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Denim makers embrace novel sustainability initiatives

Global denim makers have long faced questions over their sustainability credentials, but recent developments across the industry are helping to show it in a more positive light.

From the amount of water required to produce a pair of jeans, to the chemicals used in production, the sector is starting to make a concerted effort to move away from the stigma it has attracted over the years.

Among efforts to drive change is the move by denim conference Kingpins Transformers to become the Transformers Foundation, a non-profit entity focused on driving change in key areas of the denim supply chain such as social responsibility, sustainable cotton, responsible chemical management and consumer education.

Elsewhere, experts from denim makers have contributed to the ‘Jeans Redesign Guidelines’ to help fashion brands and manufacturers make jeans that meet minimum requirements for durability, material health, recyclability and traceability.

In terms of product development, Spanish manufacturer Tejidos Royo has collaborated on an environmentally friendly indigo yarn-dyeing process that uses foam instead of water. According to the firm, Dry Indigo uses zero water in the dyeing process, reduces energy consumption by 65 per cent during manufacture, and uses 89 per cent fewer chemical products. It is also said to completely eliminate waste water discharge. 

Industry heavyweight Gap announced last summer its Banana Republic brand would pilot the technology.

US start-up Tinctorium is also attempting to eliminate the need for toxic chemicals in the colour production process by producing indigo dye using bio-engineered bacteria. The bacteria secrete an indigo precursor that is mixed with an enzyme to create a liquid indigo solution that can be directly applied using existing denim equipment.

However, while there has been a marked shift in the sector, denim makers and fashion brands must not rest on their laurels. There remains a great deal of work to be done to further improve the denim supply chain.

  • Beth Wright is apparel correspondent at GlobalData.

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