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The White Oak Legacy Foundation

At the end of 2017, the legendary White Oak plant by Cone Denim closed its doors (read more about it here). With this closing, the industry had to say farewell to 100 continuous years of production of top-notch denim fabrics in The States. An end of an era with many highlights which are part of the long history of American denim.

Luckily there’s a fanatic group of people that formed the White Oak Legacy Foundation, W.O.L.F. This foundation is dedicated to the history of denim innovation, which has emanated out of Greensboro, North Carolina, for over 112 years.

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Preserve Its Important Denim History

The W.O.L.F. continues the legacy of the iconic denim plant and it preserves its important denim history. They wish to serve the denim community as a place where vintage White Oak looms could operate. Denim designers from around the world would have access to information about the history of the U.S. denim manufacturing process, vintage denim fabrics, sources for new denim fashions, and connectivity with new technologies for this fabric style.

They will be an organization that, in conjunction with history museums and universities, would coordinate to preserve Greensboro’s long-standing historic connection to the denim fabric trade, including the history of Cone Mills, and engage students in the business of fashion and sustainable supply chain logistics. W.O.L.F. will endeavor to serve as a resource to companies in the denim and apparel trade.

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This roll of denim was woven at White Oak plant on the loom in the background. It came off the loom this week.

The Mission Of W.O.L.F.

The foundation is working to preserve the history and heritage of denim and jean manufacturing in Greensboro, North Carolina. They formed a group of board members that will run the foundation. Each of them has different tasks to achieve their mission goals, so the rich history behind the state of North Carolina’s textile industry is never forgotten.

The group of board members includes Bob Stec (Chairman), Ralph Tharpe (Founding Board Member), Erin Becker, Jasmine Cox, Mike Hodis, Brad Johnson, Victor Lytvinenko, Cora Outling, Russ Robinson, and Jordan Zimolka (Secretary).

The Goals Of W.O.L.F.

  • Support the preservation of historic landmarks pertinent to denim and jean manufacturing.
  • Collect and preserve artifacts from Proximity Manufacturing Company and similar organizations in the Greensboro area.
  • Preserve and operate a small number of shuttle looms to produce reproductions of selvage fabrics and garments.
  • Promote the proliferation of new manufacturing technologies that are more sustainable, especially new dyeing techniques (conventional dyeing was patented at White Oak in 1921).
  • Promote the use of sustainably grown cotton in denim and work to reduce the use of man-made polymers.
  • Educate the public and interested business partners through tours, displays, workshops, etc., emphasizing the reproduction of vintage denim using new sustainable technologies while still weaving on antique looms.
  • Insofar as possible, promote the preservation of sewn products or textile jobs in the area.
  • Support research efforts of others that are in line with these goals.
  • Promote Greensboro as a destination for those interested in the production of denim, jeans, indigo, and the history of denim production.
  • Encourage and support the establishment of an ‘open source’ denim and jean development center that would be open to all brands wishing to develop products.
  • Encourage the establishment of ‘The Denim Exchange’, a showroom for denim from around the world.
  • Support research on the use of natural indigo grown within the USA.
  • Maintain a close working relationship with the National Cotton Council, Cotton Inc., and others interested in promoting sustainable US cotton production.
  • Support education and research by North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Clemson University, Texas Tech University, Gaston Textile Technology Center, and inventors as it pertains to denim and jean manufacturing.

Follow all the updates about White Oak Legacy Foundation, W.O.L.F. here: www.wolfdenim.org

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Written by Wouter Munnichs
I'm the founder of Long John. Next to running this daily magazine, I'm working as a freelance denim specialist for the industry. Titled as 'Denim Influencer 2020' by Rivet 50. Celebrating my 10th anniversary with Long John this year.