Wrangler is proving that heritage and innovation can coexist.
The 115-year-old denim brand announced Tuesday the launch of Indigood foam dyeing—a water-saving project four years in the making.
At Denim Première Vision in Milan last week, Roian Atwood, Wrangler’s director of sustainability, discussed the path and the partnerships that led Wrangler to roll out the first denim made with foam dye, and why he believes the technology is a game changer for the global jeanswear industry.
“We can never be too content with where we’re at as an industry and with our technology. We have to constantly innovate,” he said. “And I believe that a sustainability path and an innovation path go hand in hand. Those two things are very synchronistic.”
One thing about the denim industry, Atwood noted, is that it is very chemical, water and energy intensive. The dyeing phase in particular contributes a significant amount of water intensity, energy consumption and chemical usage. “We have a moral imperative and an urgency to act to change this story, because the impacts are significant,” he said.
Since launching We Care, a four-year-old platform that guides Wrangler toward achieving a set of sustainability goals, each move the company makes in its supply chain must be backed up with sustainable qualifications.
“Some of the key questions I ask any supplier when I meet them for the first time is, what’s the percentage of water that you recycle? How much renewable energy do you have? And where do you source your fiber,” Atwood said. “Those are just my simple litmus test when engaging any one individual supplier.”
Indigood foam dye is the product of likeminded partners coming together, including recycled yarn manufacturer Recover, denim mill Tejidos Royo and Texas Tech University.
Wrangler recently introduced the second phase of its Icons collection—a men’s and women’s line that plays off of heritage designs—modernized with Indigood foam dye. By using foam dyeing technology to suspend the indigo, Wrangler is able to replace the traditional water vats and chemical baths of conventional indigo dyeing, reducing by 100 percent the amount of water required to turn raw denim into indigo blue. The new dyeing process also reduces energy use and waste more than 60 percent compared to the conventional denim dyeing process, according to Wrangler.
Having reliable partners that can share information and data and allow Wrangler to make informed decisions that push innovation forward is critical, Atwood said.
“This is the beauty of data and transparency with supply chain partners,” he explained. “The ability to look at data, validate, prove and to understand where we’re actually seeing those savings is so meaningful when we think of a dye range…We are on the precipice of change with a brand-new technology we’re really excited to be sharing.”
Wrangler is the first denim brand to bring jeans made with the foam dyeing technique to market—and it may have set a movement in motion.
Atwood said Indian denim mill Arvind recently announced plans to integrate the technology into its production and that others are lining up for it. Rather than view it as competition, Atwood said wide spread adoption of foam dye is an “opportunity to revolutionize” how the industry applies indigo.
“I wholeheartedly believe that the one thing we’re not competing on is the environment,” Atwood said.