Down by the railroad tracks in the gentrifying Journal Square neighborhood of Jersey City is a somewhat hidden gem for denim mavens and companies just across the river from New York’s fashion center.
Bill Curtin has built BPD Washhouse into a product development hub, testing ground and training center for denim and non-denim brands, designers, retailers and startups.
“Our main focus here is development,” said Curtin, in an interview at the 6,000-square-foot facility. “We want to take what’s in a designer’s head and get in on a pair of jeans or a garment. We want to be useful to the designer. If someone comes in here and they don’t know exactly what they want, we need to extract that. We’re here not just to execute, but to understand what they want.”
During a tour of the inside and outside of the washhouse, Curtin pointed out the old location across the freight tracks where BPD was before moving in September to the current larger facility. Curtin noted that he’s just repainted all the walls white and is in the process of re-opening windows that had been covered over to bring light into building. Other refurbishments are being planned, as well.
“We’re the only facility on the East Coast that can do wet and dry processing on denim,” Curtin said. “Our main focus is taking a raw denim jean and turning it into their vision, their tear sheet or their 3D sample.”
An offshoot of that and “what we’re known for is being innovative when it comes to these denim processes and turning them onto non-denim,” Curtin said.
That includes wet and dry processing leather jackets, accessories, shoe, knits or woven fabrics that aren’t indigo.
“Secondly, we are so close to New York City and the accounts that if there’s an emergency–someone’s hair is always on fire in fashion–we can react to that and say ‘Ok, you want to come to the front of the line, there’s a little extra charge, but we can make sure you get want you need Monday morning and have it set up for you.’ We want to become useful to them and be able to deliver what they’re looking for from the aspect of timing and execution.”
Among the myriad of BPD’s dry processing capabilities are hand-sanding, 3D whiskers, 3D application, grinding and destroy.
“Destroy is huge right now,” he said. “When it comes to destroy, you can’t get two people in the same room to tell you want they like. It’s so diverse and has so many aspects to it and is so time consuming, but it’s peaking right now.”
On the flip side is wet processing, where BPD can do stonewashing, enzyme washing, overdyeing, tinting, garment dye, lab dipping and any process that involves color.
“Right now color is very big in denim, where you have PFD (Prepared for Dyeing) denim, which is basically white denim that gets overdyed. And you have piece-dyed denim and non-denim for casual product,” he explained.
“We don’t get into dyeing polyester, unless it’s just minimal content,” he said.
On top of the core product development business, BPD had several other aspects.
“For some of the big brands in New York City we do what we call a rescue program, where we can take samples that need to be redone, and everything we do formula-wise is transparent and transferable,” Curtin said. “There’s no secret formula and what we do can be accessed in any global supply chain. When you come out of here, you have your 3D sample and you have your formula at the same price.”
Then there are smaller, local companies that rent out the facility on a day fee and do all their development for the season. In addition, BPD works with designers on conceptual runway pieces.
BPD also reps some mills to not just make connections from a sales standpoint, but to do product development and sampling to be useful to the mill and the brand.
“We’re not looking to be a production facility,” Curtin added. “Occasionally, we’ll do some mini-production on a capsule collection. And if someone says we have 400 T-shirts they want to garment dye, we can do that.”
For some brands, BPD has consulting contracts and it helps direct their overall processing, traveling to the countries where they have production to facilitate that end and act as a go-between technically between the brands and the factory.
“If we solve one major problem that doesn’t go into the stores and have to be returned to the vendor, then the expense of using someone like us is minimal and the investment pays off in spades because they avert disaster,” Curtin said.