Chip Bergh, the CEO of Levi Strauss & Co., one of the most famous denim retailers has a few ideas when it comes to fashion sustainability. At Fortune’s Brainstorm Green conference, he said that jeans don’t need to be washed.
He also mentioned that in the past year he had, “yet to see a washing machine.”
“We are the ultimate in sustainable apparel,” Bergh said. “If you buy [our jeans] they will last a lot longer than most people’s waistlines will.” Tuesday will be the 141st anniversary of Levi’s 501 jeans.
The company also presented a new line of products called “Wellthread” that use easier to recycle fabrics that will also take less water and energy to recycle. It is only available right now in Europe and online in the United States.
“Waterless” is also a new line of denim that takes much less water to produce than normal denim fabric. You can also not wash these at all and be completely fine. According to many online sources, about 2,500 gallons of water can be used for the lifespan of just one pair of jeans.
The “no wash” method has been endorsed by Bergh and Levi’s for years, as the insisted that not washing your jeans will make them last longer. There was even a fad to freeze your jeans to prevent from bacteria growth.
Some people were not so easily convinced. To them it seemed like a less than sustainable solution for a long-term problem aimed at making the company look better. In an article from 2011 the author writes:
“While some of your jeans’ germs might not survive the freezer, some will, because they’re hardy like that. They mostly come from you, and thrive at body temperature. So when you put on your frozen jeans and your warm body heats up those chilly germs (Cray says it only takes one survivor), they will repopulate and have a microbial party in your pants.”
Pretty nasty stuff.
The article did also find however that raw denim takes less water to produce and maintain than regular touched up denim fabrics used for jeans.
How often do you wash yours?