Volcom Learns from Levi’s, Develops Denim Process to Reduce Water Use

by | Aug 12, 2019

(Credit: Volcom)

Another fashion brand is focusing on how to reduce water use in denim manufacturing. Skate and snowboarding brand Volcom is introducing Water Aware denim jeans – a line inspired by Levi Strauss’s denim techniques – as part of its fall 2019 collection. The company says it has been able to achieve an average savings of 13 liters of water per pair of jeans.

The company’s design and production teams worked with the factories that produce its denim to switch to enzyme wash and ozone finishing techniques and combine traditionally separate wet cycles into single processes. According to a Volcom blog post, the Water Aware jeans were inspired by Levi Strauss’s “Water<Less” techniques and developed using the company’s Open Source: Water Innovation guide. Volcom says it is on track to save an estimated four million liters of water over the rest of 2019.

Water Aware is a new milestone in Volcom’s journey to sustainability, a commitment to responsible manufacturing practices, better fiber sourcing, and reducing its impacts that began 12 years ago. The company says the new line of jeans is aligned with its ambition to make the largest impact by introducing more sustainable materials or processes across the products it produces in the greatest volume.

The company has used similar sustainable strategies around other high volume categories, like men’s Mod-Tech trunks, Frickin chinos and women’s swim, which introduced Repreve and Econyl recycled fibers, respectively. With pants being one Volcom’s largest categories and jeans representing a weighty portion of the category, being able to reduce water usage by almost 40% in the production of all denim means tremendous savings.

Looking to the future, Volcom will continue to increase the average water savings per jean by adding more denim washes with even higher efficiency gains to our line and exploring other stages in the product’s cradle-to-the-grave lifecycle where the company can reduce water usage.

Volcom says the largest amounts of water used in making jeans is associated with cotton-growing; with that in mind, the company plans to expand its Farm to Yarn organic cotton program.

Apart from its Water<Less techniques used in manufacturing jeans, Levi Strauss has also focused on reducing the water usage associated with the growing of its raw materials. Last spring, the company launched a line of clothing made from hemp, sourced from a rain-fed hemp crop, which reduced the water used in fiber cultivation by roughly 30%.

Hemp requires far less water and land in the growing phase and has roughly half the carbon footprint of conventionally grown cotton but has not had wide adoption in the apparel industry because of its coarse feel. Levi Strauss said its new line of clothing feels “just like cotton.”

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