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EXCLUSIVE – Japanese fast fashion brand Uniqlo has developed a new washing process for jeans that cuts water use by up to 99 per cent – and the technology will be used on all its jeans by 2020. The business, owned by Fast Retailing, will use technology developed by its Jeans Innovation Centre, the group’s facility for jeans R&D in the US. The company told Apparel Insider that in 2019, ten million pairs of jeans – two thirds of Fast Retailing’s production – will be manufactured with this process, while during 2020 it plans to manufacture 40 million pairs of jeans this way.

The sustainable innovation combines advanced washing equipment utilising nanobubbles and ozone to slash the amount of water in the washing process compared to conventional production methods.

In addition, the pumice typically used in the process has been replaced with artificial stone that can be used semi-permanently, helping to reduce water pollution. The burden on workers has also been lightened with the introduction of lasers to replace the labour-intensive scraping process that has traditionally been done by hand.

By incorporating this technique, Uniqlo already successfully reduced the amount of water used in the washing process of its Men’s Regular Fit Jeans in trials by up to 99 per cent, with an average of more than 90 per cent.

Masaaki Matsubara, director of the Jeans Innovation Centre said: “We believe that jeans manufactured not only with a focus on design and comfort, but under conditions that are environmentally friendly and protect the rights of the workers involved in the production process, are truly good products, and that pursing such jeans production will lead to a brighter future. We will utilize the technical capabilities and economies of scale of the Fast Retailing Group to contribute to the realisation of a sustainable society.”

An announcement with details of the new technology is planned for early 2019.

The Jeans Innovation Centre is a specialised facility for jeans research and development, established by Fast Retailing in Los Angeles, California, in 2016.


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