It started with an obsession with raw denim. Mannan Malik wanted perfectly worn-in, vintage-looking jeans–so he never washed them. The problem, of course, was keeping them clean.
“My wife has always had this pet peeve that I never wash my jeans,” he says. “Sometimes they get to a point where they start smelling bad, and she’s like, ‘You know what, you gotta wash them now, no matter how you do it.'”
While Googling alternative cleaning methods–putting jeans in the freezer, or soaking them in the tub–he started thinking that there had to be a better way. Now, a year later, he has a new design: Odorless Jeans, a self-cleaning pair of denim that rarely or never has to go in the wash.
Silver woven into the fabric kills bacteria, and a “nanosphere” coating on the top of the fabric makes liquids or food slide off without leaving a stain.
The design makes jeans last longer and look better, and it also saves water and energy. In a lifecycle assessment that began in 2013, Levi Strauss & Co. found that for Americans, the biggest chunk of the carbon footprint of a pair of 501’s came from the consumer, not what happened in the factory. Washing every 10 times you wear a pair of jeans–instead of every two times, the average–reduces climate change impact up to 80%.
The Odorless Jeans might never have to be washed, or at most, a few times a year. “You can wear it for months without a wash,” says Malik. That also obviously saves water; on average, a pair of jeans might use 3,800 liters of water throughout its life.
Some criticize new silver-implanted anti-odor clothing because it could potentially harm marine life if tiny particles of silver wash down the drain in a laundry machine. But Malik points out that if you’re washing the jeans, you’re doing it wrong.
“I’ve researched the environmental side of it,” he says. “But the whole concept behind this is not to wash your items. You’re basically defeating the purpose if you’re going to start putting it in the washing machine.”
The key, he says, is to teach consumers that they don’t have to treat the jeans the way they’d treat normal clothing. “Awareness needs to be created when someone buys it that this is a self-cleaning item that you don’t need to worry about.”
Malik, who has a day job as a financial analyst, spent months perfecting the design and has partnered with a friend in Pakistan to find a factory that could handle the complex machinery needed to make the jeans. He plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign this fall.