MILAN — François Girbaud is pushing water conservation with a new laser treatment called Wattwash, aimed at replacing traditional methods of stonewashing denim.

This story first appeared in the May 6, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“Wattwash allows us to save water, which is a precious resource for us all and not in endless supply,” Girbaud said during a trip here to promote the treatment, which is a Marithé + François Girbaud trademark. “With Wattwash, we can avoid using acids and other polluting substances.”

The treatment was introduced at Berlin’s Bread & Butter exhibition in January, but Girbaud said “the message is not immediate and we need to convey it to retailers and customers alike.” The designer also developed a video to explain Wattwash that will be shown in stores.

“At a glance, some people believe these jeans are printed, but they are nothing of the sort,” he said.

Girbaud said 1.3 gallons of water are sufficient to produce a pair of Wattwash jeans, compared with almost 40 gallons generally necessary to make a basic pair of jeans.

“Wattwash jeans are 97.5 percent water free,” he said.

The designer said the laser cuts the fabric in an “extremely precise way” and allows for a variety of effects, from the used or stonewashed look to houndstooth checks.

Girbaud acknowledged the negative environmental impact of his own use of stonewashing.

“When we invented the stonewash treatment in the Seventies, we simply didn’t know what we were doing to rivers and oceans,” he said.

Wattwash jeans will be part of a denim exhibition at Paris’ Galerie Canesso in September.

Simone Mantura, chief executive officer of GIR + A&F, which produces the men’s and women’s Marithé + François Girbaud collections, said the company opened a shop-in-shop in Tokyo and a store in Beijing at the end of April, and is looking for a space in Italy. The brand also will expand its historical Etienne Marcel boutique in Paris with a new concept to be unveiled in October.

There are 100 Marithé + François Girbaud stores worldwide, including 15 directly owned stores. The brand is available at more than 1,200 points of sale. The company last year posted sales of 36.5 million euros, or $50.7 million at average exchange, up 12 percent compared with 2008.

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