Arvind, India’s number one denim producer and third in the world, has installed the nation’s first Monforts Eco Line for faster production, major savings in energy, and greater flexibility in design and innovation
The first Monforts Eco Line denim finishing range in India has been installed at the Ahmedabad mill of India’s largest producer of denim, Arvind Ltd.
The installation has been made to increase production, reduce energy usage, and respond more quickly to customer requests for specified designs and finishes.
Monforts Area Sales Director for Southeast Asia, Hans Gerhard Wroblowski, said that Arvind’s early investment in this new technology gives the company at least a year lead ahead of the competition from other Indian mills.
The Eco Line, which can handle fabric widths of 1800 mm and operate at high speeds of up to 80 m/min, is operating alongside four Montex foam finishing stenters, which are also able to handle this same width of material.
Arvind is rated in the top three denim producers in the world, and sees further export potential.
Aamir Akhtar, chief executive officer of Arvind Lifestyle Fabrics’ Denim division, said that in India the denim industry is growing at a compound annual growth rate of 13 % to 15 %.
Arvind’s own export-domestic output is around 50:50, but some of the domestic production is worked up into garments and exported, so distorting the figure: taking that factor into account, Mr Akhtar believes that the export proportion is closer to 60 %.
Arvind had been founded in 1931 as a maker of traditional Indian clothing, but in 1984 modernised and brought denim into the domestic market, thus starting the jeans revolution in India. Today it retails its own brands like Flying Machine, Newport and Excalibur, and licensed international brands like Arrow, Lee, Wrangler and Tommy Hilfiger, through its nationwide retail network.
Akhtar confirmed that Arvind stays ahead of its competition through a policy of design and innovation. “We have our own major R&D facility, and we eat, think, sleep, and breathe design. For all this, we need the best in technology. Having been a Monforts user from the earliest days, we had no hesitation in investing in the new Eco Line. Not only does this make us even more responsive to customer needs and demands, and more creative in our design and production, there is also the very great energy saving advantage and tight control over emissions.”
The Eco Line was manufactured in Monforts production facility ‘MONTEX’ in Austria and installed by Monforts’ representive in India, ATE Enterprises Private Ltd.
C V Babu, ATE’s General Manager for Sales at the company’s Ahmedabad office, said “The Eco Line system reduces energy losses and energy use, increases thermal transfer and keeps the drying energy on the textile material longer, so that it can be used very efficiently. “As a result, energy savings of up to 50 % can be achieved. Exhaust air energy can also be reduced to a minimum, which has a positive effect on the emission load into the atmosphere,” he says.
Arvind’s current annual denim capacity is 110 million metres, with prominent products including ring denim, indigo voiles, organic denim, bi-stretch denim and fair trade certified denim. This is apart from regular light, medium and heavyweight denims. They come in various shades of indigo, sulphur, yarn-dyes, in 100 % cotton and various blends. “Denim is a great lifestyle product,” said Akhtar, who himself habitually wears denim to the office. “It is also tremendously versatile. We are very, very upbeat about our global future.”
*This story first appeared on Textile Future
As ‘new consumerism’ sees shoppers’ demand shift increasingly towards sustainability and ethically produced fashion, jeans, one of the worst offenders in terms of human and environmental production costs, will present some of the best opportunities to make a sound business out of ethically produced apparel. The peculiarities of the UK’s relationship with jeans will make it easier for brands to convince shoppers to trade up to higher quality and higher prices, mitigating the costs of ensuring more ethical production.
While jeans have been cemented as a staple garment for fashion and function, mounting evidence has spoken to the huge impact on people and the environment of supplying the UK’s appetite for cheap denim bottoms. Their mass production, which often requires highly toxic chemicals in order to produce pre-faded on-trend garments, has come under particular scrutiny from regulators and organisations such as the Clean Clothes Campaign.
As a result, apparel brands, retailers and manufacturers have rushed to quantify the commercial potential of ethical and sustainable apparel. The greatest challenge has been to meet growing demand for ethical fashion while dealing with the increased material and labour costs of monitoring supply chains and ensuring ethical production.
