Levis Strauss to usher denim finishing into the digital era

By replacing manual techniques and automating the finishing process of its jeans, the clothing giant aims to drastically reduce its time to market and chemical usage, as well as upskill its staff.

Levis Strauss’ project digitises the design and development of denim finishing – image courtesy of Depositphotos.

According to Chip Bergh, president and CEO of Levi Strauss & Co, the company’s goal was to tackle two predominant industry challenges, i.e. “being able to respond quickly to changing consumer trends, while making the manufacturing process more sustainable.”

“We are addressing both agility and sustainability without compromising the authenticity our consumers expect from us. This is the future of jeans manufacturing, and LS&Co is well-positioned to lead the way.”

Specifically, this advancement enables the global jeans wear leader to replace manual techniques and automate the time-consuming, labour-intensive and chemical reliant process of hand-finishing.

For more than 30 years, the apparel industry has used hand finishing to accentuate worn, faded design elements on denim.

By using lasers in new ways, finishing time is cut dramatically — from two to three pairs per hour to 90 seconds per garment, followed by a final wash cycle.

By digitising the finish design and development process, LS&Co designers can now create finishes and final garments with a sophisticated new imaging tool.

Built by LS&Co, this advanced imaging capability reportedly cuts finishing design and development time in half, and is so accurate the digital files can be sent directly to the vendor and quickly scaled to mass manufacturing

By delaying decisions on final products until much later in the process, LS&Co can also reduce its lead times from more than six months to as fast as weeks or days in some cases. This is made possible by staging garments that await their on-demand finish order closer to the market.

LS&Co also plans to reduce the total number of chemical formulations used in its finishing process from thousands to a few dozen.

This has been described as a major step forward in the company’s commitment to achieving zero discharge of hazardous chemicals by 2020 and furthers its goal of pioneering more sustainable apparel.

LS&Co has said that it has already begun piloting this new model with strategic vendors and has started briefing some of its key customers by managing core replenishment more effectively, responding to seasonal trends with greater agility, and creating greater opportunities for customer exclusives.

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