Edwin, once a mainstay in the U.S. denim market, is relaunching in the U.S.

The label, whose U.S. license is owned by Vietnam-based denim manufacturer Saitex, is now being led by president Kathy Kweon and creative director Catherine Ryu, who together bring more than 30 years of denim manufacturing and design experience to Edwin U.S.A.

The denim label retains many elements of Edwin Japan, which was founded 59 years ago and set the standard for Japanese denim manufacturing on a global scale, but is taking a modern approach to manufacturing with ethical and sustainability-focused efforts.

“The market is ready for a sustainable denim brand,” said Ryu, who previously served as creative director of Citizens of Humanity for five years. She also designed for AG Jeans for more than six years as well as Gap, Club Monaco, Calvin Klein Jeans and Urban Outfitters. “Sustainability should be the benchmark that everyone is practicing and we want to be part of that in the near future.”

Catherine Ryu and Kathy Kweon

Edwin U.S.A. creative director Catherine Ryu and president Kathy Kweon  Courtesy Photo

Edwin U.S.A. will be producing two lines in its collection, called Essentials and Vintage, that range in price from $148 to $238. Ryu describes Essentials as “everyday denim” crafted from organic cotton and environmentally safe indigo, while Vintage is comprised of fashion-forward styles and rigid denim, which, she said, is “the more sustainable choice, because it doesn’t have Lycra and tends to be heavier weights and easier for the consumer to wash less.”

She explained that lightweight denim fabrics stretch, leading consumers to wash their jeans more and use more water. The brand has plans to use selvage and raw denim in the near future, as well as recycled plastics by fall 2020, and recycled thread and zipper tapes by 2021.

“We think about every aspect of the jeans and not only from our washing methods. We want to be sustainable even in our look books. We try to be a mindful brand with every step that we make,” Ryu said. “We’re able to be more transparent and work with Saitex and use more efficient and sustainable practices.”

Edwin U.S.A. produces all of its denim through Saitex and uses 1.5 liters of water to manufacture its jeans. According to Saitex, the industry average is around 80 liters of water. In addition, Saitex factories are zero-discharge facilities, meaning that they recycle 98 percent of their water, with the remaining 2 percent lost to evaporation. The privately held company has worked with other brands such as Gap, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, J. Crew, Madewell, Calvin Klein Jeans, G-Star Raw, Everlane, Paul Smith and Target.

“Saitex is a leader in sustainability and one of the only B Corp-certified companies in the world,” Ryu said. “We want to communicate with our consumers about sustainability and transparency in what we’re doing. The web site is only U.S. [for now], and Canada will come as we figure out more logistics.”

The web site launches on Jan. 28 with a magazine section that explains the brand ethos with stories centered on sustainability and diversity. The collection launched at Nordstrom this month. Edwin U.S.A. will be available in 120 stores and e-commerce web sites this season, including Bloomingdale’s, Shopbop, Anthropologie and Verishop, among others.

Ryu said the business is 65/35 women to men because “there’s a bigger market share for women traditionally in the premium denim market. It’s another business opportunity.” In addition, the brand is developing a circular subscription service for premium denim called Edwin 360.

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