by Stephen Garner
Left to Right: Jeffrey P. Silberman, François Girbaud, Adriano Goldschmied, Jean Hegedus, Emma McClendon and Mark Messura

On Friday, November 13, MR had the chance to attend Initiatives in Art and Culture’s Denim Trailblazers: From Fiber to Fashion, Style to Sustainability panel at the CUNY Graduate Center just steps away from the Empire State Building.

The panel, moderated by FIT’s Jeffrey P. Silberman, opened up with remarks from François Girbaud, who has been in the forefront of denim innovation with his experimentation with materials, treatments and shapes. Since 1989, he and his partner, Marithé Bachellerie, have focused their research on ecologically conscious techniques, perfecting the use of lasers to treat denim and removing hazardous chemicals and processes. Among them is Wattwash, a new eco-friendly treatment method, named after the unit of measurement for energy and heat that creates a targeted faded effect on denim.

“Working with chemicals previously was a big mistake and very detrimental to our society,” said Girbaud. “We’re now using lights and lasers that led us to develop the Wattwash and hoping for similar technology to be used going forward.”

Garden Grown Indigo. Photo by Jeffrey Silberman.

Adriano Goldschmied, who is responsible for the creation of some of the most successful denim brands since the 1970s — from Goldie, Diesel, Replay, Gap 1969, AG and Goldsign — was next up on the panel. He also mentioned how sustainability in denim is inevitably tied to lower usage of water and harmful chemical products. Revolutionary machines like the Ozone, which oxidizes denim without the use of water, and the laser machine which helps to create finishes which were previously only achieved with washing techniques, are what drives the future of denim. “I like to push the envelope because sometimes you don’t know what the limits are until you have passed them,” said Goldschmeid.

His latest project is a “denim collection without any denim included in the product.” This new line, entitled Acynetic, is a women’s active brand that uses performance knit fabrics with indigo yarns to create pieces that look like denim, but are comfortable and sporty.

Other innovations and denim-related events discussed at the panel included the evolution of Lycra and its use in denim, discussed by Jean Hegedus of Invista; the history of denim and its relationship with high fashion, discussed by Emma McClendon of the Museum at FIT; and supply chain strategies and fiber economics, discussed by Cotton Inc.’s Mark Messura.