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Uniqlo leads the way in water saving

Jul 23. 2019
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By The Nation

Fast Retailing, a holding company that includes Uniqlo among its brands, recently invited members of the global media to spend two days at its Los Angeles-based Jeans Innovation Centre (JIC), the Group’s facility for jeans research and development.

Divided into two groups, reporters from close to 20 markets visited the Center to experience firsthand a new washing process that reduces water usage by up to 99 per cent, based on a comparison between Uniqlo 2007 and 2018 Men’s Regular Fit Jeans, and to learn where the innovative water-reducing process sits in the broader sustainability approach of Fast Retailing.

Speaking at the event, Masaaki Matsubara, the Centre’s chief operating officer, said: “The JIC was built from our desire to make denim more sustainable. We are always thinking about design with sustainability in mind. Our vision is of a near future when denim production is much cleaner and less resource intensive, and the Centre is helping to make that a reality for customers everywhere around the world. We have innovated with existing technology, figuring out how to outperform other brands to achieve water savings of up to 99 per cent in the wash process at our full production scale. We never intended to reduce water used for jeans washing by only 10 per cent or 20 per cent. Ultimately we want to reduce water usage to near zero – only this can be considered true innovation.”

The Fast Retailing Jeans Innovation Centre was established in 2016 as a hub for jeans research and development to transform the value of jeans offered by each of the Fast Retailing brands, charged with setting new design and value standards as well as marketplace expectations for denim products. The near-elimination of water from its wash process is one such example of the Centre’s ongoing work to perfect denim.

Fast Retailing is a leading Japanese retail holding company and in addition to Uniqlo, its brands include Gu, Theory, Helmut Lang, PLST (Plus T), Comptoir des Cotonniers, Princesse tam.tam and J Brand.

Matsubara also confirmed that from 2020, all jeans by Fast Retailing brands will be produced using the new process, a production scale that will ensure sustainable denim is easy for every Fast Retiling customer to access, at prices that are within the normal range for each brand.

Also in attendance were Yukihiro Nitta, Fast Retailing Group senior vice president of Sustainability, and Veronique Rochet, Fast Retailing group director of austainability. They explained how the Group has built on previous achievements in sustainability to focus increasingly on customer-facing sustainability initiatives, and how the water-saving jeans of the Jeans Innovation Centre are one strong example among several that derive from the approach.

“Our ambition is to redefine what sustainability means in the apparel industry. We want to make sustainable choices effortless and anxiety-free for our customers everywhere, and to leverage the scale of our business to have genuine meaning and impact. Through initiatives like these water-saving jeans, and through other examples, like our commitment to using only sustainable cotton or fully ethical down, Fast Retailing customers everywhere can be part of a more sustainable world, without any special effort on their part and without any compromise on quality or value,” Rochet said.

Following short presentations from Matsubara and Rochet, reporters joined a guided tour of the Jeans Innovation Center, with detailed explanation and demonstration on each major step of the jeans washing and finishing process. The group then visited J Brand to hear firsthand how Fast Retailing’s premium denim brand incorporates today’s elevated lifestyle through sustainability minded jeans.

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