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Why Denim Needs More Components Meeting C2C Standards

Rajby Industries is making a strong case for off-white denim.

At Bluezone in Munich Tuesday, Zaki Saleemi, chief commercial officer of Rajby Industries, shared the process behind developing the first fabric worldwide to be certified at the Platinum level by the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, a global non-profit dedicated to transforming the safety, health and sustainability of products through the Cradle to Cradle Certified Product Standard.

“Beluga Denim,” a 100 percent cotton ecru denim, was developed with retailer C&A and C2C assessor Eco Intelligent Growth (EIG).

To achieve Platinum status, C&A and the Pakistan denim mill based in Karachi teamed up to research and identify the most suitable materials and chemicals for the fabric. The resulting denim is optimized for material health–including the use of Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)-certified organic cotton fiber–made with 100 percent rapidly renewable resources.

The fully recyclable denim is also produced using a closed-loop process water system and is 100 percent carbon neutral in the manufacturing stage. EIG collaborated with MBDC on the material health assessment component of the certification.

Garments made with Beluga Denim will launch at retail in about four months. However, the fabric, Saleemi said, has been in development since 2018, with a lack of components that meet C2C standards on material health, waste, water conservation, clean energy and respect to workers and nature hindering its progress to market.

“One of the great things that we’ve learned through this process is a lot more companies, a lot more manufacturers, and a lot more buyers need to be on board this journey,” he said. “And the reason is, you cannot satisfy each individual sustainability initiative, but as a collective, if we put all of these building blocks together, we can have a very robust and sustainable product.”

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The complexity of achieving C2C-certified denim can only be eased and made inclusive for everybody if more parts of the supply chain join the effort, he continued. With more sustainable inputs—from fabrics, trims and buttons to sewing thread, labeling or packaging—Saleemi said the process will be simplified for designers and sourcing executives.

Rajby is up for the challenge. Saleemi is upfront in acknowledging that, as a denim company, more work needs to be done. “I’ll be honest with you, when I saw the Beluga, I was like, it’s white,” he said of the indigo-free fabric. “But that’s the beauty of it, you have to start at some point.”

A lack of sustainable components challenged Rajby on it's journey to make the first Cradle to Cradle fabric certified at the Platinum level.
Beluga Denim Angela Velasquez

Rajby is among the roster of Pakistan mills to achieve C2C Gold status for two product lines, Green Mystery denim and Blue Magic denim.

Scaling C2C-certified fabrics has been made possible thanks to open-source guides. Artistic Milliners released the first C2C Gold-level fabric with G-Star Raw in 2018, followed by Soorty. C2C Gold-level requirements demand eco-friendly and healthy products including materials and dyes, a minimum usage of 50 percent renewable energies as well as drastic savings of water and a commitment to social standards.

Saleemi urged other companies to follow their lead and design with C2C goals in mind. “Help us build this story a little further and take it to the end consumer, because to be honest with you, there is a major disruption in how products are being perceived and the consumer out there probably is going to tell us what they want,” he said. “That will be scary if we’re not ready for it.”

He added, “If we don’t work collectively, we will not make this change.”