Value Placed on Quality and Fit Makes Jeans a Stand Out
The characteristics of the UK’s relationship with jeans make this one of the best products to absorb increased production costs. Studies on ethical spending have shown that consumers are willing to spend more on products that provide improved quality along with the ethical guarantee. Because jeans are so ubiquitous and versatile, UK consumers place a higher value on product quality than they do in other apparel categories. While ‘fast fashion’ has reduced consumers’ desire for hard-wearing bottoms, many have still been willing to accept higher prices and remain loyal to brands that guarantee them comfortable materials and a flattering fit.
Compare this to the tops category, where trends change more rapidly and consumers spend less time wearing any single garment. This makes fit, comfort and durability less pressing and premium pricing more closely linked to branding. As a result, it’s more difficult to convince consumers that spending more will bring an added benefit. This happens to be where volume-driven, fast-fashion brands have led and consumers are decidedly disloyal.
As the UK becomes more mindful of its consumption, sustainably produced jeans present an opportunity for players to target a high-profile ethical issue, while supporting revenue with a product that can drive higher value sales. In many cases, the costs of ensuring ethical production will overlap with the costs of improving quality. For example, near-sourcing production may allow closer monitoring of suppliers labour practices in addition to more control over quality assurance.
Jeans to Lead in Fast Fashion Fatigue
Getting consumers to accept higher prices for a product that a decade of ‘fast fashion’ has taught them to buy cheap and replace often will be a challenge. However, led by urbanised millennials, UK consumers are gradually buying into the ‘circular economy ‘and seeking to gain maximum value from less consumption.
As evidence of this, Euromonitor International’s apparel and footwear data shows that after consecutive years of decline, unit price growth has begun to stabilise across most jeans price segments. Notably, premium and super premium jeans have only just seen a marginal decline in price growth after maintaining markedly above-average historical growth.
UK Jeans : Price Growth by Segment 2011-2016
Brands such as Hiut Denim in the UK and Tuff’s in France have been gaining strength as a result. These players source all production internally and locally, keeping their supply chains short and guaranteeing the standards of production. Both brands have developed a fiercely loyal following of buyers who value the ethics and sustainability of their production as well as their high quality. Both brands pitch their jeans as a high value investment, justifying higher retail prices to account for the increased cost of nearer sourced production.
While it is always going to be a struggle to talk the average shopper into ‘breaking-in’ a stiff, heavy 19oz pair of raw selvedge jeans (waiting the better part of a year before washing them to get an authentic fade), high-quality denim can clearly sell big. The success of selvedge lines by Topshop and Uniqlo and H&M’s ‘conscious’ jeans has demonstrated that shoppers can be convinced to trade up on ethics and quality, fueling value-led growth.
Getting Ahead of the Curve
Sustainable jeans have thus far been limited to niche premium brands and high-profile, but small-scale, ‘green-washing’ efforts of major fast-fashion players. Those that prioritize ethics early will appear more authentic than those which seem to conform as a begrudging necessity; gaining favour with the increasingly influential millennial consumer. The challenge will be for winning brands and manufacturers to take bolder steps to make higher value ethical and sustainable jeans a more prominent feature in their product mix, before growing regulatory pressure and consumer outrage takes the initiative away from them.
*This story first appeared on Euro Monitor
What does the future hold for black denim?
At Kingpins Amsterdam (Oct. 26-27), Lenzing will introduce Future Black, a capsule collection that showcases Lenzing Modal Black, the fiber manufacturer’s solution for black denim that never fades.
Lenzing Modal Black is a spun-dyed fiber that incorporates the pigment during the extrusion production process, meaning the dye is permanently fixed into the fiber structure. Even after 50-plus washes, there is no sign of fading.
“Due to the large and growing consumer demand for black jeans which retain their color, we’ve worked with the global supply chain to develop fabrics using Lenzing Modal Black,” said Michael Kininmonth, Lenzing project manager.
Lenzing Modal Black can be used on its own or blended with other fibers to create a variety of effects.
The collection is also the newest example of Lenzing’s commitment to sustainability. Compared to conventional dyeing, Lenzing Modal Black uses only 20 percent of the pigment typically required with spun-dye fiber.
