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James Jeans Tries a Deeper Shade of ‘Green’

James Jeans is looking to beef up its green credentials by doing more than just using organic cotton for the label's second environmentally friendly collection.

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James Jeans is looking to beef up its green credentials by doing more than simply using organic cotton for the label’s second environmentally friendly capsule collection.

This story first appeared in the October 30, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Seun Lim, creative director and co-founder of James Jeans, said efforts on the brand’s first eco-friendly collection introduced this fall centered on using organic denim and experimenting with organic dyes. For spring, Lim felt it was important to continue developing and expanding green processes. As a result, she began targeting one of the most chemical- and resource-intensive aspects of denim production.

“This season, we are trying to focus a bit more on the process of washes,” said Lim. “I wanted to step up and offer something different.”

Lim said she has been working with an organic-certified wash-and-dye facility in Los Angeles that specializes in alternative processes. Traditional chemical bleaches used to lighten denim have been replaced by an ozone bleaching system that many designers tout as a better oxidizer than bleach and requires considerably less water.

For the line’s colored denim, Lim used organic dyes derived from natural proteins such as cellulase, laccase and catalase. All denim pieces in the collection are finished with a natural latex coating developed from rubber trees. The finish is said to give the denim a flat and silky look rather than appearing waxy.

The collection will also use recycled hardware, such as rivets and buttons. In the case of metal buttons, Lim said distressing them with sandpaper and extended exposure to the sun is all that is needed to produce a variety of new and innovative looks.

The most novel aspect of the collection came about purely by chance and required a trip halfway around the world. According to Lim, friends in Australia called saying they had a surprise for her, but that she needed to come see it for herself. After hopping on a plane, Lim’s friends led her to a barn they owned. Inside was a 2,000-yard roll of denim that had been naturally aging for what Lim believes could have been 100 years.

“When I opened it I realized it was denim, but it had already faded,” said Lim. “The denim had flaws everywhere, it was almost like a homespun look. Obviously that looks very organic to me, so for me that was really cool.”

Since the denim has faded significantly, no washing was necessary. Lim is using the fabric to make a limited edition style within the eco collection and expects to offer about 1,280 pieces.

The label marked the launch of the eco collection Tuesday night with an event at the brand’s loft in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood hosted by actresses Emmanuelle Chiriqui from “Entourage” and Malin Ackerman from the movie “27 Dresses.” Donations will also be made to the Environmental Media Association and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The collection will begin selling at the end of February for the spring season. Retail prices will range from $145 to $246. Early season sales for the line have already topped $1 million, but management declined to provide target sales for the full season.

Lim is committed to continuing exploring ways to green up the denim process and she understands that the environmental movement is anything but a fad for her customers.

“I don’t want people to be focusing on eco and green just for the time being,” she said. “This has to be an ongoing process.”

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