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Blue to Green: A race towards sustainable denim production

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Very few fibers have enjoyed the stellar popularity of denims. From the ranches to evolving into a symbol of youth rebellion to being the forerunner of the global casual wear revolution, denim has traversed an interesting trajectory. Since the early 1900s the garment has been continually experimented and subjected to bountiful of styles, cuts fits, silhouette, etc. The only sustaining factor is its burgeoning dominance over wardrobes across the circumference of the globe, irrespective of gender and age.

But it’s only lately that the sustainability concerns of producing this beloved blue fabric has come to the forefront. Denim production typically involves use of dangerous chemicals to grow conventional cotton and creates millions of gallons of waste water in the dyeing process. A study by found that producing one pair of Levi jeans requires a staggering 3,781 litres of water. With 10 percent of the world’s population currently deprived of access to clean water, these statistics put an alarming perspective on our own denim purchases.

Water consumption isn’t the only ethical concern with denim. While cotton takes up 2.4 percent agricultural land, it accounts for more than 11 percent of the global pesticide use. In addition to the pesticides used in cotton production, harmful chemicals may also be used extensively in denim’s dyeing process. All too often, the jeans are sewn in factories where employees work and live in substandard conditions.

All in all, denim is a ‘dirty business’ with severe social and environmental consequences. Considering this, an increasing number of denim brands are taking the road to sustainable production of late, committing themselves to both the people and the planet. Levis’ Water<Less™ Jeans, G-Star’s The Most Sustainable Jeans in the World, ’ Eco Collection, Nudie Jeans’ 100 percent Organic Cotton denims, etc., are just a few examples of the many sustainable initiatives being followed by some of the leading brands across the globe. IMAGES Business of Fashion showcases some of India’s most prominent denim brands that are making waves with their conscious efforts to improve and change the standard lifecycle of denim.

Pepe Jeans believes that the future of denims is sustainable. The brand has been working on addressing its environmental impact for the last few years on a global level. Keeping in mind the need for sustainable clothing, Pepe Jeans introduced a range of environmentally conscious denims including True-Fresh And Tru-Blu in 2018.

The True-Fresh range of denim uses a revolutionary technology that neutralizes odour causing bacteria on contact, in turn keeping denims fresh for longer. Denims treated with this technology can be worn more often without washing. Even after days of continuous use, the denim retains its freshness. Tru-Blu is a pioneering denim collection with zero chemical washes, resulting in radical reduction of water consumption. This sustainable production process includes natural ozone gas treatments and sophisticated new three-dimensional lasers to create astonishing depths of indigo contrasts on jeans.

Spykar focuses on ethical sourcing and sustainable developments as sustainability is a prime concern of the company. The brand also strives to lower the consumption of natural resources like fuel for energy and water. The chemicals used are bio-degradable and non-hazardous.

Spykar’s denims are produced in a government approved facility. All denims that Spykar rolls out are made using environmentally responsible processes right from recycled cotton, washes that require less water to technologically advance dry processes such as laser techniques. The brand uses solar power and relies heavily on latest technology like laser machines, ozone wash technology and cloud wash, that has aided the brand to lower the material to liquid ratio considerably.

Additionally, Spykar is among the few brands that refrains from using pumice stone while washing, to not disturbing the depleting pumice belt. The brand also has a fully functional water treatment plant which ensures no polluted water is released into any natural water source. The water is re-treated/purified and re-used for washing.

Being Human’s commitment to sustainability starts with their sourcing stage. The brand sources fabrics from mills that are known for their concern for the planet and its people. Moreover, it utilises cutting edge technology like laser and ozone to help it in reducing the use of harmful chemicals and wastage of water.

For Numero Uno sustainability is not just about making a contained range and labeling it as conscious or sustainable. Rather, it is about inciting a real change at every stage of the product lifecycle — from manufacturing to washing and finishing, delivery to recycling and disposal.

Numero Uno has taken real and significant steps towards setting up an ethical and sustainable ecosystem from the beginning. The brand adheres to eco-friendly processes and technology with emphasis on low water consumption, restricted use of hazardous chemicals and good working conditions for its workforce. Adoption of effective technology like extensive use of laser machines instead of handscraping for benefit of workers’ health, use of E-Soft, Ozone/G2, Cold- Eco Dyeing, etc., have helped the brand in reducing water and hazardous chemical consumption.

Besides this rain-water harvesting to replenish ground water, use of solar water-heaters, and energy-efficient lights in the factory also help in reducing burden on natural resources.

Numero Uno has also installed an ETP which cleans water and operates on Zero Liquid Discharge technology such that all the water used in washing process is completely recycled making it a truly eco-conscious and responsible brand.

In 2017, Numero Uno also collaborated with Jeanologia of Spain and created a sustainable collection of denims called One Glass Water Denims, wherein only one glass of water is consumed during the washing/finishing process of the denim. Jeanologia is the world leader in sustainable and efficient finishing technologies for textile, coding, packaging, and other industrial applications.