Scientifically Better Denim
Since we launched in 2012, we’ve seen a widespread shift to more casual office attire. Start-up and coworking culture have spread so much that even established, buttoned-up companies are leaning “Business Casual.” The Wall Street Journal has even seen fit to report on this fashion trend multiple times each year. Notably, jeans have increasingly filtered into the professional wardrobe, often as part of a daily uniform. Our response to this shift was to start the process of reinventing jeans using our usual research-focused approach to building apparel.
The problem: Too Casual for Business
We began our research by gathering a group of professionals in various fields, from tech to law, and discussed their demands for wear-to-work denim. We learned that “contemporary” denim stretches, but often ends up baggy at the end of the day. It also lacks the rich, dark indigo hue that fits into a professional setting (and works well with a blazer). Raw denim and selvedge denim often have a professional presence, but it fades over time. These denim styles also lack stretch and can be stiff/stuffy unless well broken-in. While many professionals are able to wear alternatives to slacks and chinos in the office, they still feel they’re “getting away” with their current denim options. We set out to engineer a denim that has the same high performance you expect from the rest of our collection, but with the look of raw denim.
The Solution: LABS Denim
The strongest takeaway from our research was that professionals are looking for denim that is, “Versatile, stretchy, durable & dark.” We took this to heart as we set out to develop the future of jeans. Our goal with LABS denim is to invent jeans with the right fit, durability, and style to wear as often as possible.
Versatile Fit, Wear after Wear
Through our in-person research combined with tons of customer feedback from our Aviator/Going Places 5-Pocket, we’ve found that fit is key to everyday denim. Professionals do not want to wear skinny leg “hipster jeans,” but they also don’t want baggy pants. We created two fits, slim and standard, based on classic straight-leg styling. We are also introducing inseam lengths for the first time, as most customers told us that they don’t expect to have their jeans hemmed.
Most important was creating jeans that retain a sharp fit wear after wear: Thanks to the polyester and elastane, LABS Denim fits the same every time, even after multiple wears between washes. In our testing so far, these jeans fit the same every time you pull them out of the dryer, and they keep their shape through multiple wears.
Durable Construction, Durable Aesthetic
The second customer demand for denim is durability. Jeans can and should be tough enough to wear for work outside the office as well. After years of R&D we finally landed on a fabric composition that nets all of the benefits we’re looking for: 69% Japanese-milled cotton, 29% polyester, 2% polyurethane. Cotton provides soft-touch comfort and absorbs natural indigo dye; polyester helps with shape retention and stretch; and elastane offers that extra bit of flexibility.
No one really wants to iron their jeans, so it was important to develop a wrinkle free fabric. Even stretch denim will have hard crease lines if not taken out of the dryer immediately. In LABS Denim the polyester and elastane give shape memory to the fabric to help prevent wrinkles.
We went through many iterations of the seamwork, and finally settled on dyed-to-match high-denier thread to achieve strong, long-lasting seams. It’s the best of both worlds: long-lasting professional aesthetics with the strength needed for a hearty, rugged pair of jeans.
Scientifically Darker Dyeing
Indigo is a natural plant-derived dye that comes from a number of plants in the Indigofera genus, primarily in tropical and subtropical environments. It’s the one of the oldest known pigments used by humans and earliest findings of its use date back to 4000 BCE in Peru. Natural indigo imparts a deep, dark, long lasting blue hue.
During the extraction process of indigo from the source-plant, two other chemicals are naturally extracted as well, Kaempherol and Tryptanthrin. Both of these compounds are natural antibacterial agents, so when fabric is dyed with indigo, it’s also imbued with antibacterial properties. This was known in traditional Japanese garment manufacturing and used in Samurai underwear, Fundoshi, to prevent odor build-up.
The rich, vibrant, naturally-derived indigo maintains a dark wash due to its ability to bind to polyester (relative to cotton which fades). The polyester content basically limits how light the pants will get, as the dye can't bleed out. Ultimately, the natural indigo lengthens the life of the jeans’ professional aesthetic.
The Future of Smart Casual
We see denim having a lasting place in the business wardrobe, and LABS Denim represents the future of smart casual. Like all our LABS products, this initial offering is available in a limited run. We’ve put over a year of research, development, and high-value production into this concept. We look forward to seeing it in the wild and learning more from your experiences.