âPeople keep their denim forever,â says Amanda Parkes. “It’s one of those clothes that naturally lends itself to durability.” Parkes is the Innovation Director at Pangaia, a three-year-old London company that develops new fabrics and produces cult tracksuits. In fact, 2020, the year of the tracksuit, has been such a hit that Pangaia has far exceeded expectations, making $ 75 million in net sales, while wearing hoodies like Harry Styles and Jennifer Lopez.
Developing materials ranging from fruit waste to wild flowers, Pangaia is trying to reinvent the supply chain for a cleaner fashion ecosystem. The company’s manufacturing practices, he says, limit the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. She treats some of her t-shirts with antibacterial peppermint oil to reduce washes and uses a weave of eucalyptus and seaweed to make sportswear, with no irrigation or pesticides required.
After several years of research and development, Pangaia has just released its first denim line. Created by Jonathan Cheung, former head of global design for Levi’s and now denim designer for Pangaia, the collection includes three styles, available in two washes: a unisex jacket ($ 275), straight jeans ($ 225), and waist jeans. high for women. ($ 225). The innovation, says Parkes, lies in the use of giant Himalayan nettles, picked in Nepal by a collective of subsistence farmers led by women. The fiber is spun from the bark of nettle, a plant that reaches about 10 feet in height. Cheung praises his strength. âEveryone knows that hemp is a miraculous fiber because it is so strong. Himalayan nettle is several times stronger than that, âsays Cheung.
Himalayan nettle makes up 18% of Pangaia’s denim blend. The rest is 64 percent organic cotton and 18 percent cotton-nettle blend. According to a report released in April by the United Nations Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, 77% of global cotton production is “typically grown outside of sustainable certification programs,” where only 1% is considered organic.
““It’s like being a chef, and it’s farm-to-table with the most premium ingredients I can get.”“
By using nettle stuffed in its material and eliminating conventional cotton from its denim supply chain, Pangaia takes a step forward in making denim that is not dependent on traditional cotton production. The aim is to avoid problematic practices – from working conditions, the abundant use of synthetic pesticides and inefficient water management to erosion and soil degradation, which ultimately lead producers to find and cultivate new plots of land, which starts the cycle of abuse again.
âOur work with nettle is completely opposite,â says Parkes, who studied both art history and mechanical engineering and holds a doctorate. from MIT Media Lab. Prior to joining Pangaia, Parkes worked on the conservation efforts of the Sistine Chapel, studying the chemistry of paint, and created Bodega Algae, a startup dedicated to developing algae-based biofuels. âHimalayan nettle creates jobs where there are none, and harvesting the plant helps the soil regenerate,â Parkes explains. In addition, as it is a wild crop, there is no diverted water to irrigate the fields, and there are no toxic pollutants whose runoff harms the biodiversity of a region. .
Cheung values ââboth the transparency and the quality of its supply chain. âIt’s like being a chef, and it’s farm-to-table with the most premium ingredients I can get,â he says. Cheung sewed his first pair of jeans in 1987 while a student at the Kingston School of Fashion in London. Before taking charge of design at Levi’s in 2013, he worked on denim at Moschino and Armani. Of his latest job at Pangaia, he says, âI’m part of a long line of denim. It must be at the limit or beyond my standards. If that satisfies me as a denim nerd – and a picky denim nerd – then I can give it back to our client. “
The material for Pangaia’s jeans is milled in Italy at Candiani Denim, which sources organic cotton from an Indian supplier. Based near Milan, Candiani is a respected factory that has also helped create fabrics for Levi’s and Stella McCartney. Cheung uses a left-hand twill rather than the traditional right-hand twill, he says, to generate a softer feel; her purple selvage denim is woven on a shuttle loom. âIt’s rare denim, very old-fashioned denim,â Cheung says. âI can’t wait to see them worn. Who will wear them for 300 days in a row? Who will wear them for 25 years?
The company recently hired a director to oversee a business-to-business division, Pangaia Science, as the brand aims to sell its 200 exclusive fabrics, including its new denim, its wildflower down equivalent, and a material made from scraps of fabric. pineapple, to other labels to manufacture their own products. (Pangaia says it has made deals but will not disclose customers.)
Pangaia, Parkes says, also examines systemic environmental issues. âThe main thing we’re looking at is how to rid the fashion supply chain of fossil fuels? ” she says. âDenim is part of our DNA, but it’s only the beginning. “
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