Revolution in Blue
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Perspectives: Denim industry

Revolution in Blue

From the goldmine to the height of fashion: The jeans story is a success story in the textile industry, where they have been a best seller for decades. But darling denim also has a dark side – one that affects mainly the people and environment in the producing countries. Denim pioneers are seeking alternatives, from the cotton fibre itself to 3D technology.

June 2019

From white denim Bermuda shorts to oversized jeans jackets: In early May 2019 the French fashion house Chanel staged the Cruise Collection during the Destination Chanel show at the Grand Palais in Paris. Countless looks heralded the revival that Chanel has launched under its new Creative Director Virginie Viard. She chose denim, the fabric of youth, rebellion and adventure – the fabric of the American Dream.

Sweet dreams are made of this
This was also the dream of the Bavarian trader Levi Strauss, who emigrated to America with a few bales of sailcloth in 1847. There, he first had the textiles turned into durable dungarees for gold miners and shortly thereafter set up a factory to make trousers. With indigo dyes, belt loops and copper rivets to strengthen seams, jeans were born. They were initially popular with blue-collar workers, cowboys and soldiers because of their ruggedness; the working trousers only became casual trousers in 1930.  Eventually, the Second World War brought them to Europe.

Today jeans are a top seller in the fashion industry. Every German has on average eight pairs in their wardrobe [1]. Denim works across boundaries of all gender, age and class and the resilient cotton fabric makes it a popular everyday uniform. To increase revenues, markets are regularly flooded with new trends: cuts, washes and finishes vary from season to season. Stonewashed, used-look and dark denim are the end results of numerous manufacturing processes – but these have a significant impact.

The dark side of denim
The manufacture of a single pair of jeans uses up to 7,000 litres of water [2]. One reason for this is the water-intensive cultivation of cotton in dry regions. In addition, the use of fertilisers and pesticides that frequently end up in the groundwater threaten the balance of nature and thus the livelihoods of the people who live in these regions. Multiple dyeing processes, washes and the subsequent finishing of the fabrics give denim the desired look, but these processes use vast amounts of chemicals, some of which are harmful to human health. Toxic effluents are often the result, and because of the lack of wastewater treatment plants in the producing countries, these are frequently disposed of in the environment. The World Bank estimates that 17 to 20 per cent of the global water pollution can be traced back to textile dyeing and finishing processes.

The premium denim mill Candiani Denim shows that things can be done differently. The Italian company describes itself as the “greenest textile enterprise in the blue world” and has been producing jeans near Milan for four generations now. All the fabrics and yarns that go to waste during production are recycled. 35 per cent of the cotton they use comes from partners of the Better Cotton Initiative. Candiani Denim also holds the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and the Global Recycle Standard certification. “It’s no secret that the fashion industry generates an unspeakable amount of waste each year, so we are 100% in support of any technology that is trying to reduce production excess”, says Simon Giuliani, Global Marketing Director at Candiani Denim in an interview with the Texpertise Network. At the Fashionsustain Conference on 2 and 3 July 2019, Giuliani will be joining a panel on the topic “The State of the Denim Industry – from Dirty Washes to Clean Waters” presented by Textile Exchange. The conference is part of the sustainable fashion showcase Neonyt taking place at Kraftwerk Berlin. The members of the panel will include representatives of Nudie Jeans and Jeanologia. Together, the companies will address the question of how the denim industry might in future realise complete production cycles.

Buy less, make it last?
Recycle, repair, re-use – Bert van Son saw that this would be an important development for the future as early as 2013, when he founded the sustainable denim brand Mud Jeans after 30 years in the industry. The Netherlands-based brand became known for its innovative leasing system.  By leasing its fair trade jeans, the company aims to beat overproduction. The raw materials are recycled and therefore kept in circulation long term. Six years ago, Mud Jeans was a pioneer with this concept. By now, major retailers have also discovered consumer-orientated leasing models. This summer, Urban Outfitters launched a leasing platform for womenswear.  In addition to in-house brands, styles of denim brands such as Levi’s, Wrangler and Citizens of Humanity are also being leased [3].

Is leasing the future of jeans? From 2 to 4 July 2019 Neonyt, the international hub for fashion, sustainability and innovation, will be focusing on the future of denim production with a diverse supporting programme and a curated fashion show. In addition to Mud jeans, exhibitors including the Bavarian jeans brand Feuervogl and the Hamburg-based denim brand Goodsociety will be showcasing their fair trade jeans collections for summer 2020 at Kraftwerk Berlin. Feuervogl’s GOTS certification ensures strict environmental guidelines are upheld, from cultivation and production through to retail. Goodsociety avoids environmentally harmful chemicals in all its washes and uses alternative processes such as lasers.

High performance jeans & digital denim
Innovations such as environmentally aware washing processes are enabled by new technologies. The jeans fabric specialist Isko also is also taking advantage of this and is specialising in sustainably-produced high performance denim that is used outside the usual application areas, e.g. in the sportswear and urban outdoor sectors. Isko has already registered in excess of 100 patents: in the sportswear segment, for instance, innovative weaving technologies are giving denim a knitwear feel. Jeans with a super-soft reverse side offer both comfort and an alternative to polar fleece.

By contrast, the Pakistan-based denim manufacturer Soorty focuses on digitisation. In collaboration with the Amsterdam-based digital fashion house The Fabricant, Soorty has devised a process that, thanks to 3D animation software and body scanning technologies, enables jeans to be manufactured without previous prototype production. This saves time, waste, transport journeys and resources.

The white Bermuda shorts of the Chanel Cruise Collection – are they the result of body scanning? No, not yet. However the luxury goods company is looking ahead and already working with the innovative fashion company Alvanon, which uses state-of-the-art technologies to create individual fittings.  The possibilities of producing environmentally aware and at the same time fashionable jeans that fit perfectly are already immense. Now it’s time for industry to exploit this potential.

#Neonyt #Fashionsustain #Denim #Jeans #Simon Giuliani #Candiani Denim #Bert van Son #Mud Jeans #Soorty #The Fabricant #Chanel #Alvanon #Isko #Goodsociety #Feuervogl #Levis #Levi Strauss #Italy #Europe

Find out more here:

[1] Vente Privee: Deutschlands große Jeans-Umfrage 2015

[2] Greenpeace: Wegwerfware Kleidung. Repräsentative Greenpeace-Umfrage zu Kaufverhalten, Tragedauer und der Entsorgung von Mode

[3] Textilwirtschaft:


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