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The Design Desk: Analog Design Director Joey Jorgensen On Wheel Wash Program

Inspiration often comes from sources that are right under our noses. For Analog Design Director Joey Jorgensen, inspiration was found right under his board. Jorgensen and Jason Bleick recently came up with the idea to finish their new line of clothes by washing them with used skate wheels, to give them a unique feel, story, and a great way to find a new life for recycled wheels.

We caught up with Jorgensen to learn more about the line, the response from retailers, and give us a look at the product and process behind it.

Analog Design Director Joey Jorgensen

Analog Design Director Joey Jorgensen

Where did the idea for using skate wheels in the wash process come from?

Wheel Wash evolved as a natural progression from the standard process of using other materials like stones to finish jeans. We (Jason Bleick and myself) asked ourselves what could be a unique element to our process that tied back to our customer and culture. Used skate wheels were a perfect extension of that idea.

What difficulties did you find in retooling things to make this work?

The first thing we ran up against was convincing our local wash facilities where we do our early wash development for all our denim to let us pile dirty, used wheels in their machines. We had to take all the bearings out, and luckily Jason (Bleick) who’d been consulting with us and designing our denim washes and styling for a few years has some great relationships in LA he linked up for us to make it happen. Once we got past that, the real question came up: “Where are we ever going to find enough wheels to make this work?!”

Where are you getting the wheels?

The first batch was a pretty low key deal, we just all kind of reached out to friends and local shops and kind of rallied to fill a bucket up and send to test. Once we realized we had something real here, we really started to understand that we’d need a whole lot more. So we put a program together that goes directly to the consumer where they can send in used wheels and become a part of the process through that contribution, they get Wheel Wash contributor tee shirts in exchange for wheels and access to some other cool programs we’ve built around it. We’ve also been out to local skateparks swapping new wheels out for old ones.

We are also instituting a Wheel Wash Collection Program with drop boxes to collect used wheels at skate shops across North America, with free T’s and chances to win more free WW product for official contributors. This program will be rolled out next week…

For people who haven’t seen the product, how does using wheels change the look and the hand?

The process is just like the standard process you’d use for any jeans with a stone wash or chemical wash. Finished jeans are thrown in the wash with the used wheels and it’s pretty much that simple. Things like stones or chemicals are usually pretty abrasive so they tend to break fabric down fairly quick as they tumble in the wash with the jeans. With the wheels you get to keep the integrity of the fabric, but the soft hand of it still being broken in. The wheels almost act as more of buffing agent. Hand feel is noticeably different, it feels soft and almost polished in a way, like you’ve had them for years. Its been really cool to see the process affect fabrics ranging from heavy 11 oz. denim to cotton nylon trunks, a really great, fun R&D process as it all comes together.

Is the Wheel Wash line being made in the same factories as your regular product?

Yes. We’ve developed this with each factory that is running Wheel Wash styles.

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You guys have expanded this beyond just denim to boardshorts. Any other categories that you’re looking incorporating this into?

By the time Spring 12 hits shelves we’ll have Wheel Wash in Denim, Trunks, Chinos, Walk shorts, Woven shirtings, and Tee Shirts. Beyond that moving into Fall / Holiday 12 we have plans to expand into some fleece and knits as well as jackets. That’s the great thing about this process, it can expand and be part of most categories as they trend in the market place and it gives us a great point of differentiation and strong connection between the consumer and the end product.

What has the response been like from retailers that have seen the line at trade shows?

Response has been super positive. In addition to the actual differentiation of the product, the story and the retail marketing programs we’ve put in place around it that tie to the end user make it a pretty appealing package to retailers.

How do MSRP’s for this line compare to your standard washes?

Really there is no additional cost with finishing a Wheel Wash garment other than shipping heavy boxes of wheels around the world. Obviously with denim where we already incurring costs on wash development the retail price wont really vary than from our other processes and finishes. Some other categories you might see a slight increase in price in line with what you’d see for any other other kind of finishing above a normal garment wash. Its another great thing about this story. We’re able to differentiate our product lines with a unique process that doesn’t really affect MSRP.