Denim Mills Focus on Sustainable Innovations at Munich Fabric Start

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Global denim mills exhibiting at Munich Fabric Start (Jan. 31-Feb. 2) presented Spring/Summer 2018 collections and innovations tailor-made for the show's eco-conscious German and Northern Europe buyers.

From reinventing traditional dyeing and recycling processes to working toward zero water denim, here's a look at how four denim mills are enhancing their sustainable efforts in the upcoming season.

Orta

Orta aims to end the debate about whether recycled denim can look good with the launch of the Recycled Collection. Made at its Bahrain facility, the line of fabrics uses Filatures du Parc's patented technology that preserves the length of recycled fibres, resulting in stronger and better quality yarns. Orta presented the concept with deconstructed boyfriend jeans and a trendy hashtag jumper dress.

"Sustainability is for the next generation," said Eric Gunzle, Filatures du Parc marketing manager. With countries like Germany, Norway and Finland specifically asking for recycled and sustainable fibres, Gunzle believes it will only be a matter of time for interest to spread to other regions of the world.

Filatures du Parc's patented process starts with the consumer. Recycled fibres are made from post-consumer denim collected through the Orta's European retail partners. Jeans are sorted according to shade and reduced back to fibre by Filatures du Parc. The France-based spinner blends the recycled fibre with PET, or recycled polyester fibre made from plastic bottles. Gunzle says the end product is made with approximately 50% recycled denim and 50% PET.

Berto

Berto presented Sky & Blue, a line that showcases its new Greenpeace Detox-approved dyeing processes. The Italian mill developed new dyeing systems that can achieve intense casts that are still easy to wash.

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The dyes, Sky and Blue, require a lower number of dyeing tanks. With the tagline, 'A new era of indigo,' the dyes require less consumption of H20 and electricity, and less treatments on the garments. The result is denim in a broad range of colours from light blue to black/gray.

Despite paying homage to its past with collections like Heritage Rewind, which spotlights heavy fabrics in 70s shades, and its 130th anniversary collection with Ma Va', Berto continues to amplify its forward-thinking sustainable supply chain. The mill says being an "eco-sustainable company is not an arrival point, but a shared value."

The mill's eco efforts starts with BCI Cotton, organic cotton and econyl yarns. Its dyeing process uses reduced amounts of water and energy, while its weaving procedures require significant reduction of energy and water consumption and reduces CO2 emissions by 20%. Berto's finishing processes also cuts down CO2 by half, requiring less energy, water and chemical substances than traditional finishing processes.

Bossa

Turkey-based mill, Bossa, is taking a multi-prong approach to sustainability. In addition to increasing its commitment to BCI cotton from 35% of its total cotton consumption in 2016 to 6% in 2017, the mill spotlighted three new eco projects at Bluezone.

In an effort to reduce water usage in textile processing, the mill presented Dye Art, a process that Birim Atagan, Bossa public relations manager, says completely changes the way fabric is dyed. The ecological dyeing process uses less water and therefore, requires less amount of energy consumption. The resulting look is a bright colour reminiscent of old Levi's. The mill plans to expand the Dye Art's colour palette to appeal to a broader range of customers.

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Working toward zero water, Bossa touted Save Blue, a new effort to alter conventional equipment and recycling systems. By using special techniques in dyeing and finishing processes, Save Blue does exactly what its name describes – saves 23 litres of water in the dyeing of 1 square metre of denim.

On the fibre technology side, the mill spotlighted Sustans, a new generation of elastic staple fibre made from DuPont Sorona PTT polymer. The polymer is made with bio-based ingredients instead of petrochemicals, eliminating the dependence on fossil fuels. Sustans' unique molecular structure provides comfortable stretch and recovery (low growth, shrinkage and less puckering) even after multiple wears.

Candiani

In true Italian style, Candiani believes "good ingredients make a good denim." The mill shared how its special ingredient, Kitotex, and its smart dyeing technique, Indigo Juice, can combine to clean up conventional denim making.

Coined as "Save the Water Kitotex," the patented ingredient is sourced from Chitosan, a natural polymer derived by recycling the exoskeleton of shrimp or food industry byproduct. The polymer boasts sustainable benefits for the fabric production process and health benefits for the end user.

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Kitotex replaces PVA and other harmful pollutants. Candiani uses the polymer as an ingredient in the dyeing and finishing process, allowing the mill to cut down on water and chemicals and to operate at lower temperatures. The substance is biodegradable and after the production process, it can help purify discharge water. For the consumer, Kitotex offers anti-bacterial, ant-static and anti-mite benefits.

The second ingredient in Candiani's sustainable story, Indigo Juice, reduces the consumption of water, chemicals and energy in the laundry process. During the dyeing process, the mills keeps the indigo superficial on the yarn, meaning once the jeans are washed in the laundry, it takes only a small amount of water and energy to wash down. Indigo Juice can be used with sustainable laundry treatments, including laser, ozone and ice.

Together, Candiani says one pair of jeans made with Kitotex and Indigo Juice requires 75% less water than conventional denim fabric and 65% fewer chemicals. During the washing process, Kitotex and Indigo Juice denim consumes 60% fewer chemicals and 83% less water than conventional denim jeans that looked the exact same.   

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