RAW DENIM CARE 101 

We don’t just talk about ethics and sustainability, we live and breathe them. One way we can demonstrate this, is by showing you how to care for your A.BCH garments, and other clothes in your wardrobe.

Image by Sheree Porter 

11.02.2017

Raw Denim Care 101
Courtney Holm


Raw denim. AKA dry, untreated or unwashed denim. Sounds fancy, but for those in the know, raw denim is the traditional way of denim. You can thank the purist denim enthusiast for keeping raw denim in demand as these days, mainstream denim is anything but untreated. Denim of today is dyed, heavily washed, treated and distressed to give it the lived in feel that raw denim only gets from, well, living in it. Raw denim allows the wearer to shape, mould and self distress their piece based on their movements, body shape and laundering habits. This is our kind of denim, one that will stand the test of time, form an authentic patina and become a loved wardrobe essential for many, many years. 

A little more detail.

Raw denim is a term used to describe denim that is not washed or chemically treated in any way, it can also be called "dry" denim because the fabric has never been wet. Typically, weft yarns are dyed a rich indigo colour, while warp yarns are left undyed or lightly whitened. These are woven into a twill weave that leaves the indigo yarns showing on the top and the white or undyed yarns showing on the bottom. This is also how you can create "fades" and other wear marking as the dye slowly wears off in places of creasing and pressure, allowing the white yarns from underneath to glimpse through.

You know when you buy a new pair of jeans with rips, fades, fold lines and otherwise distressed features? To get them that way, they have been either treated with chemicals (ie. acid wash) or washes (ie. stone wash- literally the denim is washed with pumice stones or blasted with sand) to create "worn" effects. Even lighter colours of denim are a sign of repeated washing and bleaching.

Humankind's desire for the pre-loved look on an unworn item comes at a cost. In fact a single pair of jeans can use up to 27,000 L of water in its production entirety. Workers are also at higher health risks with these processes, for example, when sand blasting jeans, the inhalation of tiny particles can cause severe respiratory disease. The effluents from denim treatments aren't always treated before spewing into rivers and community waterways in countries where environmental protections aren't enforced. While many brands in the denim industry have begun cleaning up their act by using laser finishes and waterless treatments and some brands really are doing the right thing, there is still a lot of energy and water required to make a pair of jeans look trendy an worn in, not to mention the human health impacts that are prevalent in this industry.

At A.BCH, we prefer things to age naturally, like a natural wine, with minimal intervention. When working with denim we also need to actively protect the people in our supply chain from those who stitch our clothing right here in Melbourne, to the premium denim mills in Japan to those who grow the cotton in Egypt. It's not always easy to achieve 100% certainty, especially when the materials lack chain of custody certifications like the Global Organic Textile Standard. Lucky for us, we have full transparency on our raw denim and when carefully purchased, loved, cared for and worn, can last you a lifetime and be the most sustainable way to wear denim.

On to the care factor... why does raw denim need to be treated differently?

Because excess dyes haven't been washed off, the fabric is ultra rich in colour. Unfortunately, this dye can transfer onto other lighter coloured items that it comes into friction with (think white undies and blue jeans, or a tote bag on a white tee). Usually this washes out easily enough, however you may not want to risk your expensive whites in this way. 

How do I avoid dye transferring onto my other clothes?

There are a couple of options. Many enthusiasts refuse to wash their raw denim products at all and the fade and dye transfer is a natural and celebrated part of the ageing process. If denim items get stinky, you can put it in a plastic bag in the freezer to neutralise odour-causing bacteria or do as Levi's CEO Chip Bergh does and spritz it with Vodka. If you must, you can put the item through the washing machine on a cold wash before wearing. Use a gentle (eco-friendly) detergent, and never use a soaking agent or bleach - that would kind of defeat the point of raw denim. Hang it to dry and then wear it to your heart's content, but know that it will take a few washes to get all the excess dye out in domestic laundering. If you do choose to wash your raw denim, then always wash with like-colours or black in order to preserve other precious items of your conscious wardrobe.  

Got questions or some killer raw denim care tips? Hit us up hello@abch.world