origin of the revolution (stone washing) in the treatment of garments such as jeans and you realise you’ve committed a gross error which will contribute to the pollution of all the world’s rivers for decades to come, you denounce this, but nobody wants to listen. You have to wait for a disaster like Fukushima to understand that we all share the same water and the same air. It’s time to try and change all the practices in which we have been involved.

In the past we didn’t know what we were doing (see the REBEL not Criminal conference and video below). Today we know that we must save water and energy, and that we have to be cautious with the use of chemicals. On top of this, the life of workers in this industry must be protected. 

What is the future of laser?

The laser is an introduction to light which can be used in a variety of different applications. The revolution of new technologies in textiles is a gateway to the future for the younger generations. They will be able to invent their own creations and have endless design possibilities using laser to transform the appearance of the fabric and weave. The combination of elements like indigo and ozone are free to produce.

We have seen laser advance so much in the last five years. Do you think it will become the only laundry in the future?

Since my first manifesto after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, where the use of acids and permanganates was like an infection : Bleach / Snow Wash / Acid Wash / Snow Jeans were saturating the market. This was the case until I promoted REBEL not criminal with Jeanologia. With the WATTWASH™ program we’ve been rehabilitated as innovators in this jean world and we hope everyone will be inspired by this.

Are brands doing enough to explore laser technology?

No! Consumers are not aware enough and have to be taught how to buy; this is still a huge alibi to justify using the old polluting methods with impunity. Having also invented the stone wash, we are criminals, but at the time we didn’t really know what we were doing. We did it with the same passion. We should have changed before, but we didn’t know. That is not the case today. Today, everyone knows.

And so?????

Which brands or designers do you most admire in the industry with regards to their sustainable techniques?

First of all, my friend and partner Anupam Kothari. He was one of the first manufacturers to invest in modern technologies in India and applications to serve the community of planet Denim. This support has allowed us to create work that can be used by all brands produced in Bangalore at FFI (FIBRES & FABRICS).

Then, in no particular order, all the figures who have joined us in our crusade, as well as machine manufacturers, dyers, launderers, laundries, weavers, spinners, converters, denim suppliers, sourcing manufacturers, and designers.

The whole industry today has been mobilised, which allows me to say that the revolution is advancing.

Are there any other innovations you are working on with Jeanologia or other companies?

Jeanologia with Enrique Silla and Pepe Vidal have provided us with a formidable platform, which has led us to revolutionise our brand and our destiny. We are now working in India, using the complete range of machines and technologies available.

Associations with suppliers such as Candiani, who today don’t hesitate to approach machines at Tonello or fibers from Lensing (TENCEL) Royo / Tavex and many others who work together. The awakening of West Coast of America has been a little late, but the conversion to laser is underway (finally!) with Adriano Goldschmied’s research reinforcing  the work of Giovanni Petrin here in Italy.

The old guard of innovation. The dinosaurs who end up becoming denim-gurus.

If you would like to read further on Francois and his ecological developments then head over to Marcus Troy’s website where he explains more.

Marithe + Francois Girbaud + Jeanologia + PROJECT from PROJECT on Vimeo.

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