Being innovative and saving water at the same time is in fact possible. Sportswear International talked to French designer François Girbaud about his newest denim innovation.

You’re a pioneer in the world of denim, but also one of the most prolific campaigners for sustainable fashion. What’s the latest in your quest to make the denim world more eco-friendly?
We’re inventing a production technique to save 97.5% water, so it’s essentially a water-free way of treating jeans. In the past, we invented the stone wash to create a vintage look, and to achieve the desired result, we used several chemicals and treatments.  As we know today, the trend really took off and is still going strong. We admit that our experiment was a huge mistake, and we’re doing our best to rectify it, as these techniques are dangerous both for the human health and the environment.

What measures need to be taken in order to reverse “the mistake”, and how is the industry responding to your campaign?
The fashion industry has to change - saving water and cutting out chemicals wherever possible is crucial. Still, very few brands seem inclined to re-think their ways in order to create more sustainable products, and consumers are bombarded with trends involving acid treatments, stone washing and sand blasting. But it’s not only up to the industry to take action; governments should take more responsibility to push sustainable fashion, too.

Moving over to your own work: Please describe the essence of your new denim line, Leg End, which will be launched for f/w 2011.
Leg End is in essence 40 years’ of work distilled into a range of jeans, bar, of course, the treatments we used in the past. In that sense, it’s not about bringing something entirely new, but I’m keen to show that creativity is paramount and that it’s important as a designer to push forward and never become lazy and complacent. Since saving water is one of my main concerns, I reasoned that jewelry is a way of adding a new element to jeans without putting the environment at risk. With each pair comes four buttons, so there’s plenty of room to experiment with new looks.

How did the idea to incorporate jewelry come into play?
Having worked with denim and other types of fabric for so long, I felt that the time was ripe to look into new materials. These days, I find it very exciting to experiment with gold and silver, but also love going to India to source other types of material such as stones and ceramic. In terms of the Leg End line, the inter-changeable buttons certainly add to the look, and the jewelry trend also relates to the denim trend of today. People like Pharrell Williams and other artists from the rap world often wear jewelry with their jeans, but it’s never been incorporated directly to jeans in this way.

How will the line, and your work in general, develop?
This is just the beginning. In the denim industry, there’s a lot of talk about authenticity and heritage, and the young generation only copies from the past. Repetition is not creative. I think we need to look to the future and invent expressions that relate to denim but without involving harmful treatments and wasting water. The use of jewelry and inter-changeable buttons is only one such invention. 
'Leg End' denim line
'Leg End' denim line