The RiverBlue team travelled to Los Angeles to meet the elusive Francois Girbaud. Francois was full of energy and life and truly dedicated to trying to change the industry that he helped to create. When shooting the interview, it was clear to the RiverBlue team how much passion he had for the denim industry and how much he wanted to change the manufacturing process so that jeans could be made toxin-free.
Francois took the RiverBlue team to a factory in South East LA to a factory called, coincidentally, Blue River Denim. The factory maintained old methods of manufacturing denim, such as stone wash, but also some of the new products the team was introduced to in Spain, at Jeanologia, so that they could start to transition their manufacturing process to a newer, more chemical free method of finishing jeans.
The RiverBlue team also met with Lukus Eichman, who is the co-founder of the California-based sustainable denim laundry facility, ECO-PRK, alongside designer Eric Dickstein who the team had met in Vancouver at his denim store Dutil Denim. Lukus was definitely on the cutting- edge of new technology of finishing jeans. Lukus had learned how to provide the faded look through Ozone, similar to Jeanologia, and other technologies that do not require the use of chemicals like the big overseas manufacturers are using. Eric was learning from Lukus some of new ways to produce a more sustainable jean product.
El Paso, Texas
El Paso, Texas used to be the blue jean capital of the world. Today, there remains a small base of production, but nothing in comparison to it’s former self nor the scale of industrial pollution that occurs in Xiantang today. The RiverBlue team learnt that the reason jean manufacturers left El Paso was due to the signing of the North America Free Trade Agreement by Mexico, USA and Canada. When NAFTA was signed, the various jeans manufacturers took their production primarily to Mexico where the labour was cheaper and the pollution controls and laws were much more lenient. From here, the big brands continued to move their production overseas to South East Asia where the labour is even cheaper and there are next to no environmental controls. Today El Paso is a shell of it’s former self, even the mighty Rio Grande was non-existent in places, dried up and gone.