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German bottoms specialist Alberto is taking its pursuit of the “green jean” to the extreme.

This story first appeared in the November 16, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The men’s bottoms firm has a decidedly low-tech experiment going on up on the roof of its headquarters in Mönchengladbach, Germany. In an effort to explore new washes, it’s now nine months into a one-year weathering project for its ADenim jeans line, one that scraps low-ozone and low-water-consumption technologies in favor of completely natural practices in pursuit of what could be considered purely “green jeans.”

“We were left with a lot of roof space here,” said Marco Lanowy, one of three managing directors at Alberto. “So we wanted to test our jeans and find out what would happen to the denim fabric if it was permanently exposed to the weather. What do jeans bleached by the sun look like? What happens during heavy rainfall or snow? How much can these jeans stand, and how soon do they weather?”

Manually secured by stones or tied to the building’s fire escape, some of the 12 prototypes on the roof are already revealing unique washing effects. “We took a few of them down, and there are some nice transitions and distinctions showing up,” Lanowy noted. “A summer-bleached pair, for example, is basically white in the front now, whereas the back still looks brand new.”

ADenim has already taken steps to use organic materials certified by the international Oeko-Tex Standard 100, which provides criteria on potentially harmful substances for products at all points throughout the supply chain. By testing its washes in natural weather conditions, Alberto’s trial methods are now also becoming more sustainable.

“A traditional wash simply replicates a natural process in an artificial way,” Lanowy explained. “So why not use the natural resources we have to discover interesting effects?”

The managing director added that the brand was planning to continue testing more styles after the first prototypes have gone into production, perhaps giving a glimpse of what the future of denim washes could look like at the house.

ADenim’s collection currently includes around 25 washes, and with its rooftop models launching for spring 2013, the managing director is hoping to add five more finishes to the line. Retail prices have yet to be finalized and the company declined to provide an overall sales volume. Manufactured in Casablanca, Morocco, ADenim is operating in six markets: Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Canada, Benelux and Russia. Its roof-wash jeans will be distributed across an estimated 120 doors. Also, still up for discussion are dedicated information boards about the project at point-of-sale, but Lanowy said that whether or not these come to fruition, the weathering tale is a good anecdote for retailers to discuss with their customers. “There’s a story behind those jeans,” he noted.

Meanwhile, the prototypes from the roof will be auctioned off for a charity benefiting homeless kids. Or, as Lanowy put it, “children without a roof.”

This week, Mönchengladbach is expecting highs in the low 50s and lows in the low 30s, with sunshine early in the week and an increasing chance of rain Thursday and Friday. Good weathering weather.

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