Lenzing research has shown that fabric made with Lenzing Modal Black fiber uses 50 percent less energy, has a reduced carbon footprint by 60 percent, and requires only half of the water typically used in production compared to conventionally dyed fabrics.
*This story first appeared on Rivet and Jeans.
Each Kingpins Transformers, the seasonal summit focusing on the social, economic and environmental challenges facing the denim industry, brings attention to the need for industry-wide regulations.
At the most recent seminar titled “Toxic Future: Is the Scary Part of Hazardous Chemicals On the Way?” held in Amsterdam on Monday, speakers from all parts of the supply chain had a turn to voice their concerns about the mounting pressure to create denim without hazardous chemicals and the rising costs that come with safer products.
Speakers agreed on the need for more collaboration and action, though many warned that in the process of fixing one problem, new ones may be created. Here are a few takeaways from the event.
Alberto De Conti, Garmon Chemicals CMO, said the vast volume of chemicals used in the manufacturing process, coupled with the multi-tiered textile supply chain that involved tens of thousands of suppliers worldwide, adds to the complexity of wiping the denim industry clean of hazardous chemicals.
And then there’s the industry’s “regulatory schizophrenia.”
Every time a new molecule is discovered, De Conti said there’s a long process of regulation, which differs from country to country. On top of this, brands have their own initiatives and restricted substance lists. As a chemical company, Garmon has more than 200 brand-driven lists that it must follow.
“It’s excessive,” De Conti said. From 2012 to 2016, Garmon’s overhead costs increased 200 percent and the cost of compliance grew 1,700 percent.
“It’s not sustainable. You have a brand pushed by Greenpeace, they go to their manufacturer and ask for innovation, quality, shorter lead times, on-time delivery and they [want] environmental compliance and lower prices. So what does the manufacturer do? He turns to his suppliers, including chemical companies, but its hard to provide a low price due to previous cost increases. There’s temptation to go out and look for chemicals that are low quality and not checked as much as they should be. So you get retox—all the measures to minimize the problem creates a new problem,” he said.
In the end, De Conti says it’s a game that no one wins. The cost of chemicals go up, control decreases, brand risk goes up and innovation and quality decline.
“Do we need so much complexity? If the potential problem is a common one, why not one common solution?” he asked.
There’s a lot of BS.
From organic cotton’s “toxic” certification process and its high cost in the U.S. compared with Europe, to the impossibility of using natural indigo on a large industrial scale, Alberto Candiani, co-owner and global manager at Candiani Denim, named the “top ten sustainable BS” he hears from the industry.
Candiani encouraged the industry to stop “demonizing” processes until it has all the facts. PP Spray is only bad if it’s not neutralized, and sandblasting can be safe in the proper working conditions, he said. Candiani’s “worst nightmare” is toxic dilution, or lowering the amount of hazardous chemicals by using more water to dilute it.
“Everyone has to commit to reduce the use of chemicals and at the same time water waste and discharge needs to be controlled,” he said
The Case of Aniline
Panelist questioned the fate of aniline, the organic toxic compound that was a precursor to indigo. While Candiani believed aniline is safe unless the indigo sublimes, Miguel Sanchez, Archroma global head business development of denim and casual wear, argued otherwise.
“Indigo and aniline are of so close together,” said Sanchez. “Aniline is a classified B2 carcinogenic, that means it’s potentially carcinogenic.”
“The idea that something that is natural is safe is wrong.”
Sanchez said there’s no advantage in having aniline content in natural indigo. “The idea that something that is natural is safe is wrong.”
“It doesn’t matter if it is coming from natural indigo or synthetic, you have the same risk,” added Christian Dreszig, Bluesign Technologies head of marketing.
Sanchez expects more consumers and safety organizations to take note of the potential risk aniline poses because information is readily accessible online. He said Swedish children’s brand Polarn O. Pyret examined aniline-free denim from different brands and found that the chemical was still present. “And from there other brands have been doing their own work on it. The link between aniline and indigo goes beyond the moment the indigo is on the garment,” he said.
The industry could experience its biggest shake-up if ZHDC (Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals) ever named aniline a banned substance. “It will change your life in the industry because then you cannot use indigo for any blue jeans,” said Dreszig.
