Denim 101 x 2 at White Oak Legacy Foundation

I’m a hands-on learner and if you are anything like me, you jump at the chance of a new learning experience! So when I heard White Oak Legacy Foundation was back with their second rendition of Denim 101, I had to go. With industry experts, Bud Strickland, Denis Scheer, Evan Morrison, Jimmy Summers and Suzette McHugh, me and 20 other students got the low down on fibre to finish with the chance to see Hill Spinning Co. and the famous White Oak plant in the flesh!


Day 1 started out with a brilliant and refreshing talk on the history of denim by Evan Morrison walking us through the “Big Three’s” origins and evolution. What I found most inspiring about this talk was the design references and patents from some of the first pairs of jeans and overalls around. Not to mention, Evan had a real example of each design reference some dating back to the mid 1900s! Going back to when the rivet was patented, there was a 17 year period of brands trying to recreate this reinforcement without its use. And as we look for ways to design for circularity and durability, this was a must-see presentation for anyone in the business of making garments.


Next up we had Suzette Mchugh and Bud Strickland walking us through the steps in making yarns. We walked through the cotton supply chain, which you can learn more about in my previous visit to White Oak Legacy Foundation here and stay tuned for Step 2 of the #WhoMadeMyCotton research report launching very soon ;)


After this, we had the absolute joy of visiting Hill Spinning Co., a family run business producing 100% cotton ring spun yarn for generations. Everyone. This place was amazing. We also got to see some of Sally Fox’s coloured cotton spun right in this very facility! It might not have been the most high tech facility but Hill Spinning knows exactly what they are doing. Our instructors called it a functioning museum with a lot of the machinery dating back to the mid-1900s. What I loved about this family run operation was their commitment to making the best quality 100% cotton yarn and the fact that they are happy with where they are at and have no plans of increasing the operation!


You know me, I am always looking at things with an environmental lens so I was thrilled to learn from Jimmy Summers, Chief Sustainability Officer for Elevate Textiles, who walked us through their GHG reduction strategy.


“Our efforts to reduce Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions will also reduce our customers’ Scope 3 emissions. This collaborative effort is not only good for our brands and our customers, but also strengthens Elevate’s joint commitment to responsible and sustainable production worldwide.” - Jimmy Summers


The last speaker of the day was Dennis Scheer who makes chemicals fun. Dennis walked us through the traditional methods of denim finishing, what they achieve and what the environmentally safer alternative is.


Pumice Stones -> NoStone by Tonello

Pumice stones were used to get a faded washed out look, but cause damage to the washing machine, require mass amounts of water, and generate sludge. NoStone by Tonello creates an abrasive stainless steel drum that can be attached to any machine with different levels of abrasion reducing water consumption, production costs, emissions, waste, processing time and manual labour.


Bleach -> Ozone & Enzymes

Bleaching is a step to decolorize denim, but these chemicals cause corrosion to machines, weaken the fabric, and high exposure can be harmful to workers. Ozone and enzymes on the other hand are powerful tools. Ozone is a powerful bleaching agent and require fewer rinses than traditional methods while any remaining ozone is converted back into oxygen and water. Enzymes are also used to alter the indigo dye through oxidation. These are also known as laccases if you want to know the technical term :)


Potassium Permanganate -> Laser

PP spray is an oxidising agent used for local bleaching, but this chemical can cause a lot of damage to one’s health. But, lasers mimicking these wear patterns eliminate chemicals, save time, and protect the safety of garment workers, not to mention reproducible looks every time.


To end off the day, we visited the infamous White Oak Plant and saw two of the old working looms! What a treat it was. Click to view a recap below!


Experience Denim 101 through our recap video here and get the hands-on experience yourself by reserving your spot at the next Denim 101 course on October 25 & 26! Email suzette.mchugh@gmail.com for more details.

Until next time friends, always be curious and stay diligent!