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Slowing Down Fast Fashion


Ask Dockers® designer Paul Dillinger what brand he admires, and he’ll say Steinway.

That’s right – the famed piano maker, founded in New York back 160 years ago. As he sees it, Steinway & Sons builds products that last and, in fact, improve over time.

In other words, they’re sustainable.

In his role as senior director of color, concept and design for the Dockers® brand, Paul is all about sustainability – most recently in his work on Wellthread, a new line of clothing that combines sustainable design and environmental practices with an emphasis on supporting the well-being of the apparel workers who make the garments.

At LS&Co.'s Eureka Innovation Lab, a panel featuring, from left, LS&Co. Sustainability VP Michael Kobori, Dockers® Designer Paul Dillinger and UC Berkeley's Kellie A. McElhaney, Ph.D.

At LS&Co.’s Eureka Innovation Lab, a panel featuring, from left, LS&Co. Sustainability VP Michael Kobori, Dockers® Designer Paul Dillinger and UC Berkeley’s Kellie A. McElhaney, Ph.D.

Levi Strauss & Co. announced the Dockers® Wellthread approach last night at the company’s new innovation lab in San Francisco. Paul and I had the pleasure of sharing the news with sustainability thought leaders. If you were following our Twitter hashtag — #madeofprogress — at the time, you would’ve seen lots of activity.

In my role, leading LS&Co.’s sustainability work, I’ve had the pleasure of partnering with Paul and many others to bring this collection to life. And as far as I’m concerned, how you make a garment is just as important as the garment itself.

Disposable, fast fashion is the antithesis of sustainability. Great, sustainable style starts with durable materials that last, and that’s something this company knows a lot about. After all, we invented the blue jean.

It’s worth noting that the brand for which Paul has such admiration – Steinway & Sons — got its start in 1853, the same year Levi Strauss founded this company.

And in fact, the Dockers® Wellthread design team studied garments from the company’s historical archives to see how the best clothing holds up over time. From their research, they developed a pilot collection of khakis, jackets and T-shirts.

The team engineered lasting value into the design process by reinforcing garments’ points of stress and making buttonholes stronger and pockets more durable.

The Dockers® design team worked with our suppliers to find ways to reduce water and energy use. When you’re producing thousands of a particular item, even small changes can result in big savings.

This new process utilizes specialized garment dyeing to reduce both water and energy consumption – with cold-water pigment dyes for tops and salt-free reactive dyes for pants and jackets.

But Dockers® Wellthread goes beyond the fabrics and design to the people who make the collection. Levi Strauss & Co. has long worked to ensure the labor rights, health and safety of apparel workers in our contract factories. The company is now piloting a new approach with factories to support programs that will improve the lives of workers in factories around the world.

We call this new approach, “Improving Workers’ Well Being.” The Dockers® Wellthread khakis are made at one of the Improving Workers’ Well-Being pilot sites.

I invite you to learn more about all of this in our case study, available here. You might also be interested in this article from The Guardian.

We’re learning a lot from Dockers® Wellthread, and we look forward to expanding what we’re learning across our company. The more we can build sustainability into our processes from the beginning – the design phase – the better we can deliver products to consumers that are not only fashionable and durable, but are also better for the people who make them – and for the planet we all share.

Dockers Wellthread Clean Chino with durable, reinforced pockets.

Dockers Wellthread Clean Chino with durable, reinforced pockets.

Clean Chino with built-in locker loop for more energy-efficient hang-drying.

Clean Chino with built-in locker loop for more energy-efficient hang-drying.

The Dockers® Wellthread Anchor T-Shirt was designed to use fabric more efficiently with a screen-printed pocket.

The Dockers® Wellthread Anchor T-Shirt was designed to use fabric more efficiently with a screen-printed pocket.

This is the story of the Dockers® Wellthread Casual Blazer: We wanted a tailored blazer made in a factory that invested in worker programs. But the machines at that factory make jean jackets, not tailored blazers. So our designers and the factory’s engineers utilized unprecedented collaboration and innovative techniques to create this blazer.

This is the story of the Dockers® Wellthread Casual Blazer: We wanted a tailored blazer made in a factory that invested in worker programs. But the machines at that factory make jean jackets, not tailored blazers. So our designers and the factory’s engineers utilized unprecedented collaboration and innovative techniques to create this blazer.