Son sparks recycled jeans store

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Reuse Jeans, an eco-friendly denim company with its flagship shop in Laguna Beach, started when owner George Powell's son, Luke, asked him a good question.

"We were taking bottles and cans to the recycling center in Dana Point, and he asked why we recycle," Powell said. "I said we do it to preserve the earth for our children and our children's children."

Luke looked up and asked, "Why don't we recycle everything?"

A partner in a factory in mainland China, Powell produced jeans for Diesel, 7 For All Mankind, Rock & Republic, American Eagle and many other familiar names in the denim industry.

One thing he noticed in the factory was the remnants. Bags of excess denim spanned rooms the size of warehouses. With his son's curiosity serving as a catalyst, Powell decided to create jeans made from the remnants, which otherwise would be burned in China.

Three years later, Reuse Jeans was born. The company uses 80% recycled cotton for its men's and women's denim lines.

The unused scraps are first cleaned and processed, then shredded into recycled cotton, combined with 20% raw cotton to maintain integrity and spun into spools to weave into fabric for new jeans.

It takes 1,600 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of cotton and it takes 2 pounds to produce one pair of men's jeans. This means for every pair of men's jeans, Reuse Jeans saves about 2,560 gallons of water.

Hosting a variety of styles cuts and colors — such as skinny jeans in bright colors or dark wash boot cut with embroidered pockets — eco-friendly doesn't mean design is thrown out the window.

"It's great that you can take things that are normally disregarded and make use out of it," said Stanley Kerlick, a customer from Laguna Niguel. "It just makes sense."

Kerlick went back to the flagship store at 1020 S. Coast Hwy. twice in one week, first to grab a pair for himself and then for his wife.

"A lot of times you pay a really big premium for sustainable and you don't with their products," he said. "They're reasonably priced and you're helping save the planet."

With men's jeans about $125 and women's about $95, Powell wanted to make the concept of sustainability a possibility for everyone — not a luxury. Even though it's more expensive to produce the jeans, he thinks it's more important to get the message out than to mark up the price.

Luke, now 6, couldn't be prouder of the business.

"He's so excited," Powell said. "He'll rope people in here and tell them the recycling story himself."

It's a family affair, Powell said. His daughter Kelly handles the warehouse in Idaho and his daughter Tiffany manages sales. His two teenage daughters Nicoo and Kennedy contribute, too.

On Friday, Powell was friendly and talkative, quick to find something in common with anyone who wandered in. He likes to surprise customers with sales. On Friday, anything white was $25.

Dara Poller, a Laguna Beach resident, was excited about her purchase, a white denim jacket. Boasting a recycled tote and loving vintage finds, Poller said it just makes sense to reuse as much as you can because "we have so much stuff."

Although the brand is in 250 to 300 boutiques and specialty stores nationwide, Powell and his family are looking forward to having a storefront.

"Laguna Beach was the place to do it," he said. "People have said this is the greatest idea. We're very encouraged that Laguna Beach 'gets it.'"

Reuse Jeans will host a grand opening event Memorial Day weekend. On May 28, they'll have a model casting call from noon to 3 p.m. and on May 29 they'll host a live performance by musician VK Lynne.

Reuse Jeans

Where: 1020 S. Coast Hwy.

Information: (949) 715-0473 or reusejeans.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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  • A pocket detail on denim shorts at the new Reuse Jeans store in Laguna Beach.

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