Son sparks recycled jeans store

Owner likes to surprise customers with sales at his Laguna Beach flagship store, which features every style of jeans all made out of recycled cotton.

May 19, 2011|By Joanna Clay,
  • George Powell III is the owner of the new Reuse Jeans store in Laguna Beach. It makes jeans and denim apparel from recycled material.
George Powell III is the owner of the new Reuse Jeans store… (KENT TREPTOW, Coastline…)

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."

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