How Jeanology works, the Spanish company that "spoils" the jeans of Levi’s and Inditex sustainably

  • By:karen-millen



A paradox of contemporary culture is that we like to wear torn, faded, aged clothes, especially denim garments. Not so long ago our grandmother (what a scam!) would have sent us back to the store to change the garment for a new one, in good condition, but today fashion includes holes and worn and faded denim as an expression of rebellion , freshness and modernity: capitalism has assimilated the trend that was born in subcultures such as hippies, punk or grunge... or the simple use of jeans by workers, their original recipients.How Jeanología works, the Spanish company that sustainably How Jeanología works, the Spanish company that sustainably

Another paradox is that in order to wear and tear the clothes, the environment or the health of the workers has also been worn and damaged. For example, a common way to treat jeans included sandblasting, the erosion by sandblasting that caused silicosis in the workers, a disease that, incidentally, also suffered from the miners who began to use the jeans as work clothes in the s. XIX, and that can be deadly. This technique has already been banned. In the world, 5,000 million jeans are produced each year (15% ends up buried or burned). Treating pants to give them their final appearance can consume up to 100 liters of water. In the complete manufacturing process, 7,500 liters of water can be spent, according to data from the UN Conference on Trade and Development.

Detail of the brand's 'Smart Lab'. Photo: Courtesy Jeanology

But it turns out that there are companies that are dedicated to thinking about how to treat jeans to leave them torn and worn without harming anyone. This is the case of Jeanología, founded by Enrique Silla and José Vidal (nephew and uncle), which was born in 1994 as a consultant to advise on the development of sustainable fashion. "Since the beginning, the idea of ​​transforming the textile industry was in our DNA, making it more sustainable, more efficient, more ethical," says Carmen Silla, Marketing Director, "we soon saw the amounts of water and chemical agents that were spent on Cowboys. It couldn't go on like that: we needed disruptive change." Thus, in 1999 they became a technology company: there were the solutions.

At Jeanology today they design and produce technology for finishing jeans. With laser techniques wear and tear. "This is how we managed to replace techniques such as sandblasting or sanding by hand, which is very slow and laborious and causes tendinitis in workers," says Silla. Other effects of wear or stone washing are achieved with highly oxidizing ozone gas, which avoids the use of water. With techniques called eflow, of nanobubbles, they manage to soften denim fabrics. The H2Zero system optimizes water recycling. Etc. By applying the technologies they develop, according to Silla, the cost of water in finishing goes from 100 liters per garment to only 5.

How Jeanology works, the Spanish company that Sustainably

“It is very interesting how we bring together people of a technical nature, such as photonics or robotics engineers, with other experts from the world of fashion”, says the Marketing director, “it is the key to the success of this company”. Another paradox: a lot of minds, technologists and fashionistas, dedicated to thinking about the best way to spoil jeans so that people like them.

The company works for firms such as Levi's, Inditex, Gap or Mango. Photo: Zara

At Jeanology they work for practically all jeans brands (Levi's, Inditex, Gap, Mango, etc). Once the technology is developed, it is offered to manufacturers in India, Bangladesh, Morocco, Mexico, those faraway places with less environmental and labor regulation where the garments we wear are produced. “In some way we are like an intermediary between the brands and the manufacturers”, explains Silla. They are present in 60 countries and treat 35% of the jeans produced on the planet.

What motivation do manufacturers have to adopt more ethical and sustainable technologies? “Many times it is the brands themselves that, under pressure from buyers in Europe and the United States, demand a certain way of producing,” explains Silla, “other times improvements are made because producing more efficiently reduces costs. The mindset is changing." Concerned about the impact of the textile sector, the United Nations launched its Alliance for Sustainable Fashion in 2019, which seeks to promote good social and environmental practices in the industry. According to the organization, the average consumer buys 60% more clothes than 15 years ago and each one is now used for half the time.

Photo: Courtesy Jeanology

The pandemic seems to have changed this desire to buy, and the production and sale of textiles has dropped: we have realized that perhaps we do not need to buy so many clothes. During the pandemic, according to data from the employers' association Acotex, sales of fashion and accessories plummeted by 40%. “It is true that production has dropped, but we must be optimistic,” says Silla, “this crisis can also serve to accelerate digitization and sustainability. Being sustainable is no longer something 'marketinian', now it is something obligatory: a must”.

Another of the company's innovations is the creation of a system to classify products according to their ethical and sustainable character: red, green and amber garments. "At first it was for internal use by companies, but now it is beginning to be shown to the client in an exercise of transparency," says Silla. Its challenge for 2025 is called Mission Zero and it consists of ensuring that the jeans industry does not generate waste, from the manufacture of the fabric to the finish, and serves as an example for the rest of the textile sectors.

What if one day they stop liking worn and ripped jeans? “I believe that worn-out jeans are always going to be liked, and, furthermore, fashion is constantly evolving, continuous creativity, with which new ways of treating jeans will be generated. In any case, a cowboy will always have to be treated, to soften it”.

Tags: Fashion trends|jeans

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