*This story first appeared on Rivet and Jeans
Last year, handlooms witnessed a great revival both on and off ramps and became a major talking point in the Indian fashion industry. The government’s efforts to make Benarasi weaves the fabric of the year contributed to a growing consciousness too. Ecological practices have been steering the fashion industry towards a greener environment. And while one-off initiatives are a boost, there are some designers who are shaking things up at the very core by opting for the sustainable route right at the onset of their careers, tirelessly narrowing the gap between grassroots and glamour.
Designers Mia Morikawa and Shani Himanshu of 11.11 / eleven eleven — the pret label of CellDSGN Pvt Ltd — have consolidated the roots of their brand in the luxury space with an organic method. Their seed-to-stitch approach towards making garments generates human capital, with zero use of machinery and electricity, resulting in the lowest production of industrial waste. “Since the launch of our 100 per cent handmade line in 2013, we’ve been guided by desire to create consciously,” says Morikawa. The brand is now synonymous with khadi denims where the hand-spun denim is made from 100 per cent khadi cotton and is dyed in natural indigo. The kala cotton used is 100 per cent native organic cotton, the production of which is an environmentally conscious process and a viable alternative to agricultural practices that require irrigation and chemicals. This season, they have revisited bandhani, clamp-dyeing and block printing as embellishment techniques while continuing with their ever evolving signature hand-painted aesthetic.
While Morikawa and Himanshu work together to add value to traditions, designer Rina Singh of Eka singlehandedly nurtures her brand by working with handloom clusters around West Bengal. “We have a long-standing relationship with the weavers and provide employment to almost all the families that work with us throughout the year. Supporting them adds sustainability to my business,” says Singh. She does not work with a whole lot of traditional textiles and weaves, but tries to modernise the methods and bring a new flavour to the looms. The fabrics she employs are natural yarns and blends of wool, silk, linen and khadi cotton. “I never buy off the rack, all the fabrics for any given season are worked on at the looms by us,” she adds. Anavila Misra of Anavila, applauded for her immaculate sari drapes just as much as for her saris, is all about fuss-free apparels. She uses fabrics like linen, organic cotton, cotton linen, silk and wool, and jamdani, khatwa, and hand-block prints.
The up-and-coming designer Priyanka Ella Lorena Lama, of P.E.L.L.A, who recently showcased a capsule collection at the HUL Green Wardrobe Week with Lakmé Fashion Week, used indigenous pure eri, aka ahimsa silk, and its yarn waste, noil fibre. For her recent summer resort collection, Maitake, showcased at Lakmé Fashion Week, she also incorporated reclaimed wood work by budding artist Mayank Saini. “The wood is retrieved from packaging used for shipping containers, giving it a new life. It is not about reusing; it is about not creating any further waste,” says Lama. The exotic mixture of lightweight handwoven pure ahimsa silk, cashmere and pashmina is what she usually plays with each season. “Each thaan (fabric roll) is different and some have inherent impressions on the fabric. We consider them to be the impressions of beauty of the human weaving it,” she says. Not only the fabrics and techniques, but the NIFT graduate also incorporates zero-waste principles in pattern-making itself. “Every design includes minimum measurement and sewing but is painstakingly hand-rolled and hemmed, which is invisible to the naked eye. Each garment is made from a single block of fabric with no zippers or buttons for fastening, save for a sash which holds at the waist,” says the young designer.
Craft revivalist and textile conservationist, designer Madhu Jain has been instrumental in introducing bamboo fibre, an alternative textile, in 2004. “Textiles made of bamboo yarn are ideally suited for hot Indian summers because of their breathability and anti-bacterial properties. They are naturally UV-protective and biodegradable. I don’t use factory-produced fabrics, though there are some great innovations out there. Each textile is rendered differently and has its own unique production technique.
For instance, the Srikalahasti kalamkari that I specialise in uses organic raw materials such as indigo, iron rust, cow’s milk and katha (catechu). I have just experimented with it in a khadi version which has proved to be a highly successful line,” says the veteran.
