Knowing how conventional cotton is grown and denim is made, always-a-better-way outdoor apparel brand Patagonia has set out to change the industry. The company has partnered with chemical company Archroma on a new denim collection, launched this week — which is Fair Trade certified and said to use 84 percent less water, 30 percent less energy and 25 percent less CO2 compared to conventional denim dyeing processes — as well as a campaign telling us all about it.
Patagonia says the “filthy business” of producing conventional denim drove it to rethink the entire process. Typically, denim production involves the use of toxic chemicals and pesticides to grow conventional cotton; dying it produces millions of gallons of wastewater; and jeans are often sewn in factories where workers may not be treated fairly.
Patagonia’s new dyeing and manufacturing process uses dyes that bond more easily to cotton, minimizing the resource-intensive and environmentally destructive indigo dyeing, rinsing and garment-washing process used to create traditional denim. This results in much shorter production lines that consume significantly less water and energy and emits 25 percent less CO2 than conventional synthetic indigo denim dyeing. Because Patagonia doesn’t sandblast, bleach or stonewash its denim to make it look worn, it also avoids the serious social and environmental downsides of doing so. And all Patagonia denim is made with organic cotton, which eliminates chemical and synthetic fertilizers, poisonous pesticides or herbicides. Patagonia® Denim uses an innovative dye process that bonds color more readily to denim fabric.
“Traditional denim is a filthy business. That drove us to change the way our jeans are made,” said Helena Barbour, Patagonia’s Business Unit Director of Sportswear. “We wanted to find an alternative solution to using the standard indigo dyeing methods we once employed to create denim. It took several years of research, innovation, trial and error, but the result is a new path for denim. We’re hopeful other manufacturers will follow suit and help us change the denim industry.”
The Fair Trade program’s market-based approach helps workers receive fair compensation for their labor, while creating better working conditions and safeguarding against the use of child labor. In addition to the six denim styles, Patagonia has grown its Fair Trade clothing styles from 33 in spring 2015 to 192 in fall 2015.
**This story first appeared on Sustainable Brands here.