AUBURN — Auburn native Beth Esponnette was drawn to the fashion industry early, surprised to find more waste than glamour behind the scenes.

Beth Esponnette Submitted photo

About seven years ago, she started doing something about it. One year ago, denim unspun’s first jeans sewn from a 3D body scan collecting 100,000 points of fit data walked out the door on her and her partners’ first customer.

Last month, the company made Time Magazine’s list of the 100 best inventions of 2019.

“That was so surprising to us,” said Esponnette, a 2006 Edward Little High School graduate who lives in San Francisco. “That has definitely been the biggest recognition we’ve gotten besides people actually buying the jeans.”

Esponnette, who studied at Cornell University and Stanford University School of Design, said diving into the industry and discovering how much fabric gets wasted and how much inventory goes unused, “spurred me to learn more about other types of manufacturing.”

That interest was coupled with a move to Silicon Valley.

“It’s so inspiring to see all the things that are done here and how much is possible,” she said. “Comparing that to the clothing industry that is running on sewing machines that were invented in the 1800s, why is it that we haven’t changed the way things have been done? Globalization and cheap labor overseas has kind of locked us in. That’s how the whole concept came about: Let’s make things when someone wants it so we only make what is needed.”

A model wears a pair of denim unspun jeans, custom-sewn after a 3D body scan that measured 100,000 fit points. The company was co-founded by an Auburn native. Submitted photo

She founded the company with Walden Lam and Kevin Martin.

Denim unspun — rebranded just “unspun” since the Time Magazine nomination — has two locations so far, in San Francisco and Hong Kong. Scanning appointments take half an hour. Customers choose finishes like thread, hem and waistline. Jeans are then sewn in San Francisco, cost $250 a pair and take about three or four weeks for delivery.

The company is exploring the use of mobile phone apps for body scanning in the future, opening the market up worldwide.

It’s also possible, for now, to visit a Fit3D site for a remote scan, she said.

Though unspun was founded heavily touting ecological goals and principles — material includes buttons that skip traditional electroplating, thus saving energy, zippers made from bottles and other recyclables, denim that uses less dye and less water to create — sustainability so far hasn’t been the draw they anticipated, Esponnette said.

“It’s not something that usually pushes them to purchase in the first place, that’s been surprising to us,” she said. “We’ll be ready when customers are actually choosing for that reason. This industry kind of follows the food industry — people are starting to buy organic because it says organic. They’re not quite there with clothing, but hopefully soon.”

For now, half of customers really like the made-to-them fit.

“The other half just don’t like shopping and they just go in and (say), ‘Make something that’s going to look good on me, I don’t want to have to deal with this anymore,'” she said.


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