Interviews Men’s Fashion

FOOLPROOF Denim by 7 For All Mankind: Unshrinkable Jeans


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7 For All Mankind designer Steve Romero and president Barry Miguel; image courtesy 7 For All Mankind

The challenge was simple: make a pair of jeans that don’t shrink in the dryer. Because you know how jeans are, right? You wash and dry them, they get tighter.

That shrinkage, however endemic though it would seem to all cotton-based garments, was unacceptable for 7 For All Mankind designer Steve Romero and president Barry Miguel.

Two years later—20 prototypes, 150+ dryer trials and 1 winning recipe for the weave and the yarn—enter FOOLPROOF Denim, 7 For All Mankind’s newest innovation.

We got on the horn with Miguel for a FOOLPROOF overview and with Romero for a drilled-down conversation about what they’re calling the best denim ever.

Shop: 7 For All Mankind

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Barry Miguel

Nordstrom blogs: Where did the idea for FOOLPROOF Denim originate?

Barry Miguel: The focus of the company at 7 For All Mankind is innovation, and bringing the best product to the customer is what we strive for every day. We ask ourselves often about what the consumer wants, or maybe doesn’t even know they want. FOOLPROOF began with the question: What’s the ultimate everyday jean for a guy? We talked about a regular guy who wants to throw his jeans in the wash, in the dryer, put them on, and the jeans are exactly the same. They don’t shrink. They don’t stretch out. They don’t change.

It’s true, I think people can relate: jeans fresh out of the dryer are tighter.

They’re tighter. You put them on and they’re not comfortable for the first few hours. And possibly by the end of the day, they’re too baggy. We launched our Luxe Performance jeans a few years ago, which has become a very successful franchise for us, based on the consumer insight that guys want incredible retention and incredible comfort. When you get on an airplane, and when you get off the airplane, you were comfortable the whole time and the jeans look exactly the same. With Luxe Performance, our insight was more about comfort. Now it’s about fit. You may want to own a pair of each.

An airplane is such a good scenario to evaluate jeans.

It really is. Some men may want to fly in sweatpants. And, you know, that’s a choice. But for a lot of men, they’re going to meetings straight from the plane or doing something semiofficial. And you’re trapped up there in the plane. You need to think about how this is going to work for you. What’s comfortable? What looks good?

 

Steve Romero

OK, why don’t these jeans shrink?

Steve Romero: It’s a combination of four elements: unique, tight weave; exclusive machinery; the most advanced fibers used in a unique way; and custom finishing.

Let’s get into what those things mean. What’s the process at the end?

I can’t tell you too much. It’s done by one place right now. It’s a finishing process at the end. Sometimes finishing uses chemicals, but this one doesn’t. It’s about relaxing the fabric.

What about the weave? What if someone steals your weave?

You really can’t because you need all four elements to make FOOLPROOF work. But to explain, the tighter the weave, the better recovery you have. That’s the first step for us, to get that tight weave.

Is that what causes jeans to lose shape, the weave is too loose?

Pretty much you lose shape with jeans from constant wear. And the washing and drying, which usually causes them to shrink. Cotton is a natural fiber, so it contracts with heat and water. And so the looser the weave, the more chance you’ll have of your jeans losing their shape.

Over the course of developing FOOLPROOF, how many iterations were created before the winning formula was crowned king?

We had to go through 20 iterations. Playing with the weave was important, but how we combined the fibers was crucial. We went through so many trials.

The fiber mixture is a yarn recipe, right?

Right. The mixture of fibers creates a yarn, and that was huge for us. Getting the right fibers and spinning them the right way.

Like, you might have a yarn that’s 60% cotton, 20% elastane, 20% polyester, for example…

Right. And then it’s down to how you spin it. It’s kind of technical. You might have a mixture of cotton, poly and elastane. You might have cotton first, then wrap it in poly, then wrap it in elastane. That will give you a different result than if you’d wrapped the cotton in elastane first and then poly. What’s on top matters. It all matters. Different layers make different results. Sometimes you use cotton and spin it loose; sometimes you spin it tightly. It’s all trial and error.

Are those yarn recipes and weave techniques copyrighted?

Yes, this is exclusive and proprietary fabric to 7 For All Mankind.

How did you know you finally got it right?

We did a six-month wash-and-wear period after going through those 20 iterations with three different washes. We washed them 57 times each, so that’s over 150 trials. It took almost two years. It’s definitely game-changing. At 7 we’re trying to be a leader, always working on innovation. Right now we have future projects up our sleeves, but FOOLPROOF is the best denim ever created on the growth and performance point. They were designed in Los Angeles by me and my team, but there was a lot of flying around the country, around the world. Research and development meeting with fabric people, fiber people, wash people. It truly is the best denim ever created. It’ll be hard to beat.

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