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In the kitchens of Patine: stretch jeans without elastane!

In our ideal wardrobe base we had written "good black stretch jeans". Which would obviously lead to endless legs, without the sausage effect, and not just because half the team eats vegetarian.
For us, these jeans had to be significantly less impactful than the standard for the environment otherwise it's not Patina... and that's where it gets complicated . Although stretch has established itself over the last 10 years in almost 100% of the denim market, it is impossible to find a fabric compatible with our specifications... Until the end of 2019, when our denim partner in Italy, the one who weaves already the canvas of our Brenda, shared with us her experimentation with stretch denim without elastane. A story which begins a little earlier in a family trattoria where sausages were hung (them again). 18 months of discussions, work on the cut, prototypes and fittings later, here we are: we are happy to tell you the story of Donna, our first stretch jeans without elastane.
Good reading !

#1 Patina, you insist on “no elastane” but what’s the problem with elastane?

First things first , what is elastane? It is a synthetic fiber appreciated for its elasticity: mixed with other fibers such as cotton, it allows you to create ultra-comfortable clothing in which you can move freely. After being widely used in sportswear, shapewear and superhero costumes, elastane made a sensational entrance into the world of denim in the early 80s: the birth of the famous stretch jeans. The elastane mixed with cotton gives the jeans incomparable comfort and elasticity. As a result, everyone wants them and so do we, thinking of the Cimarron jeans from our high school years.

The problem: this comfort comes at a high price. Spandex is harmful to the environment at every stage of its life cycle.

  • As a synthetic fiber composed of “at least 85% segmental polyurethane, a non-biodegradable molecule derived from petroleum”* , its manufacturing depends on the extraction of fossil fuels and its transformation process involves chemical processes dangerous to health and the environment.
  • Once it ends up in our clothes, elastane releases plastic microparticles when it passes through the machine: these cannot be properly filtered by wastewater treatment plants and end up in the oceans, where they pollute. marine ecosystems.
  • When it is at the end of its life, recycling elastane is complex because it is often mixed with other fibers from which it is difficult to separate. In the case of stretch jeans, even 1% stretch will be completely meshed into the 99% cotton, making 100% of the fabric non-biodegradable and non-recyclable.
  • As for its decomposition, it takes hundreds of years and results in the release of toxic chemicals.
We have given you a fairly concise picture (no pun intended) but you have understood, we absolutely need alternatives to elastane. And it is all the more urgent as its demand is only increasing globally #comfortzone.

#2 So what is the solution to no longer using elastane in jeans?

We are not the first (and fortunately) to worry about the problems of elastane and several avenues are being tested worldwide to find cleaner alternatives. We are lucky that our denim partner in Italy, the one who already weaves our Brenda fabric, is one of the rare pioneers on this subject of technical and ecological innovation. And it was by observing a sausage (sorry to our vegan friends but it's for a good cause) suspended in an elastic natural rubber net that its founder had the brilliant idea of ​​inventing stretch denim. plant origin.

4 years of R&D later, he patented an innovation called Coreva™: the very first 100% biodegradable and compostable stretch technology in the world. Coreva™ stretch yarn is made from organic cotton wrapped around a core of GOTS-certified natural gum, itself extracted from trees found in Thailand and Malaysia. Its manufacturing process uses 100% renewable energy and does not involve any chemical components dangerous to the environment or health. Once manufactured, Coreva™ stretch denim fabric has the same elastic properties as elastane but does not contain any plastic material and above all, it is 100% biodegradable and compostable. Tests carried out by our partner ** show that Coreva ™ stretch denim decomposes in less than 6 months without releasing toxic materials, plastics or microplastics and the compost it generates has fertilizing effects for the soil. It is therefore an innovation designed over the entire life cycle of the fiber, in a circular manner.

Since the launch of Patine in 2017, we have carried out a life cycle analysis of each of our garments: we estimate the volumes of water, the level of water pollution (eutrophication) and the carbon emissions emitted by our garment and the let's compare to a standard garment on the market. For these brand new jeans it is not yet possible to calculate them: the impact calculation databases do not yet include Coreva ™. We are, however, very optimistic, because once the Coreva ™ is transported to Italy, the entire spinning and weaving process is local, with technologies that require little use of chemical dyes and water. We are proud to support the development of this major innovation in our sector.

#3 This innovation is great, why doesn't everyone use it?