While high-street chains pour with fresh and affordable designs every week, with supplies exceeding demands, sustainable fashion faces many challenges. “The Indian handlooms sector is in desperate need of a boost. With markets leaning towards synthetic, man-made textiles, weavers are turning away from old traditions and migrating in search of jobs,” adds Jain, who is currently supporting 300 weavers. “When you make things with hands and add details manually, you add cost at every step,” says Misra. “We have to partner with retailers and other organisations that understand the what, why and how. Infinite patience and pure passion is necessary to take the slow route,” adds Morikawa. Singh too agrees that it is a slow process but the results boast longevity and she contends that her designs transcend age, race and cultural barriers. “The boutiques I work with across the world are wholehearted supporters of this fashion movement that we endorse. Also, these relationships are not fickle. The challenges in real time would be the weather conditions, the floods that stop the weavers from being back on the loom unexpectedly…the rains that hinder the process of beating the wood used to make the printing blocks…the harsh summers that make the yarns crisp, causing them to break at every odd warp. But we’ve learnt to overcome these setbacks. Sometimes I do feel that our signature style creates limitations for us in terms of our entire product portfolio. But then that’s that! Not everyone gets this language. We might have a less number of buyers who would like to invest in a piece of handmade clothing sans embellishment and frills, but with the growing ecological awareness, that number is growing too,” she says.
When asked at which point in time the whole sustainable shift began in the country, Singh explains that the movement started when veteran designers such as Rajesh Pratap Singh, Abraham and Thakore, Ritu Kumar and Rohit Bal put sustainability of crafts at the forefront of their brand philosophies. “They worked extensively with artisans and craftspeople across India and with the best available natural textiles. The only difference between then and now is that no one used it in their marketing strategy. Today it has become a design language which for me is a more contemporary take on traditional textiles,” says the designer.
As much as there is a shift towards all things bygone and indigenous, there’s also a change in the mood. Clothes have become a lot simpler in form, function and appearance. There’s a growing love for earthy, subtle hues as well as light and comfortable fabrics. The results of going natural have been refreshing as people are now more attracted towards ease and utility rather than trends. The connection between sustainable fashion, comfortable silhouettes and minimal adornment is getting stronger every season. “I prefer zero ornamentation because I feel that the textile that is so laboriously crafted is corrupted by adding five more elements to it. The whole idea is to bring attention to the painstakingly woven fabric, its feel and its fall. Heavy embellishments cannot be sewn on handmade materials and the functional aspect of the garment is maintained only by not machining the textile heavily,” says Singh.
There is a wave of change in the Indian fashion industry, and the most impactful one the industry has seen in years. As awareness is gaining momentum, more and more designers are using India’s sartorial traditions to make their designs super covetable and cool. So be it Rahul Mishra’s Gandhian philosophy, Aneeth Arora’s Kutch-inspired designs on Chanderi and Maheshwari dresses, Suket Dhir’s androgynous silhouettes in fine mulmul, wool and bamboo or Anita Dongre’s Grassroot, to name a few, the synergy between fashion savants and weavers and artisans is empowering the nation. As individuality takes the lead, a new consumer has emerged, one who’s willing to blur the lines between ancient and au courant by passionately proclaiming that we are what we wear.
*This story first appeared on Verve
Color and speciality chemicals company Archroma celebrated three years in business on Oct. 1, marking the occasion by emphasizing its sustainability efforts.
“Even though it is still very young, Archroma has accomplished a great deal,” said Archroma CEO Alexander Wessels. “Archroma is already a leader in driving sustainability in the value chain. We intend to build on that position, making use of innovations we have developed and continue to develop for implementation use across our markets.”
The Basel, Switzerland-based compnay, founded in 2013, has grown quickly since inception. In 2014, Archroma acquired 49 percent of M. Dohmen, an international group specializing in the production of textile dyes and chemicals for the automotive, carpet and apparel sectors. In July 2015, it added the global textile chemicals business BASF. Archroma now has 25 production facilities, including 11 in the Americas, eight in the EMEA region, and six in Asia.
“Archroma is now on a strong top and bottom line growth curve,” said Wessels, “We have been rapidly expanding innovation expenditure since we carved out the business from its previous owner.”
A typical example of the company’s efforts to improve sustainability in the textiles industry is its work in dyeing systems for denim under its Advanced Denim brand, which last year was adopted by Patagonia to develop a new dyeing and manufacturing process.
