unspun is a sustainable fashion company built around zero inventory and perfectly tailored, made-to-order jeans. Thanks to its innovative technology, its ultimate goal is to reduce global human carbon emissions by 1 percent. We spoke to unspun co-founder Kevin Martin about how unspun creates the perfect pair of jeans, the clothing industry’s biggest problem, and why Gen Z makes him optimistic about the future of sustainable fashion.
Tomorrow’s World Today (TWT): What was the initial inspiration behind starting without spinning?
Kevin Martin of unspun (KM): Beth, one of our three founders, was the original visionary. I think maybe a better phrase than inspired is horrified. She would sit in meetings where the discussion was like “Opt Outside,” “Save the Environment,” and “Leave No Trace,” but in the same meeting they were talking about how donating extra clothes to the homeless makes the mark. they look bad so they need to burn them. His thought was “Are you kidding me?”
She understood that the fashion industry is still governed by sales, profits and capitalism, but she also cared about sustainability. She knew there had to be a technology solution that would eliminate the need for inventory and do what we really need.
TWT: What makes jeans so sustainable?
KM: unspun is a Certificate B Corporation, which is a really hard sustainability rating to achieve. We achieve this by being all sustainable: the real ingredients, the real cotton, how we wash or laser wash our products instead of energy or water consuming processes and inventory.
We come from extremely sustainable partners who have a similar mindset to ours. We ask ourselves questions like: Can we find some kind of bio-based product instead of a chemical-based one? Are we working with fully LEED certified factories? Can we use wires that work great with lasers?
TWT: From sustainability 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 customer experience. We often have people email us saying that they couldn’t wear jeans for years because their thighs are big, their waist is small, their waist and hips don’t match their leg length, etc. they’re in this excluded minority of not finding things that fit, so when we get to make them something that actually fits them, those moments are so great because it feels like they almost gave up before they found us.
TWT: How do your jeans look so good?
TWT: Can you talk a little 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 of how close the pixels are.
For the [10-second body scan], you wear tight clothes and move away from your phone so that you are in full view. You spin around 360 degrees for 10 seconds in a kind of A shape and we keep taking these images in depth. The output of a spin-free scan is a full 3D Digital Twin leg model with literal millimeter accuracy that stitches together all those images and data points taken as your body rotated.
Then we take that 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 analyzes the shape of your body, its volume, the way your curves interact with each other and the style you ordered, and we digitally design your jeans. We do a little modeling and analysis on it, basically making a ton of pants for you and comparing them to other similar models, to optimize them for each unique person.
When we send something to the factory, we go through hundreds of iterations on what should be the perfect pant for you, so we can be very confident that this is something that will fit well with your unique body shape. Those pants will be completely different from every other pair we’ve ever made. Even if you buy the same pair of pants in a different fabric, the pants would change because different fabric has different profiles. The jeans are hyper-optimized for you, the shape of your legs and the actual product you’re going to use.
TWT: How are unspun jeans currently made? As unspun 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 pass that iteration in the app and we send it to one of our factory partners, whichever is closest to you in the world, like India, Turkey and Hong Kong. Garment factories are evolving along with us and our technology, sort of retooling the entire factory to think about orders of one instead of orders of a million.
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.
The second phase is something we just announced last fall in Time magazine, called 3D Weaving. Our machine called Vega is a completely new manufacturing process where all these threads go in and seamless clothes come out. The first product launch of this will probably be in early 2023, and we will continue to introduce it slowly. It’s not just an amazing new fit technology for conventional denim, but a whole new category of clothing that can be faster, more efficient and very local to completely minimize the carbon footprint of moving things. So beyond just great jeans, we also have an exciting manufacturing and technological future.
TWT: What is your biggest challenge now?
KM: Measuring things is still difficult, and it takes time; three to four weeks right now is where we’re trending. Ultimately, we want to make it faster as we can keep thinking of more things you can automate and make more efficient. But many of our customers tell us that they’ve been forced to wait for years to find a pair of jeans that fit them, so they’re willing to wait those extra three weeks so they don’t get made.
TWT: What do you think is the biggest problem in the fashion industry?
KM: I honestly believe that climate is the biggest issue our generation will be forced into whether we like it or not… Clothing is one of the top three. dirtiest industries in the world It’s massive: a lot of it is key ingredients, a lot of it is overproduction, and a lot of it is transportation. I don’t think people understand how much energy goes into making a t-shirt. I totally agree with things like taking shorter showers to save water, but if you skip buying a t-shirt, it’s the same as not showering for months.
I think the apparel and fashion industry as a whole is incentivized to hide it… To me, the most fascinating part of this is how easy it is to fix this problem: what’s best for the climate and what’s best for business it’s the same If they’re making a hundred billion dollar product this year as an industry they’re going to invest in manufacturing and ping pong across the Pacific a few times back to the US. USA they are going to be sold, and then they are going to be burned.
There is an opportunity for the industry to realize that they are going to lose the hundred billion dollars they just spent and that they can make clothes that are better for the earth and for their profits. That’s really where unspun exists and what we’re motivated by: this big climate goal and what it will take to get that snowball rolling.
There is already a lot of consumer sentiment. Gen Z will eat you alive if you claim to be sustainable and can’t back it up, which is awesome. The tide is starting to get 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 e being more profitable, go little by little start to get the ball rolling. Add in those fierce Gen Zers who will eat you up for faking it, and I think we’re headed in the right direction.
TWT: Your brand is bringing innovative AI 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 are demanding in terms of sustainability is getting higher and higher, and consumers want you to put your money where your mouth is and demonstrate that your brand is truly sustainable.
If you search “South America, mountains of clothes”, you will see what really happens when people try to get rid of clothes. Even things that are donated do not always stay in the local community. Often, clothes are accumulated in bulk and sent wherever you take them. The result is these massive dumps of clothes containers that nobody wants… there are piles and piles of them.
I think that the more this linear process becomes visible and the more we allow ourselves to think about what happens at the end of the clothes, the demand for sustainability from consumers will grow and there will be more motivation to change it.
Europe is already really leading the way in sustainable fashion legislation, making sure there is enough evidence that companies are not claiming things unless there is documentation around them. This will be a difficult phase to adapt to the clothing industry, but it will be better for the industry and the environment. It will also benefit startups like unspun that are building core technology to make brands more sustainable in a proven way. I’m excited about where the industry is going.
We tried Unspun’s innovative and sustainable jeans for ourselves. See how it went HERE.
Or try them yourself! Get $40 off your first pair of non-spun jeans HERE