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Product Planning / Research and Development

Last Updated: 2019.10.28
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Innovative Washing Process for Jeans to Cut Water Usage

The Fast Retailing Group has developed a new washing process for jeans that reduces water usage by up to 99%, with an average of more than 90%*1. The technology was originated at the FR Jeans Innovation Center, the Group's facility for jeans research and development in Los Angeles, California, and has been adopted from the 2018 fall/winter season's UNIQLO Men's Regular Fit Jeans and J BRAND Sustainable Capsule Collection. In 2019 a total of 10 million pairs of jeans from the two brands, the equivalent of almost one-third of FR's annual production quantity, will be manufactured with this process. By 2020 the new technology will be used for all jeans made and sold by the Group.
The latest innovation combines advanced washing equipment utilizing nanobubbles and ozone with the skills of expert jeans designers, to greatly reduce the amount of water in the washing process compared to conventional production methods, while still ensuring high quality and design. By incorporating this technique, UNIQLO successfully reduced the amount of water used in the washing process of its Men's Regular Fit Jeans by up to 99%, with an average of more than 90%.

During 2020 the Group plans to manufacture 40 million pairs of jeans with the new washing process, expecting to reduce approximately 3.7 billion liters of water, an amount large enough to fill around 1,500 international regulation swimming pools*2.
In addition, the pumice typically used in the washing process has been replaced with artificial stone that can be used semi-permanently, helping to reduce water pollution. The burden on workers has also been lightened with the introduction of lasers to replace the labor-intensive scraping process that has traditionally been done by hand.

*1: For the 2018 model UNIQLO Men's Regular Fit Jeans, compared to the same products from 2017.
*2: Calculation based on the percentage rate of reduction from UNIQLO's Men's Regular Fit Jeans. Standard length of an international regulation swimming pool is 50 meters, with 10 lanes of 2.5 meters each and a depth of 2.0 meters, for a total volume of 2.5 million liters.

Jeans Innovation Center

The Jeans Innovation Center is a specialized facility for jeans research and development, established by Fast Retailing in Los Angeles, California, in November 2016. The facility brings together jeans specialists from throughout the FR Group, who develop jeans utilizing innovative technologies and materials, while also adhering to tradition.

UNIQLO Men's Regular Fit Jeans

UNIQLO is producing its Men's Regular Fit Jeans using technology to reduce water usage from the 2018 fall/winter season. These jeans are made with 100% cotton denim from world-leading denim manufacturer Kaihara, based on vintage jeans styles. The 100% cotton gives these jeans a classic denim feel. The fit is relaxed at the hip with a straight leg cut, allowing them to be smartly worn by everyone. The price in Japan is ¥3,990 (plus tax).

J BRAND Sustainable Capsule Collection

J BRAND, a contemporary jeans brand centered on premium denim originating from Los Angeles, is utilizing this latest technology for its Sustainable Capsule Collection line from the 2018 fall/winter season. The Sustainable Capsule Collection is made with recycled cotton and other eco-friendly raw materials, and is knitted in factories powered by renewable and high-efficiency energy. The collection comprises four women's styles, and six men's. The price range is US$228 to $398.

Recycled Down

UNIQLO stores have begun collecting UNIQLO's used down items from customers. A new system developed by Toray will extract material from down products, to be cleaned for use in new down merchandise. Collection*1 started in September 2019, initially only in Japan, and some down products from the 2020 Fall/Winter season will use this recycled material.

Conventionally, the stuffing in duvets and other items incorporating down is manually removed. By developing special extraction machinery, Toray has fully automated the cutting, stirring and separating and recovery, significantly improving upon the process capacity of manual methods, thus greatly alleviating workloads.

*1: Such down collection differs from donations made at UNIQLO stores of lightly used clothing that is distributed to needy people around the world.

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Recycled Polyester Fibers

DRY-EX is a revolutionary material that quickly wicks away sweat and moisture. From 2020 Spring/Summer UNIQLO will begin to introduce DRY-EX items of clothing that incorporate high-value-added polyester fibers derived from reclaimed PET bottles.

This is a milestone because, while fibers made from reclaimed plastic bottles have been commercially available for some time, it has been hard to produce fibers featuring special cross-sections and fine fibers, owing to contaminants in PET bottles. Another challenge to address has been that plastic bottles yellow as they age.

Toray's contaminant filtering technology overcomes these issues, making it possible to manufacture fibers whose features are commensurate with those of fibers from virgin plastic made directly from petrochemical feedstock, including those with special cross-sections. Another advance is Toray's Recycling Identification System, which enhances reliability by ensuring that fibers derived from plastic bottles are traceable.

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