Alumni set to make denim fashionable and sustainable
Come March 2013, the world of premium denim clothing will grow by one more brand. MeFiver – launched by alumni Carly Giammona ’04 and Veronica Tibbitts ’12 – will have all the qualities high-end shoppers look for when selecting premium denim, but with one important difference. It will be sustainably made.
“The standard process for making denim is one of the dirtiest processes in the textile industry. Indigo dyes – which color the material – naturally do not bond well to cotton fibers, so the process requires lots of water, chemicals and energy,” says Giammona. “We’ve created a proprietary process that uses reactive dyes instead of indigo.
“Beyond coloring, the process for distressing denim to give it character is extremely labor intensive and requires a series of washes, which causes considerable water waste and pollution,” she says. “We found a way to create those same vintage, distressed looks digitally using a fraction of the waste.”
MeFiver, says Tibbitts, has the ability to rejuvenate the American textile industry. The company has gained national attention by being recently named one of the top five most innovative start-ups in the world by Startup Open – a competition held as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week – and featured on CNBC.
“Sustainability is absolutely the future of the fashion industry. This is where we should be heading,” Tibbitts says. “It’s been hard for other longstanding companies to make the leap. They are deeply rooted in the processes they’ve used for so long. Going sustainable seems like too big of a change for them to make even though it needs to happen.”
Giammona began developing the process in 2009, while working for textile giant Cotton, Inc. With their blessing, she left to develop MeFiver, bringing on Tibbitts and University of South Carolina MBA graduate Alana Vaughn. The company officially launched in August, and the team has been hard at work developing five distinct collections to be available in stores come March.
The Archives collection will be for the traditionalist, while Anaglyphics – which will include 3D images on the denim – will be geared toward the more fashion-forward. The company will also offer an Executive collection that will include designs such as pinstripes and herringbone, ROYGBIV which highlights bold, beautiful colors, and a very unique Visual collection.
“The Visual line will truly highlight the digital technology we’re using. We’ll be able to inlay photorealistic prints on top of the jeans,” Giammona says. “This stuff has never been done before. Even our colored denim, a trend that is extremely popular right now, will be different from any other brand. Our dyes will allow us to develop colors that other companies can only dream of.”
The jeans, which will retail between $250-$350 per pair, will be sold at high-end clothing boutiques and eventually spread to other luxury retailers. MeFiver is setting up their office in downtown Durham, N.C., and the entire production process will take place within North Carolina. This commitment to local production recently earned them a $50,000 grant though NC IDEA, an organization dedicated to supporting business innovation and economic advancement in North Carolina.
“Working in the textile industry, I was very aware of how dirty clothing manufacturing processes can be, and that needs to change,” Giammona says. “I want shoppers to consider their choices ecologically and change the way they purchase their denim. I hope MeFiver can ignite a paradigm shift across the fashion industry. That’s my dream.”