HomeFashionco-founder of unspun on the future of sustainable fashion
co-founder of unspun on the future of sustainable fashion
December 12, 2022
unspun is a sustainable fashion company built around zero inventory and perfectly fitting, made-to-order jeans. With their innovative technology, their ultimate goal is to reduce global human carbon emissions by 1%. We spoke to unspun co-founder Kevin Martin about how unspun creates the perfect pair of jeans, the apparel industry’s biggest problem, and why Gen Z makes him optimistic about the future sustainable fashion.
Tomorrow’s World Today (TWT): What was the initial inspiration behind starting without rotation?
Kevin Martin (KM) from unspun: Beth, one of our three founders, was the first visionary. I think maybe a better phrase than inspired is dismayed. She would sit in meetings where the discussion was on “Opt Outside”, “Save the Environment” and “Leave No Trace”, but in the same meeting they would talk about how donating extra clothes to homeless makes the brand look bad so they need to burn them. His thought was “are you kidding me?”
She understood that the fashion industry is still driven by sales, profits and capitalism, but she also cared about sustainability. She knew there had to be a technology solution that eliminates the need for inventory and manufactures what we actually need.
TWT: What makes jeans so durable?
KM: unspun is a Certified B Corporation, which is a very difficult durability rating to achieve. We’ve achieved this by making everything sustainable: the real ingredients, the real cotton, the way we wash or laser our products instead of energy or water-intensive processes, and the inventory.
We source from extremely sustainable partners who have a similar mindset to ours. We ask ourselves questions such as: can we find an organic product rather than a chemical product? Do we work with fully LEED certified factories? Can we use wires that work really well with lasers?
TWT: From durability to affordability, there are many things that make unspun jeans unique. What excites you the most?
KM: I think the coolest part is that unspun improves the environment while providing a better experience for the customer. We often have people emailing us saying they haven’t been able to wear jeans in years because their thighs are big, their waist is small, their waist and hips don’t match the length of their legs, etc. they’re part of that outcast minority who can’t find the things that work for them, so when we get to do something for them that really works for them, those times are so cool because it’s like they almost gave up before finding us.
TWT: How do your jeans look so good on you?
TWT: Can you tell us a bit more about the technology behind the perfect fit? How do you take your app’s 10-second body scan and turn it into a pair of jeans?
KM: unspun uses the Face ID sensor on iPhones, which is inherently depth data… Face ID gives the distance at which pixels are.
For the [10-second body scan], you wear tight-fitting clothes and you move away from your phone to be visible. You spin around 360 degrees in 10 seconds in a kind of A-shape, and we keep taking those depth shots. The result of an unrotated scan is a full, millimeter-accurate 3D Digital Twin model of your legs that stitches together all of those images and data points taken as your body rotates.
We then take this 3D model of your legs, match it with the style and fabric you ordered, and put it into this fit engine we developed. The fit engine looks at your body shape, volume, how your curves interact with each other, and the style you ordered, and we digitally design your pair of jeans. We do modeling and analysis on this, basically creating a ton of pants for you and comparing them to other similar models, to optimize them for each unique person.
By the time we send something from the factory, we’ve done hundreds of iterations on what the perfect pair of pants should be for you so we can be really sure it’s something that will fit well. unique shape of your body. These pants will be completely different from all the other pairs we have made. Even if you bought the same pants in a different fabric, the pants would change because the different fabric has different profiles. The jeans are hyper optimized for you, the shape of your legs and the actual product you will be wearing.
TWT: How are unspun’s jeans made today? As non-spun continues to grow in popularity, will the production of jeans change?
KM: The first phase of the brand today is everything we just talked about. You go through this iteration on the app, and we send it to one of our factory partners, whichever is closest to you around the world, such as India, Turkey, and Hong Kong. Garment factories are evolving with us and our technology, sort of rearranging the whole factory to think about one person orders instead of million orders.
We truly believe that the future of clothing will be on demand – there will be no inventory until someone needs it, and then it will be made for them.
Phase two is something we just announced last fall in Time Magazine called 3D Weaving. Our machine named Vega is a completely new manufacturing process where we have all these threads going in and seamless garments coming out. The release of the very first product of it will probably take place in early 2023, and we will continue to introduce it slowly. It’s not just an incredible new fit technology for conventional denim, but also a whole new category of clothing that can be faster, more efficient and very local to completely minimize the carbon footprint of the moving things. So beyond perfectly fitting jeans, we also have an exciting future in manufacturing and technology.
TWT: What is your biggest challenge right now?
KM: Measuring things is always difficult and it takes time. Three to four weeks right now is sort of our trend. Ultimately, we want to speed this up because we can keep thinking about more things that you can automate and make more efficient. But many of our customers tell us they’ve had to wait years to find a pair of jeans that fit, so they’re willing to wait those extra three weeks for them not to be spun.
TWT: What do you think is the biggest problem in the fashion industry?
KM: I sincerely believe that the climate is the biggest problem that our generation will be forced to face, whether we like it or not… Clothing is one of the top three. dirtiest industries in the world. It’s huge — a lot of it comes down to basic ingredients, overproduction, and transportation. I don’t think people understand the amount of energy it takes to make a t-shirt. I’m totally okay with things like taking shorter showers to save water, but if you skip buying a t-shirt, it’s like not showering for months straight.
I think the apparel and fashion industry as a whole has an incentive to hide it… For me, the most fascinating part of it all is how easy it is to solve a problem: what is better for the climate and what is better for business is the same thing. If they’re making a hundred billion dollars worth of product this year as an industry they’re going to invest in manufacturing and ping pong across the Pacific multiple times to the United States…it’s gonna stay there, that ain’t gonna be sold, then they’re gonna burn it.
There is an opportunity for the industry to realize that it is going to lose the hundred billion dollars it just spent and can instead make clothes that are better for the planet and better for its profits. That’s really where unspun exists and what drives us – that big climate goal and what it’s going to take to get that snowball rolling.
There is already a lot of consumer sentiment. Gen Z will eat you alive if you pretend to be durable and can’t back it up, which is awesome. The tide is starting to come in here, but I think it’s still going to take some of the things a brand can’t say no to, like being better for the environment and being more profitable, to slowly start to get the ball rolling. Add to that those ferocious Gen Zers who will eat you for faking, and I think we’re headed in the right direction.
TWT: Your brand brings innovative artificial intelligence technology to the fashion industry. What else do you see for the future of the fashion industry?
TWT: What excites you about the future of sustainable fashion?
KM: The bar for what consumers demand in terms of sustainability keeps rising, and consumers want you to put your money where your mouth is and prove that your brand is truly sustainable.
If you search for “South America, mountains of clothes” you’ll see what really happens when people try to get rid of their clothes. Even things that are donated don’t always stay in the local community. Often, clothes are stacked in bulk and shipped wherever they want. This results in massive dumps of containers of clothes that no one wants… there are heaps and heaps.
I think the more visible this linear process becomes and the more we allow ourselves to think about what happens at the end of the garments, consumer demand for sustainability will increase and there will be more motivation to change it.
Europe is already leading the charge when it comes to sustainable fashion legislation, making sure there is enough evidence that companies are not making claims unless there is documentation about it. It will be a difficult phase to which the clothing industry will have to adapt, but it will be much better for the industry and the environment. It will also benefit startups like Unspun that are building core technologies for brands to be more sustainable in proven ways. I am excited about the direction the industry is taking.
We’ve tried unspun’s innovative and durable jeans ourselves. See how it went HERE.
Or try them yourself! Get $40 off your first pair of unspun jeans HERE.