Friday, June 26, 2009

Denim-The BLUE Revolution

Denim fabric when it was first invented in the west was used more as a cloth of convenience.

From the Gold Rush in the 19th century in sunny California when the miners needed something tougher to withstand the rigours of their hand work, to Levi Strauss, the ingenous tent salesman who thought of using canvas tenting to make trousers, denim moved to France where the French alternative was better and more suitable. Made in Nimes, France, it was called Serges-de-Nimes(cloth of Nimes)

photo:Levis site
The Americans preferred the French versions to their own,but shortened the name to just 'denim'.To get its distinctive blue colour, the inventors harked back to an earlier era.

It was in the 17th century that Genoes sailors discovered that the toughness of denim was ideal for their uniforms. The white denim, though smart, was not the ideal colour as it showed up dirt faster than the sailors could keep it clean.The ingenious sailors dyed their denim blue or indigo
as best they could, with water available on board the ship.The sea, air and weather added touches that produced a light faded shade,which lent a unique quality of fabric.

photo: dark indigo

The word 'jeans' is a derivation of the word 'Genoese'. And so the two abbreviations added up to 'denim jeans'

From Gold miners to cowboys to farmers,denim jeans moved into the ranks of the American soldiers who introduced jeans in the forties and fifties to the urban crowd, turning it into a campus craze. In the sixties it became a protest outfit but by 70's it had acquired respectability as a unisex garment.

To go back a little, the classic pair of jeans as we know it today was born courtesy Wrangler and designed by the Rodeo Ben, Hollywood designer for western movies.
Levis and Wrangler clung to the functional aspects of jeans styling, leaving the high fashion trends to designers like Calvin Klein, YSL, Gloria Vanderbit and Ralph Lauren.

In India, although the denim revolution started in the late 1960's in the form of jeans, it was not the real thing.The only denim available was imitation or pseudo denim which was actually casement or canvas dyed to look like denim. Jeans were either imported or manufactured from imported denim. One of the first manufacturers of jeans- Jean Junction tailored jeans from fabric made by Arunodaya Mills which was near to perfect to denim. But it had one flaw- the material's colour bled instead of fading.Jean junction then tried spraying the fabric in 70's with pigments which proved a hit initially,but did not sustain its popularity since it was ahead of its time. It reappeared as acid wash in Eighties. Arvind Mills and some textiles joined later.

The indigo colour- a crystalline substance was used to dye the wrap while the weft was left gray. It is this crystalline nature of the dye which makes the fabric appear bright even when the dye has failed. The indigo crystals reflect light. Hence even faded jeans look bright and not dull.


niveditha said...

good research work!

nanditha tm said...

thanks nive..

Bharat Ram said...

Arvind Mills was the first mill in India to produce authentic Denim (indigo warp and grey weft). The first lot of Denim, made in India and by Arvind was released in the market in January,1987.This was a 14.50 oz denim with a 7's*6's 64*36on loom construction). The finished construction was 72*42. Of course, Arvind is the country's largest producer of Denim and is the third largest Denim producer in the world.
Indigo is difficult to dye. The dye uptake by the fibre is very poor. Therefore, the yarn has to be dyed 7 times in order for it to have satisfactory dye absorbtion. Since the dye absorption is not complete (the dye stays on the surface of the yarn) it fades easily upon abrasion. Of course, as explained by you, because of its crystalline nature, it does not become dull even upon fading.

nanditha tm said...

Thanks Bharat for more information.

Anonymous said...

good information.