For denim manufacturers, the move away from harmful chemicals in production processes has become all but an inevitability. Contaminated water runoff and adverse effects on human health are forcing brands to examine their supply chains to enact much-needed change.
Archroma, a Swiss purveyor of specialty chemicals and color management tools for the textile industry, developed an aniline-free version of conventional indigo dye last year. This week, the company reached a deal with Tuong Long Co., a large textile manufacturer in Vietnam, which has committed to using Archroma’s aniline-free Denisol Pure Indigo dye on all of its denim moving forward.
The liquid dye, launched in May of 2018, was developed as a non-toxic alternative to traditionally-used formulations which contain aniline. A commonly used organic base for indigo dyes along with commercial plastics, aniline has a propensity to stay locked into the indigo pigment, making it tough to wash off of the fabric. What does wash off (approximately 300 metric tons of chemical per year, according to a release from Archroma) is discharged during the dyeing process.
Aniline is toxic to marine life, has been linked to health issues in people as well. According to research from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, long-term exposure to the chemical has been known to cause bladder cancer in textile factory workers. The chemical is starting to feature on more restricted substance lists for major clothing brands and retailers, Archroma said.
Archroma’s chemical dyes are approved by textile production-focused auditing body Bluesign. Other Vietnamese factories, such as Saitex (which serves sustainable fashion brand Everlane) have made the move to environmentally-safe, Bluesign-approved dyes in recent months. The effort to revamp dyeing processes in the interest of ecological and human health is taking hold in the denim industry, and Tuong Long’s new commitment to going aniline-free furthers the trend.
“Tuong Long is engaged in manufacturing denim and khakis in a cleaner way,” explained Dieu Tuong, the company’s production manager. The company recently had its wastewater treatment licensed, and was eager to make the move away from aniline-dependent dyes, he said. Archroma’s version delivers comparable results to “conventional indigo,” without the harmful effects.
The Tuong Long factory, located near Ho Chi Minh City, employes 600 workers who produce 18 million meters of fabric per year, focusing on woven fabrics like denim and khaki in both stretch and non-stretch formulations. The company’s clients include apparel brands from the U.S., Japan, Europe, Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam.