D'LOOP: Sustainable Selvedge Denim
Japanese Selvedge Denim, Made in Germany
Made with handpicked organic cotton, dyed and woven in Japan, then manufactured in Germany, D’loop Jeans was established “with the aim to create a new zeitgeist and fashion awareness in society.”
Says founder Harry Singh: “We did not like the long-running trend of low quality, overpriced, throwaway clothing – we want high quality, durable clothes, with low environmental impact. D’loop therefore sets itself apart from the “fast fashion” industry by manufacturing quality jeans made right here, at home.” Although jeans may be America’s greatest export, let’s not forget that Levi Strauß, aka Löb Strauß, was a Bavarian native.
“The organic cotton we use is dyed by a Japanese family business with natural indigo, woven into denim yarn, and then into selvedge denim fabric before arriving in Germany. Selvedge denim has always stood for timelessness in appearance and quality, and the use of selvedge denim fabric is our first, second and third choice.” But what makes selvedge denim so special?
Selvedge or “self-edge” is the self-finished edge of a fabric created on a shuttle loom. All woven textiles consist of warp (horizontal) and weft (vertical) yarns, the former stretched in place on a loom and the latter weaved in between. In selvedge fabrics a single weft yarn is continually passed back and forth between the warp yarns, across both sides of the loom, using a small device called a shuttle. This results in a neat, sealed edge that keeps the fabric from fraying, and is therefore much more durable than an overlocked edge.
In classic blue denim, the warp yarns are dyed indigo while the weft is left natural or white. Selvedge denim often has a single coloured warp yarn at both edges of the fabric, resulting in the characteristic little coloured lines running along the outseam of a pair of selvedge jeans.
Shuttle looms produce cloth that is about 30 inches wide – which is perfect for jeans – as the pattern fits neatly on the fabric so that the selvedges become the outseams. This saves time and resources on overlocking and cutting away fabric, and in turn minimises waste. By 2020, D’loop plan to install two shuttle looms at their manufacturing facility in Sauerland, Nordrhein-Westfalen.
Up until the 1950s, shuttle looms and selvedge fabrics were the industry standard, but as demand for denim rocketed, American manufacturers switched to the cheaper, faster projectile loom, on which the majority of denim continues to be made. Projectile looms are twice the width of shuttle looms and work by firing individual, unconnected weft yarns across the warp using a bullet-like device, to produce a non-selvedge fabric with open, frayed edges.
Meanwhile, there are still some active shuttle looms in Japan, where top quality “vintage” denim is produced to this day. Shuttle looms are responsible for creating natural irregularities on the denim’s surface, which come to life when subjected to daily wear and washing. This combined with Japan’s heritage indigo dyeing techniques and frequent forgoing of post-weave processes (more on this below) produces a denim that shows optimal evolution over time, developing a personalised patina so prized by denim connoisseurs.
“After receiving the denim here in Sauerland, D’loop goes to work with jeans design and assembly. Our home is in Sauerland: a region famous for its endless green spaces and forests. To protect our regional beauty, our denim fabric is produced completely free of chemical dyes and additives.” As Harry adds: “The most recent drought [in Germany] this past summer is another example of how very important it is to create environmentally-sustainable textiles with water-saving and chemical-free production methods.”
It is no secret that denim is a dirty business and cotton a thirsty crop. Even after a pair of jeans are assembled, typical finishing processes such as acid or stone washing and sandblasting use yet more water, chemicals and labour. Raw denim on the other hand does not undergo any pre-washing or -distressing and so produces a stiffer, stronger – and therefore long-lasting – pair of jeans that will need to be broken into. When rubbed, traces of indigo dye come off the fabric – so be careful where you sit! – but this is exactly what produces that sought-after fade, moulded around the wearer.
Raw denim not only saves water at the manufacturing stage, but also during use: in order to achieve good wear and fade it is recommended to only wash raw denim jeans every three to four months. D’loop raw denim is also rope dyed, where the yarns are twisted into rope and quickly dipped into indigo baths so that the dye doesn’t fully penetrate the fibres, which is considered the best dyeing method as it allows for a better, faster fade.
“We believe that we can increase the quality and comfort of our jeans using robust and long-lasting materials, while remaining caretakers of our environment.” Looking to the future, D’loop plan on implementing more sustainable measures, including a recycling programme, to further close the loop, and are hoping to “cooperate with small companies and factories in Europe and beyond who have a proven track record within the textile industry and represents our community and environmental values.”