Retail in Asia


Unspun wants to revolutionise denim manufacturing and retail

Armed with a mission to help eliminate overproduction in the fashion industry, technology and apparel start-up Unspun offers made-to-order jeans customised from waist to stitch.

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The B Corp-certified company founded by Walden Lam, Beth Esponnette, and Kevin Martin in 2015 today has two locations: a flagship store in San Francisco and a recently opened studio in Hong Kong.

Customers can choose between a wide range of denim fits, from skinny to flare, wide leg and a number of other styles, tailored down to the wash and fabric, before using Unspun’s 3D scanning app to measure their bodies. Remote fittings with a “fit expert” are also on offer to guide the process.

Working directly with mills and workshops in China and Turkey, Unspun calculates the recyclability of its jeans through fibre composition, and uses cellulose-based fibres and plastic-free fabrics. The ultimate objective, however, is to promote intentional shopping and eschew fast fashion.

Retail in Asia chats with Walden Lam, Unspun’s co-founder, on scaling the brand.

Unspun co-founder Walden Lam; an Unspun store in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong. Source: Unspun
RiA: Unspun has come a long way since its founding in 2015. What do you consider some of the most important milestones in growing the brand? 

Walden Lam: Unspun was officially founded in 2015, but we only had the opportunity to work on the idea full-time since late 2017, and it has been a long way since then.

Our goal is to reduce global human carbon footprint by 1 percent. To that end, I am proud of bringing on-demand, automated and intentional manufacturing mainstream through a few key marquee brand partnerships, such as the ones with H&M’s Weekday and Pangaia.

Right: Pants produced by Unspun’s Vega 3D weaving machine. Source: Unspun

As we speak, we are now setting up the world’s first micro-factory powered by our 3D weaving machines (think 3D printers but cooler and much more consumer-friendly) and can’t wait to unveil the brand partnerships we have lined up for that.

RiA: How did the idea for Unspun come about? Why denim, and why this business model? 
Right: Unspun’s founders Kevin Martin, Beth Esponnette, and Walden Lam. Source: Unspun

Lam: Observation and ignorance. Many of our close friends have this issue with finding jeans and pants that fit. We never had any prior experience running denim production and had no idea about the difficulty of starting a denim brand. The lethal combination of the two led to an on-demand custom jeans business that is the Unspun brand today.

RiA: Did you always envision revolutionising denim?

Lam: Hell no. Prior to unspun, I worked at Lululemon, which specialises in selling stretchy black yoga pants. I observed that even for such a stretchy product, we still had to combat fit and deadstock issues. We just imagined that for less stretchy products, such as denim, the issues could only be worse.

RiA: How do you define Unspun? Is it a fashion brand?
Source: Unspun

Lam: Unspun is the opposite of spinning and twisting, conventional processes in garment manufacturing. This means we are always mindful about business as usual. Just because things have been done a certain way doesn’t necessarily mean that it is still the best way. If a brand is a philosophy rigorously and consistently executed across all levels, then yes, we hope we are a strong brand.

RiA: Insights on your e-commerce vs. brick and mortar?

Lam: Nowadays, we just show up where users are and work hard to make the experience impeccably seamless.

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RiA: What’s next for Unspun, and how do you see it expanding across Asia?

Lam: Ultimately, we are taking manufacturing close to the consumer with the technologies we have developed to create a new kind of supply chain and user experience. We are first doing it in California but already have conversations in Japan and Korea.