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Boosting Premium Denim’s Sustainability with Chemical-Free Lasers

A fully vertical factory and laundry established in Istanbul in 2008, Strom’s vertically integrated process enables them to meet the various demands of its premium denim partners, from ideas and design through finished products, all with full transparency. Two factories in Istanbul and offices in London and New York focus on sustainability, innovation and flexibility, while new technologies like lasers save on water and chemicals.

One such initiative is a new patented production solution called Blue Drop, which uses only sustainable fibers and fabrics dyed in sustainable methods, plus sustainable wash processes. Another recent endeavor is a new brand established in partnership with Bossa named ECO3.

“Our main idea is developing ozone-friendly and laser-friendly fabrics that are also strong enough for those processes,” says Strom co-owner and CEO Baris Izcimen. “We are currently testing new fabrics and suitable wash recipes.”

Here, Izcimen chatted with Sourcing Journal about how Strom’s company’s structure—with its own laundry, sampling, design and pattern facilities, in-house production and dedicated sourcing capabilities—benefits its partner brands as well as consumers.

How do your offices in Turkey, London and New York offer Strom a more global perspective?

All production is done in Turkey, while our sales offices in London and New York conduct product presentations to local clients. Claire Ford, who is a Rivet 50 member, is our head of sustainable design. She works from London and Australia, which offers a global view and diverse design perspective for every customer.

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What benefits does a vertical factory operation, such as Strom’s, offer its clients?

Transparency and sustainable design translate into consistency and management of each garment from fabric to final piece, and our vertical operation lets us keep a close watch. We don’t work with any fast-fashion giants—our average order is around 700-800 pieces. Even the second facility we opened is very close to the first one in Istanbul.

Premium denim brands are always one step ahead on trends. How do you work together with them on trends and sustainability?

We work with labels like Reformation, Boyish, Triarchy, Rag & Bone, Paige, Anine Bing, Mos Mosh, Allsaints and Urban Outfitters. We have an amazing in-house design team as well as premium innovational brands who enjoy exploring sustainability in design. I would say 80 percent of the impact of each garment is determined at the design stage, so we work alongside our clients to source the best raw materials. We design for longevity—working with new technologies and innovating new ways to wash denim within our laundry to reduce our environmental impact.

Going back a step, how do you bring that trend info back to your fabric suppliers for R&D?

Fabric is our main tool, same as a painter’s canvas. Our design team prepares mood boards and trend reports. We also share our customer feedback with fabric mills’ R&D teams to create new fabrics or make modifications, all within our current priorities of sustainability and traceability. The mills must consider these points as well.

How do you encourage your suppliers to be sustainable?

We are constantly sourcing the most sustainable options we can deliver our clients across all areas including fabric, labels and metal trims. Luckily the industry is at a turning point where brands and retailers are requesting sustainable options, which makes it easier to encourage mills and trim factories to supply this. Natural fibers are best, and we work closely with each of our suppliers to ensure they are environmentally—and socially—responsible.

What are some of Strom’s newest advancements in laser technology, both in design and sustainability?

The first-generation technology wasn’t as natural and authentic, and we had to correct some points manually post laser process. Now, in our new technology and software, dry process design looks much better with no need to correct the look after—fade outs and effects are very natural.

Secondly, for heavy hand sanding or whisker effects, we are now using eco-chemicals instead of potassium permanganate, which is harmful to Mama Earth. We can offer much greener products with our lasers.

Denim consumes so much water. How do you reduce water consumption and waste?

Nearly all denim laundries use chemicals in their bleach process (sodium hypochlorite, potassium permanganate, etc.), then hot water to remove chemicals and neutralize the garment. This consumes massive energy. On the contrary, our Ozone Technology process significantly reduces the laundry’s water consumption, use of chemicals and energy, as you don’t heat the water. The technology uses cold “ozonated” water or direct ozone gas, thus reducing energy consumption during bleaching. By eliminating chemical use in the bleach process, laundries save on chemical cost as well.

How do you work with your partner brands to spread the denim sustainability message to their customers?

Many of our customers use organic fabrics and our GOTS certification to complete their circularity, and they have added tags showing the certifications. We also provide numbers depicting environmental savings from wash processes, which our brands use in their campaigns.

We recently collaborated with Fibretrace from Australia and Bossa denim for Reformation jeans, where one can trace the cotton from ginning to product using a scanning device. It got a lot of attention from the campaign’s first day.

For more information on Strom’s laundry and facility, click here.