Develop - what's new from the Alpkit Design Team
What’s so Genius About the Jeanius and Sequence Jeans?
By Ronnie Legg
02, Oct, 2019
Design Manager, Ronnie, discusses Alpkit jeans development and our new superpowered denim fabric
The origin story
Back in 2008, we launched ‘Jeanius Jeans’: water-resistant jeans made with EPIC denim treatment, a pioneering technology at the time. They were a much-loved product that people still remember to this day. We’ve had requests to bring them back ever since we stopped making them in 2012, our big-budget promotional video possibly adding to their cult status.
Bringing back the Jeanius Jeans in their original guise wasn’t that simple though. With greater awareness of environmental issues the original jeans would no longer meet our high standards for quality and sustainability. We needed something new and truly innovative, something bolder: drastically different denim. Alpkit jeans are back.
Design Manager, Ronnie, takes us through the development process behind our new superpowered denim.
Back to the drawing board
We spent years visiting denim mills all over the world, from the US to Japan, trying to find a performance denim that met our criteria. What was that criteria? Primarily, they had to look and feel just like our favourite jeans, with added technical features to make them suitable for the activities we enjoy doing: hiking, climbing, even cycling. But most of all they had to be sustainably made, with ethically-sourced cotton a big priority.
Denim is a wonderfully comfortable fabric; there's a reason so many of us wear jeans day in, day out. To reimagine jeans designed specifically for outdoor use we decided to go back to basics, asking ourselves: why do we choose to wear jeans, what are their limitations, and how could we make them even better for active use?
Keeping kit sustainable
We discounted making waterproof or water-resistant jeans early on. 100% waterproof denim would only be possible by sticking a membrane to the back of it. This would have been fine for skiing or boarding pants but hot, heavy and noisy as hell for the activities we had in mind.
Water-resistant jeans were still possible but new research on the environmental impact of PFCs in Durable Water Repellent treatments prompted a major rethink. As a company we are constantly striving to eliminate potentially nasty chemicals from our outerwear and are aiming to be completely PFC-free by next year. This was a compromise we simply weren’t willing to make – particularly for a product that didn’t really require the treatment.
We are aware that denim production can have serious social and environmental consequences too. We were therefore very conscious that the cotton we used should be sourced from farms that were free from slavery or forced labour, with sound sustainability and water management practices. As a result, we decided to only to use cotton certified by the Better Cotton Initiative™ accreditation body.
Drastically Different Denim
So, what is special about the denim we’ve selected after all that research? Firstly, we looked at how we could make your favourite pair of jeans last longer by building durability into the very fabric of the denim. It wasn’t just that heart-wrenching feeling of throwing a much-loved pair of jeans away we were thinking about: making kit that’s designed to last reduces consumption and waste too. Enter our old friend Cordura®, the brand behind high tenacity nylon 6,6 – a fabric which you might more commonly associate with packs and bouldering pads. By adding Cordura® yarns into the fabric blend we were able to increase the durability (specifically tear strength and abrasion resistance) by a factor of four when compared to regular denim.
Not satisfied with that, we also looked at how we could improve the comfort of the jeans through temperature regulation and moisture management. The addition of Thermolite Core (a hollow core polyester that we also use in our much-loved Woodsmoke shirt) gives the jeans more insulation at a low weight penalty and keeps you warm when the temperature drops. At the same time, the inclusion of Coolmax All Season polyester helps to manage moisture better than pure cotton denim would, meaning you stay cooler and drier on warmer days or during a stiff walk uphill.
To be suitable for hiking, biking and climbing our jeans had to be made for movement in a way that regular jeans aren’t. With that in mind, the final ingredient in this special denim blend is a mixture of stretch T400® polyester and a touch of Lycra®, to provide great stretch properties and prevent the jeans from losing their shape over time.
Designed for doing good things
With the magic baked into the fabric, the next task was to bring the design of up to date and make sure the jeans were tailored for our favourite activities. No-one was keen to bring back the almost bell-bottomed bootcut style of the old jeans! We all have our preferences when it comes to the cut and wash of our jeans, so we developed two very different styles. Both have specific fits for men and women and a host of practical features.
First up, the original Alpkit jeans’ namesake: the Jeanius. In a darker wash, these are the stealth performance jeans that you can wear anywhere. With a subtly articulated side seam and diamond crotch, they are designed for moving in whilst maintaining a modern shape. The men’s style is a slim, straight leg, while the women’s is a slim-fit without being too skinny. This fit lends itself to use on a bike, where the narrow leg is less likely to get caught in your chain, or for climbers who like to be able to see their feet clearly without needing to roll up their trousers.
Then there’s the Sequence: a mid-wash denim with a worn-in look that will develop more over time, and a regular fit through the leg. If ultimate freedom of movement and comfort are your priority, these are your go-to jeans. Looking more like a classic bouldering jean, with a panelled articulated cut and a diamond crotch, they’re fitted looser through the lower leg than the Jeanius. They also have a handy drop pocket on the thigh for your phone, guidebook or bouldering brush.
We’ve included all the usual design details that you’d expect from a pair of jeans: rivets, metal buttons and the classic five pocket layout. We’ve also taken particular care to make sure the pockets are a useful size – yes, even on the women’s! We’re offering Short, Regular and Long leg lengths in both styles for men and women too so you can get your perfect fit too.
It’s been a long time coming but we can finally say that Jeanius Jeans are back!