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WSU student develops long-lasting, sustainable jeans
May '10
Lacey Wilmot, a second-year graduate student in the WSU Apparel, Merchandising, Design and Textiles program, used her love for jeans as an inspiration to develop long-lasting, sustainable jeans. Her thesis project, “Designing Culturally and Environmentally Sustainable Denim Jeans,” was presented at the 2010 WSU Academic Showcase.

“Jeans are iconic, but that's been lost in the materialistic world,” Wilmot said. “I wanted to go back to the roots of American jeans to design American-made environmentally sustainable jeans.

“To me, sustainability means giving back the same amount that you take," she said. "The textile industry is very resource intensive. It takes a lot of water and other inputs to grow cotton, chemicals to bleach and dye the fabric, and so on.”

According to Wilmot, people spend $200 on jeans that only last seven months. The motivating desire behind her project was to marry the iconic symbol of jeans with high-quality manufacturing techniques.“One thing that is wonderful about Lacey's project,” said Carol Salusso, associate professor of AMDT, “is that she is combating throw-away fashion and designing jeans that will last.”

Economically, eco-fashion is trending upwards in the industry, although most people still value fashion over the environment. Wilmot's collection includes five jeans designs, from trousers to skinny fit, meant for different body types. She wanted to show people that she could design fashionable apparel that is also eco-friendly and American made.

Salusso learned that the American Cotton Growers produce SAFE Denim. SAFE is an acronym standing for sustainable, American and friendly to the environment.

According to its website, the American Cotton Growers and its farmers produce an average of 37 million yards of denim annually, enough to make 26 million pairs of jeans. Every yard is grown, spun, dyed and woven from the cotton its members produce.

“We're protecting our ecosystems for these future generations by remaining good stewards of the land, air and water," the website explains. "We value doing the right thing, in the right place, in the right way, at the right time, and it requires the use of new technologies.”

Salusso also found a company that produces eco-friendly enzyme products that can be used to lighten denim. The company, Dyadic, sent samples as a contribution to Wilmot's project. “Lacey's jeans have integrity,” said Salusso. “Visual integrity. Social integrity. Environmental integrity. Industry should be re-established on a basis of integrity.”

“It's really about making a good choice for yourself and for the world,” Wilmot said. The Visual, Performing and Literary Arts Committee at WSU created a video about Wilmot's jeans.

Washington State University

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