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Sustainability in the denim industry! The journey continues…

by Apparel Resources

13-August-2018  |  7 mins read

Arvind Ltd.’s focus on sustainability and efforts to create awareness about the same

Denim is an integral part of the Indian textile industry and sustainability is one of the most important aspects of the denim segment today. Like any other product category, even in denim segment, there are corporate/organised structures as well as totally unorganised set-ups. Overseas brands are setting standards in sustainable initiatives which are motivating India’s popular as well as small brands to continuously invest in ‘sustainable concepts’. At a recent event of the denim industry, Arvind Ltd.’s booth was exquisitely presented with a catch line – ‘What is sustainability?’. Similarly, many more companies have set their focus on the same. It has been more than 10 years since ‘sustainability’ became a buzzword, and denim mills and international brands continue to come up with new and interesting initiatives. But, what is interesting is that the concept is now increasingly inclined towards organised retail (policies as well as market sentiments). Apparel Resources explored what various stakeholders are doing with their thoughts on sustainability in the denim industry.

Jordi Juani, Asia Division Director, Jeanologia

Companies across the globe are involved in the sustainable movement, be it yarn or fabric industries, chemical, dye manufacturers, washing companies, or the jean manufacturers. In fact, their mutual support and collective efforts are giving positive results; some companies are even going a one step forward. Jeanologia, a respected name in the denim industry, for its laser and eco-technologies for fabric and garment finishing, and which is keeping itself ahead in the sustainability arena since day one, claims that its ‘disruptive technologies’ are contributing to attain an ethical, sustainable and eco-efficient textile industry. Jordi Juani, Asia Division Director of the company is of the view, “As now everybody is aware with sustainability as a concept and is trying to improve, so for us sustainability is no more a category. We need not talk more about it as a concept as it is an important part of our manufacturing process and must be taken as given.” He further adds that for Jeanologia, sustainability means that products are more efficient, cost-efficient, and the industry is using the same without damaging the environment. “For us sustainability is in-built. We are focusing on digital garments, meaning using maximum technology in order to be competent, more efficient and sustainable,” he added.

Abhishek Bansal, Head of Sustainability, Arvind Limited

Arvind, India’s most admired denim company has done a lot in sustainability too. Abhishek Bansal, Head of Sustainability, Arvind Limited and Board Member, ZDHC shared that right from increasing use of recycled cotton to eliminating use of hazardous chemicals from textile production to using renewable energy, replacing 50 per cent of the coal usage by biomass, setting up a rooftop solar power, there are many more initiatives which are being taken by the company. “We are moving from linear to circular economy, and industry should look to the concept from this perspective,” he added.

Similarly, other denim mills are also aggressively working in this direction and for some of them, focus is on yarn or even a stage prior to this, and KG Denim Ltd., Coimbatore is one of them. The company has recently come up with ‘refibera’ (tencel mixing wood pulp fibre) which is very soft. Normal tencel is not as sustainable as this one, which is just 15 per cent costlier than normal tencel base. Being made from recycled tencel fibre, it is quite sustainable. Ram Srinivasan, Head-Apparel Fabric Sales of the company says, “Everybody claims about sustainability, but making a good product with dedicated sustainable approach is being done by a few only. Earlier it was like a catchword but now it has become serious business and that too from organised sector.”

Though every stakeholder may be doing his best for sustainability, there are opinions that it will still take time and that in fact, there is a long way to go, especially from the customer’s perspective as still the ‘final user’ of the jeans is not much aware and requires more and more information. Sandeep Agarwal, Founder, Denimsandjeans.com, Delhi sees it from a customer’s perspective, and says, “Yes, some of the companies are doing better but as our industry is very old, as a whole, the industry is nowhere into sustainability on a larger platform. It will still take at least 5 years, and I feel that real sustainability would take place when the consumer can get very easy parameters of measuring sustainability. Like, as a consumer we buy 5-star AC and we get to know each and everything about it. The day the consumer would know how to measure sustainable products, the whole concept will take on a new dimension. It is important that the consumer should be 100 per cent aware of what he is buying but even the industry is still struggling with traceability issues.”

Some of the brands are doing good in this regard like …

Levi’s is introducing a sustainable, laser-powered technology which will let customers customise distressed patterns on their jeans for the perfect pair. There will no longer be a need to ‘sand blast’ for that coveted worn-in look.

G-Star RAW is working together with DyStar, Artistic Milliners (fabric producer), and Vietnamese factory Saitex to launch the most sustainable jean ever, as dyeing process reduces chemical use by 70 per cent compared to standard manufacturing, and the washing process discharges no wastewater into the local environment, with 98 per cent of it being recycled and reused.