Denim might be an essential in every closet, but there’s nothing basic about it. The right jeans make you feel cool, confident, and immediately at ease. So when we designed our Dunewood Denim, we aimed to revolutionize this heritage fabric with the same softness and innovative features as our signature shorts.
“We were very thoughtful about what Fair Harbor could offer that's different from what’s out there in the market, but also what would meet our own set of high standards,” explains Walter Bassano, design director at Fair Harbor. “We had to do it sustainably and ultra-comfortably.”
A great pair of jeans starts with a great fit, so we’ve perfected a slim straight fit to ensure that each pair is the one you'll reach for day-in and day-out, year after year. “We wanted it to look smart and not baggy,” explains Andrew Lee, our technical design director, who created the specifications for the Driftwood. “This is a modern fit. It looks clean, and you can wear it with everything from sneakers to Chelsea boots.”
The fit was easier to achieve than a consensus on the material. Too much stretch and the wash would look inauthentic—and without enough recovery, the material might bag at the knees after a few wears. “It was tricky to balance stretch and comfort in a fabric without making it too stretchy,” explains George Vasilopoulos, production director at Fair Harbor. “We wanted to create the anti-jegging.”
After a few iterations, we discovered an ideal fabric blend: 69% organic cotton, 29% recycled polyester, and just a touch of rayon and spandex for the perfect balance of stretch and incredible softness. “The weight and weave give it stretch qualities that feel more like a sweatpant than a traditional pair of denim,” says Walter. “You can work all day or travel for hours, and it never feels tight.”
Wash is one of the first things you notice about denim, so we offer two shades that will only improve with time: a classic medium indigo wash that feels lived-in and a darker jean you can wear to dinner. For both the Beach and Deep Sea washes, the team strived for authenticity above all. “We were always asking the factory to make it more subtle,” recalls Walter.
Since its invention in the 1800s, denim has stood the test of time, but the environmental cost of producing it has always been high. So we evolved the process, choosing organic cotton as the main component in our Driftwood Denim. According to the World Economic Forum, producing a single pair of non-organic cotton jeans can require nearly 2,000 gallons of water, which includes growing the cotton and washing the garments before they’re sold. But organic cotton reduces water consumption by as much as 91%, as the crop is mainly rain-fed. Organic cotton is also more sustainable than its conventional counterpart since it uses no chemical pesticides or fertilizers, limits soil erosion, and demands less water than typical cotton.
For the recycled polyester, which comprises almost a third of the denim material, we repurpose 12 plastic bottles per pair. Just as in our signature shorts made from recycled plastic, this process helps keep waste out of waterways and landfills.
We took the same environmentally conscious approach to finishing. While traditional denim uses an industrial laundry process to achieve a natural, worn-in look, our ozone washing employs ozone gas to bleach denim. This technology keeps chlorine-bleach salts out of the environment and uses less water than standard techniques. The water we use in the washing process is recycled, saving 4.2 liters per pair and significantly reducing the amount of chemicals and dyes released in wastewater.
To give our Beach Wash denim that authentic, lived-in look and feel, we rely on laser marking, an eco-friendly technique that uses no chemicals, sand, or stones. Instead of multiple washes that waste hundreds of gallons of water, laser technology creates the authentic whiskering immediately, as if you wore them in yourself. Since the Deep Water wash is darker, it is hand finished for a subtle look.
Beyond just the fabric, every detail of our denim is considered for maximum sustainability. The logo back patch is made from recycled material, we recycle leftover scraps from the cutting room floor, and the rivets and buttons are created by a technique known as ECO plating, which avoids many of the environmental hazards created by typical methods. Compared with traditional electroplating, ECO Plating reduces carbon emissions by 66%, heat energy by 60%, water consumption by 51%, and solid waste by 67%.
Since environmental innovation is a constant work in progress, we also work with the Higg Facility Environmental Module Program, a sustainability assessment tool that measures and monitors our factory’s energy and water consumption. Their oversight helps us continually preserve and protect resources while also improving our production process.
With all these considered aspects in a simple pair of jeans, there’s a lot more to our Ultra-Stretch Driftwood Denim than meets the eye. “Fair Harbor didn’t invent denim,” says Walter on the design team. “But we’d like to think we’re reinventing it.”