As the name implies, I AM NOT A VIRGIN uses recycled—non virgin—materials to produce their jeans and T-shirts. Now nearly four years into the business, founder Peter Heron is reaching out to his audience with a Kickstarter to keep the NYC-based label alive.
As with many entrepreneurial ventures, IANAV has diverged from its original path over time. Heron began by making prototype jeans from fabric scraps collected at various Chinese manufacturing mills with the goal to reduce factory waste, but it didn’t seem to be working. Spurred on by a friendly tip in early 2011 Heron started experimenting with a new American-made fabric of 75% cotton and 25% recycled synthetics, including brown beer bottles collected from recycling factories. Although the recycled percentage doesn’t seem like much, Heron explains it’s actually more stable this way. “You need a certain amount of virgin cotton for durability,” he says. “It’s the same as if you were making denim from scraps, the right balance of polyester and cotton will give you a long-lasting jean.”
The process of breaking down the beer bottles to a thread-like material is just about as complicated as one would imagine. Once collected in a recycling facility, the bottles are sorted and ground, labels, caps and all into small chips. The chips are then placed in a water bath where the paper and scraps float to the top and the usable chips sink. From here the usable chips are ground down even further into a fine particle, which is actually the same compound found in polyester. The particle is then melted and squeezed through a high-pressure nozzle, creating a continuous strand of loose material ready to be twisted into yarn, and subsequently blended with virgin cotton and woven into denim.
To show the unique properties of this particle, IANAV has created a limited run of 400 brown beer bottle jeans, stitched inside out to reveal the unique weave. Heron says these fit more like a comfortable straight leg trouser than a jean, as they’ve been washed without dye. The standard IANAV men’s jeans, on the other hand, are dyed a dark indigo and left raw, while the washed women’s jean is woven with 1% elasticity for stretch.
Armed with the knowledge he’s gained, Heron has brought on a partner—Walt Connelly, former executive creative director at JWT and Ogilvy—to keep the creative train moving. Once funded the two have big plans for the company. “We will eventually have different lines of jeans made from green soda bottles, blue water bottles, and my original idea of using fabric scraps collected at the manufacturing mills,” says Heron. “We’re also making T-shirts that are made with recycled food tray (tri-blend black color), clear water bottles (white color), discarded x-ray film (light gray color) and in the future empty yogurt cartons. The T-shirts are super soft and feel great.”
To help support Heron and I AM NOT A VIRGIN make a pledge at their Kickstarter page. For $55 you’ll get a limited edition T-shirt made from recycled food trays or water bottles, for $100 or more you’ll be rewarded with a pair of indigo jeans and so on depending on amount of pledge. For those feeling particularly philanthropic, a pledge of $5000 earns you a pair of limited edition brown beer bottle jeans along with whole slew of goodies like t shirts, VIP acess to future parties and a heads up on to-be-released jeans. While you’re there you’ll notice Heron’s other crusade—keeping the rights to his tongue-in-cheek brand name, which is being disputed by Virgin (they suggest slightly less captivating names like I AM NOT CHASTE or I AM NOT PURE). There’s a petition in IANAV’s favor if you’re so inclined.
For a more detailed look at I AM NOT A VIRGIN jeans see the slideshow.