San Francisco, California. (August 21, 2015) – Fibershed, the nonprofit working to develop regenerative textile systems based on carbon farming, regional manufacturing and public education, today is pleased to announce it’s first ever Grow Your Jeans denim collection and event. Grow Your Jeans is a collection of men and women’s denim made from organic, non-GMO cotton and Polygonum tinctoria (natural indigo), woven and sewn all within 150 miles of the Fibershed office just outside of San Francisco, California. The program is spearheaded by Rebecca Burgess, founder of Fibershed, in conjunction with a group of farmers, sewers, weavers, scientists and natural dye experts.
On October 3rd 2015, a group of farmers, ranchers and skilled artisans will join the public at the historic Mann Family Farm, once photographed by Ansel Adams, just north of Bolinas, California – the city that popularized denim over a century ago. The event will include demonstrations by natural dyers, spinners and weavers, in addition to a fashion show featuring locally grown clothing. All of the tops will be for sale and one pair of custom Grow Your Jeans denim will be raffled off at the event.
“The Grow Your Jeans event is a celebration of place-based culture and denim that travels from the soil to our skin and back to the soil,” notes Rebecca Burgess, Fibershed’s founder. “We welcome our community to join us in a terroir experience of color, texture and garment creation. A multitude of ranches and farms from this region have literally been hand-spun and woven together, resulting in this collection of community-based clothing.”
Denim originated in Nimes, France and was likely one of the first sources for the west coast denim market in the late 19th century. Synthetic indigo was introduced around 1876 and it is likely that within those first years of scaled production, denim jeans were already being made with fossil carbon derived aniline dyes. The Grow Your Jeans program seeks to divest from fossil fuels, growing its own dyes in organic soil with nothing but sun and careful use of water.
At this moment, over 70% of the world’s cotton is genetically engineered – the fiber system has become wholly dependent on GMOs and carcinogens. Grow Your Jeans seeks to buck this trend, encouraging people to question how their cotton is grown and where it comes from.
The weaving, now primarily outsourced overseas, took place at TangleBlue Studio in the Shipyard at Hunters Point, San Francisco. These weavers work on an entirely human-powered Macombre floor loom, enabling fossil fuel-derived slashing agents and resins normally used to prevent yarn breakage with electric mechanical looms to be avoided.
Pattern making and sewing took place in Alameda, Calif. The fabric is quite unlike the “hard denim” from traditional denim factories, resulting in a unique way of going about the patterning and sewing. The softer fabric found in Grow Your Jeans denim will eliminate preconceived notions of what denim “should” look like. This denim collection is what a traditional 5-pocket jean would look like if it were to be locally grown. No two pairs are alike. The denim can and should be composted at the very end of its life.
“About five years ago, I was thinking about how all the organic veggie farms in my community have their CSA’s, yet those of us who produce fibers, dye plants etc. – we all have to survive in this rough capitalistic economy. We too could benefit from this model of support that these veggie farmers get so enthusiastically,” notes Sally Fox, rancher and farmer. “Should a true CSA be born from this denim project, we would be able to support the unrelenting belief that we can indeed nurture the health of our precious earth all the while wearing the magical clothes it provides us. It is my true hope that these jeans become the path to a more supported local slow clothing movement here in our fibershed and beyond.”
According to the World Bank, 17-20% of industrial water pollution comes from textile dyeing and treatment. North America alone generates 2 million tons of textile waste each year. Grow Your Jeans seeks to educate the public on what our communities might look like if we began a shift to creating our clothing within our local fibershed.
Twenty pairs of the denim were made for this inaugural event and were sold to investors in the project for $2k each. The vision for this project is to help build a cooperative that can continue to make locally farmed denim garments with eventual availability for the public. Proceeds from the October 3rd Grow Your Jeans event will help fund a business plan for this next step.
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Fibershed develops regenerative textile systems that are based on carbon farming, regional manufacturing, and public education. The nonprofit envisions the emergence of an international system of regional textile communities that enliven connection and ownership of ‘soil-to-soil’ textile processes. These diverse textile cultures are designed to build soil carbon stocks on the working landscapes on which they depend, while directly enhancing the strength of regional economies.
As each Fibershed community manages their resources to create permanent and lasting systems of production, these efforts to take full responsibility for a garment’s lifecycle will diminish pressure on highly polluted and ecologically undermined areas of the world. Future Fibershed communities will rely upon renewable energy powered mills that will exist in close proximity to where the fibers are grown. Through strategic grazing, conservation tillage, and a host of scientifically vetted soil carbon enhancing practices, the supply chains will create ‘climate beneficial’ clothing that will become the new standard in a world looking to rapidly mitigate the effects of climate change.
Fibershed sees a nourishing tradition emerging that connects the wearer to the local field where the clothes were grown, building a system that can last for countless generations into the future.
About Rebecca Burgess
Rebecca Burgess is the Executive Director of Fibershed. She has over a decade of experience writing and implementing hands-on curriculum that focuses on the intersection of restoration ecology and fiber systems. She has taught at Westminster College, Harvard University and has created workshops for a range of NGOs and corporations. She is the author of the best-selling book Harvesting Color, a bioregional look into the natural dye traditions of North America. She has built an extensive network of farmers and artisans within her region’s Northern California Fibershed to pilot the regenerative fiber systems model at the community scale.
Jessica Clayton, Coley Glasgow