Denim manufacturing is known for producing iconic, must-have products grounded in an ‘everyman’ , unpretentious sensibility. In reality, denim manufacturing has a deadly reputation when the focus is sustainability and being good stewards of the environment.
US jeans brand Wrangler is determined to change the anti-environmental reality of denim manufacturing and especially creating excessive levels of water waste.
Wrangler’s corporate parents Kontoor Brands have partnered with Texas Tech University (TTU) and the Valencia-based fabric mill Tejidos Royo to create a foam-dyed, water-free process, eliminating the waste generated from the traditional dyeing processes.
The present method of dying denim uses a repetitive dip-and-dry method to transfer indigo on to yarn. As many as 12 vats of water are used in the dying process, each containing thousands of gallons of water.
Roian Atwood, senior director of global sustainable business at Kontoor Brands, describes the new Indigood process in which foam created from a chemical-free soap agent transfers indigo dye on to yarns in an oxygen-deprived environment sealed by a nitrogen hood.
The foam dye isn’t the only part of this process that’s sustainably minded. The yarn in this fabric is sourced from Hilaturas Ferre, another Spanish company that specializes in premium upcycled and postconsumer materials; almost a third of each Indigood Icons product is made from recycled cotton. Once it goes through the dyeing process at Tejidos Royo, it’s sent to Tunisia, where it’s washed and finished using energy-efficient systems from Jeanology, which include laser, ozone, and nanobubble technologies, writes Glamour.
Atwood says that the technology has been in development for a decade and has only reached the depth of color for indigo denim in the past three years. The “elegant one-process step” of dying the yarns “removes 100% of water from the dye process” as well as reducing energy and waste by 60% each.
“We want this to be adopted by as many brands as possible because it transforms our industry,” says Atwood. While water is still required to grow the cotton yarn in the first place, the brand says it has partnered with several organisations – including the Soil Health Institute and Cotton Connect – to help farmers adopt best practices. The pieces in its first collection using the technology are made from up to 30% recycled cotton. It is a case, says Atwood, of not waiting to be 100%, but to take small steps.
The Indigood™ products will initially be featured in the ICONS Collection, giving consumers access to the Wrangler brand's most iconic products with the highest level of sustainability available on the denim market today. The debut capsule collection is available online at Wrangler.com. Wholesale accounts will receive the collection in August 2019.
Atwood explains that the decision to use 30% recycled cotton, rather than waiting to be 100% recycled and 100% sustainably-produced cotton reflects a preference for important small steps as the brand moves forward on the sustainability path.
In addition, with absolutely no compromise to quality, the Indigood™ products incorporate recycled cotton, laser finishing and ozone finishing. The collection includes both male and female jeans, shirts and jackets in two distinct denim shades: Good Day (light) and Good Night (dark).
The launch of Indigood™ demonstrates the Wrangler brand's continued commitment to sustainability, reflected in the brand’s global sustainability goals, which include:
Conserving 5.5 billion liters of water at owned and operated facilities by 2020;
Using 100% preferred chemistry throughout our supply chain by 2020;
Powering all owned and operated facilities with 100% renewable electricity by 2025; and,
Sourcing 100% sustainable cotton by 2025.