Advanced Denim uses dyestuffs that bond more easily to cotton, minimizing the resource usage of traditional dyeing of denim. As a result, Patagonia reports it is using 84 percent less water, 30 percent less energy and emitting 25 percent less CO2 than conventional synthetic indigo denim dyeing processes.
“If all the world’s jeans were made using our Advanced Denim dyeing technology, we could save the same amount of water as that used by several large European cities,” said Wessels. “Our Advanced Denim solution is now increasingly being adopted by various brands across the world.”
This spring, the company also introduced eco-advanced solutions in its range of optical brightening agents (OBAs) for printing and writing papers. Both innovations, marketed under the names Leucophor ACS and Advanced Whitening, aim to offer solutions that require reduced dosage for papermakers, thereby lowering their transport costs and carbon footprint.
“It is a misconception that innovation and sustainability need to come necessarily at a premium,” said Wessels. “Archroma has shown that this is possible, and we intend to continue on this path well into the future.”
*This story first appeared on Rivet and Jeans
A real discussion about sustainability in denim is not as simple as patting each other on the back for good work. At the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, a panel titled, “The Brave New World of Denim,” discussed what needs to be redefined, consolidated and focused on to push the industry toward greater responsibility.
The panel was moderated by Samuel Trotman, denim editor at WGSN, and included speakers François Girbaud, co-founder and owner of Marithé and François Girbaud; Peter Frank, product development manager at Nudie Jeans; Marco Lucietti, global marketing director of Isko; and Roian Atwood, director of sustainability at VF Jeanswear, Imagewear and CASA.
Girbaud said that the denim industry needs to stop looking to its past. Though vintage denim is certainly having a fashion moment, Girbaud emphasized that he can no longer endorse his invention of stone washing, which has led to water pollution. He said that he began denouncing the process in 1989, however, the message only began to sink in when Fukushima happened, and people began to realize that we all share the same water and air.
Fabric needs to progress in terms of design as well, Girbaud emphasized. He said that since lifestyles have changed, denim needs to change. Now that people are living an urban lifestyle, the iconic denim consumers—like cowboys and miners—are no longer relevant.
Panelists agreed that consumer demand is key to making progress with sustainability, however, it is necessary that brands facilitate sustainable shopping for consumers. Girbaud said, “It’s really important to create a label or something like this, because the consumer has to know what they are buying.” Otherwise, he suggested that the consumer would go on buying items made with the old “recipe” that uses stones, excess water and chemicals.
Sustainable certifications are also important, helping to acknowledge responsibility. Yet, Lucietti said that that there are too many sustainable programs currently competing. He said that Isko receives invitations from all sorts of coalitions and organizations, but there is a limit to the number with which the mill can work. Lucietti stated that the answer is for the government to harmonize these programs.
Furthermore, some concepts that are already in place, need to be further defined. Though organic cotton has been a buzzword for the industry, it is not as cut-and-dry as it initially seems. Atwood explained that there are different challenges to consider for cotton produced in different countries and even within the U.S. In Texas, where farmers are dealing with water scarcity, they need to work on water transpiration models; in Arkansas, where there is nutrient loading and runoff, they are concerned with proper fertilization.
The Bad News
Recycling old garments to create new ones, or “closing the loop,” is one of the key moves toward sustainability, however, this process has recently become more difficult with denim. The market has become dominated by stretch fabrics, which include non-cotton fibers that are much harder to recycle.
Luchietti said, “I have to be honest, we are still a little bit far from [recycling garments], mainly as far as the cost is concerned because recycling a garment means facing costs that are not competitive today in the market.”
The Good News
There are new possibilities for design in denim since laser finishing techniques have been developed. Girbaud highlighted the fact that before laser finishing, there was little new about woven fabrics. The idea of using a laser, however, is metaphorically engraving into the canvas, which he said will lead the new phase of design.
The other bright spot is that the denim industry is small enough that change is easier. Other sectors in apparel might be too large to be able to convene and innovate, but communication is easy in denim. “The denim industry is also called the denim community,” Lucietti said.
*This story first appeared on The Rivet