Blog » Behind the Scenes

MAKING MORE OUT OF LESS

There are lots of reasons to try and get the most out of things. We strive to get the most out of our day and certainly our vacation. We organize our lives and values so as not to waste time or waste money. We think waste is bad and should be avoided if possible - so we tote our reusable bags and suck our iced coffee from paper and metal straws.

It is astounding how much waste goes on behind the scenes in manufacturing. Throughout the apparel industry, speed and profitability reign at the expense of environmental and human health. From the billions of gallons of water used for washing and dying fabric, to the tons of fabric scrap and overproduction, which often end up in landfills, making clothing can be massively wasteful. While we wait for global industry to develop into a more considerate machine, here in San Francisco we are working with our little operation to design and manufacture clothing in ways that generate less waste and are better quality. 


HOW IT'S DONE

One of the ways that we minimize our waste is by cutting our garments as efficiently as possible, improving our fabric yields. We want a high yield, meaning we use less fabric per garment.

We design our patterns by hand, in house. To be able to cut many garments at once, in a factory, a pattern has to be made into a Marker, a stencil which a cutter will use to cut pieces from stacked layers of fabric. Since a lot of fabric is cut at once, any areas in a Marker that don’t have a pattern piece become waste, and that wasted fabric adds up fast!

We work with our Marker Maker to position each pattern piece strategically to get a high yield. When we’ve done all we can with arranging the existing pattern pieces and the yield still isn’t as good as we want it, we can consider changing the pattern pieces. Ever wondered why you dress or shirt has a seam in the back? It was probably less of a design choice and more of an efficiency choice. When you turn one large panel into two, it gives you more to play with and can cut down on fabric waste significantly. 

Another way we try to reduce waste is to design products that fit in typical “waste” areas. Our Gravel & Gold pouches are an example of this and are cut from otherwise wasted pieces of fabric. 

OH SNAP

Here is a before and after shot of how we improved yield with a little creativity:
Pretty neat. That's how we're makin' more out of less!

G&G DENIM

The Backstory

Our co-owner Holly has always had a knack for pants. Before she signed onto Gravel & Gold she owned a tailoring business where she spent a lot of her time repairing the crotches and rear ends of the beloved pants of cyclists (v San Francisco circa 2010).


Perhaps it was all this time spent on backsides that endowed her with the skill of building such juicy butts into our pants? (well, that and tons of training in pattern-making, fitting, sewing, etc.) In any case, we have found true joy in making pants that hug and compliment while being wearable and long lasting. We are thrilled to have recently expanded our offerings into the everyday appeal of denim and want to share a little bit about how we do it. 




Sourcing Our Denim

Our denim fabric source is based in Los Angeles. In addition to selling their own line of premium denim, they sell overstock from large scale, premium denim companies and mills. Because the more fabric you make, the cheaper it becomes, large companies over-produce tons (yes, literally tons) of fabric to get a better price per yard from their mills. Then they take what they need for their business and sell the overage to companies like our Los Angeles source, making up for that extra money spent to get a cheaper price. So, our sources have a robust stock of various denim and other fabric, available on demand, with no minimum order requirements. This means that we don’t have to wait 3-6 weeks for a mill to produce our fabric, and we don’t have the pressure of high minimums. So, we can make quantities that make sense for us, avoiding waste and excess. To top if off, we’re helping upcycle the excess of large companies. 


We choose to use 100% cotton denim. While the incorporation of synthetics into fabric content can provide benefits like stretch, thread integrity, and consistency in color retention, we are committed to using natural fabrics as much as possible. Incorporating polyester or other synthetics into fabrics can slow down the biodegrading process by decades and decades. While we want you to wear our clothing for years to come, and pass it along to someone else when you are through, we want the assurance that it can run nature’s course; If it ends up in a landfill, it won’t sit around for 200 years leaching plastic into the earth. 


Manufacturing and Processing  

Our denim styles (like all of our apparel and accessories) are cut and sewn in San Francisco. Because of the heavy weight of the fabric and the complicated construction, we work with a factory here in SF which specializes in sewing denim. 



Ever since the California Gold Rush when Levi Strauss set up shop, jeans and workwear have been made in San Francisco, and our fair city was a major apparel manufacturing hub. Levis, Gap, Esprit all designed AND manufactured right here in downtown SF. For better or worse, local apparel manufacturing is shrinking dramatically, and Sky Blue is the last remaining denim factory in the area. We feel extremely lucky to be able to work with them and if not for this relationship, we would have to find factories in Los Angeles or overseas. 


 

Our denim is processed in Los Angeles. You’ve heard of stone washed? That’s one of the processes we’re talking about - transforming dark, stiff, raw denim to something more distressed, soft, and supple by throwing it in a machine with pumice stones. The variation you can get from this and other distressing processes is infinite, but we’re going to keep it streamlined and classic for a while by sticking to a medium / dark wash. 

 

 

The other process we’ve been into lately is garment-dyeing natural denim twill. Where most Indigo Denim is yarn dyed (meaning, the fabric is dyed with Indigo before it’s cut and sewn), garment-dying means the pants are dyed after they are sewn up. The result of this process is something that looks worn in, rather than crisp. We’ll be launching our fall denim over-dyed colors along with our dark wash denim in September. 



Our Denim Styles 


The Painter Pant
We launched the Painter Pant in a blue and white Hickory Stripe in 2017. It’s a hefty utility pant, based on work pants but enhanced to fit and flatter curves. This style felt like a no brainer for Denim. We came out with the Denim painter in Spring 2018 and will keep it in the rolling rotation. Restock coming in September! 

 


The Placer Pant
This is our ode to the origins of denim, an interpretation of earliest jeans. It’s super-duper high waisted and generous in the leg. Restock coming in September! 


The Marram Jacket 
Our take on the perfect denim jacket, similar to a chore coat but with some classic denim details. Restock coming in August! 



SHOP DENIM!