Some people express themselves through the piano, others prefer the flute. Felix Valdez’s instrument is a 450-pound Washex machine.

Valdez is a principal in The Finish First, an El Segundo, Calif.-based enterprise that focuses on developing new washes for jeans. Given the fairly standard silhouettes that are selling best these days — low-waisted, tight, slightly flared five-pocket jeans — finishing is becoming an increasingly important part of the design process.

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