Levi’s Is Using Lasers to Distress Jeans in Seconds | News & Opinion


The automated process allows Levi’s to distress jeans in 90 seconds, compared to just two-to-three pairs per hour using manual techniques.

Levi's laser distressing

Levi’s has a new tool for giving your jeans that perfectly worn-in look: lasers.

Over the past 30 years, the denim brand has created worn, faded design elements on its jeans by hand, a labor-intensive process that required 18 to 20 steps for every finish and thousands of chemical formulations. Using lasers, Levi’s was able to cut the finishing process down to just three steps and dramatically reduce the number of chemicals it uses.

Developed in its Eureka Innovation Lab in San Francisco, this new, automated process, dubbed Future-Led Execution, or F.L.X., allows the company to distress a garment in around 90 seconds. Using manual techniques of the past, workers can only complete just two to three pairs per hour.

It all starts with an actual pair of vintage jeans.

“Our first step in the new process is to photograph the jean, and then we take that and illustrate it in a way that the laser can interpret,” Levi’s VP of Technical Innovation Bart Sights, said in a YouTube video (embedded above). “What used to happen, traditionally, in eight, ten, twelve minutes with manual applications, we can now execute with the laser in 90 seconds or so.” After a final wash cycle, the jean is good to go.

This new operating model isn’t just more efficient, it’s also better for the environment. With F.L.X., Levi’s said it plans to eliminate “thousands” of its chemical formations from its supply chain, cutting the number down to just a few dozen. This will help the company get closer to its goal of achieving zero discharge of hazardous chemicals by 2020.

“This is something that we’re scaling across our entire denim supply chain,” said Levi’s Chief Supply Chain Officer Lez O’Neill. “This is going to be our new operating model. We’re all in.”

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