1. The innovation curve:

As in every cycle of an innovation, there is an initial phase in which only a few people are interested in it before it is adopted by more people. This is the phase we are currently in and at Patine, we are very proud to be part of the “early adopters”. Our denim partner selected the few brands with which he wanted to develop this innovation for several reasons: firstly, the natural gum used to make stretch is available in limited quantities and it is obviously not a question of plundering and overexploiting natural resources, we must therefore agree to produce in limited quantities, and take the time to create a clean supply chain.

2. Accept the slowness, and assume the cost:

Then, the development of this innovation is very costly and time-consuming, so we must be able to assume these parameters. At Patine, taking the time to develop the best materials is part of our DNA. In addition, it is because we limit our communication expenses, we sell directly and we rely on the pre-order system that the costs linked to innovation and development time are not reflected as much. on the final price of our products which remain accessible relative to the quality offered.

3. One creative solution among others:

We believe that it is a set of innovative solutions that will make it possible to replace synthetic fibers, not just this innovation from our partner (and as we told you, it would make no sense to over-exploit a natural resource anyway. limited to replace another). Today, we are offering you this innovation at Patine and we of course hope that others will develop and be offered by other brands!

#3bis Can we completely avoid synthetic elastane?

In a non-stretch material, no problem. This is the case, for example, of the Willie t-shirt knit, or the Brenda denim fabric. One solution is also to source quality, European, recycled elastane. This is the solution we are moving towards for our future small underwear line. Finally, solutions are starting to appear for recycling mixed materials. But recycling won't solve the environmental crisis if we don't stop overproducing. Less and better, always!

#4 Back to Donna: once the Coreva™ canvas is manufactured, what are the steps to arrive at the final product?

  • Once our Italian partner has woven the canvas comes the dyeing stage. As with our Brenda jeans, we work with dyes that do not release toxic materials via a surface vaporization process. The pigment used is also innovative since it remains on the surface of the yarn, which means that less water and energy are used during manufacturing.
  • Concerning the cut, we had a precise idea, as it was a pair of jeans that complemented our non-stretch Brenda jeans:
    • Fitted jeans without suffocation, which lengthen the legs, which avoid the pitfall of the sausage effect (definitely) and above all which avoid compressed ankles.
    • Jeans that even those who hate stretch jeans would love
    • Many of you were able to test Donna's different prototypes during their private fittings at the Studio and help us improve it over 12 months, thank you!
    • Another challenge: this canvas could not be washed with ozone but after several tests, we managed to do it and that's good because this process uses less water than classic washing and it does not present dangers for those who carry it out.
    • We've been talking to you about innovation for a while now and we certainly wouldn't want you to think that you're going to be guinea pigs or that we've put quality aside: before confirming the launch of Donna, we carried out in laboratory several durability tests. We simulated aging for 2 years of use and obtained 0% twisting. During the 18 months that we took to develop Donna, our Italian partner was also able to improve the quality and stability of the canvas and we were able to support them in all these developments.

    #5 Can we see the final version of Donna?

    Just here :)

    #6 It was worth spending 18 months on it!

    Absolutely. We have butterflies in our stomachs like every new launch, but it’s true that this one is special! We've told you a lot of things but we've also spared you some twists and turns like the global denim crisis last September, workshops shut down due to the health crisis, etc., explosion in the price of raw materials... But yes, it was worth it ! Development never stops and what we plan now is to experience the biodegradability and compostability of the canvas ourselves: we are going to plant Donna (we will of course remove the metal parts first) .

    #6bis “Planting Donna”? Hey, Patine, we haven't even worn our jeans yet and are you already burying them?

    Yes, it’s true that saying “crashing Donna” like that isn’t happy. So what if! This means that we think about the entire life cycle of our product: we want it to last in the cupboards but not on the ground or in the oceans. We cannot think as much upstream about the best decisions to make in terms of extraction of raw materials, energy used for manufacturing, etc. and then not worry about what the garment will become. Of course we would like our clothes to last a lifetime but we know that it is more complicated than that and we are responsible for thinking about what comes next: whether it is repairability, recyclability or upcycling. With Donna, we have the chance to be able to consider a new brick of circularity with the questions of biodegradability and compostability so we want to explore it thoroughly :)

    #7 I have another question

    “Does he have a nice butt?” The answer is yes.


    * source: the serious and very complete site Wedressfair

    ** Tests carried out at Innovhub following the criteria of EU Standard EN 13432