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Inside Uniqlo’s Jeans Innovation Center in Los Angeles

By Dale Arden Chong


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On July 9, Fast Retailing — the company behind fashion brands such as Uniqlo, J Brand, Theory, and more — hosted a global media event to unveil its Jeans Innovation Center. The Jeans Innovation Center (JIC) leads the company’s initiative to create sustainable denim for all of its brands, with the exception of Princess Tam Tam. As part of the event, Fast Retailing provided media a look inside the JIC, showcasing the innovative technology utilized for production.

The Jeans Innovation Center, according to its chief operating officer Masaaki Matsubura, has been working with the development of trends and technology for Fast Retailing jeans since it was first established in November 2016. For the Fall/Winter 2019 season, the JIC has produced a portion of Uniqlo jeans using this new technology. There are also plans to produce all of Uniqlo's jeans at the JIC by 2020.

The JIC includes four stations that will reduce water waste, time, and manual labor: the Laser Engraving System, the Nano-Bubble, the Ozone Washing, and the Water Recycling System. As a result, the JIC — which will create over 18 million pairs of jeans for all Fast Retailing brands for the Fall/Winter 2019 season — reduces water by at least 90 percent compared to traditional methods.

The Laser Engraving System is designed to take the place of manual labor and the use of chemicals to create the appearance of authentic vintage-inspired denim and other patterns. It also ensures a uniform look throughout all of its jeans. It can also create 60 jeans per hour as opposed to the 10 per hour it would take to distress jeans manually.

As an alternative to traditional stone washing denim, the JIC uses Nano-Bubble, which also uses artificial ecostones made of polymer to reduce waste. This new process uses up to 99 percent less water than the standard wash system.

In order to clean its jeans of the residual indigo dye, the JIC uses Ozone Washing technology, which washes the denim without using water. As a result, jeans achieve a bleached, distressed way without the use of bleach.

With its Water Recycling System, the water used to produce Fast Retailing’s denim is then put through technology for purification, before being used once again to repeat the process. This system is the final step in JIC’s circular system for water use.

100 percent sustainable cotton by 2025

Another part of Fast Retailing’s initiative for more sustainable clothing is to use 100 percent sustainable cotton in all of its clothing by 2025, as well as to reduce its plastic use by 85 percent by 2020 — including using methods to minimize packaging waste.

While the new technology of Fast Retailing’s denim — specifically Uniqlo’s jeans — will be developed with JIC, the prices will remain the same.

Jeans made using the technology of Fast Retailing's Jeans Innovation Center will be available in Uniqlo stores mid-August.

Images: Courtesy of Fast Retailing

Fast Retailing
Sustainable Fashion