As more denim brands look to diversify their supply chains and sourcing capabilities while seeking out more sustainable alternatives, many are looking to bring production closer to home. With that in mind, more manufacturers are following in their clients’ footsteps, especially as all parties continue to share common sustainability goals.
Established in 1987 in Shunde, China, Advance Denim has the distinction of being the oldest denim manufacturer in China, and has dedicated its efforts since day one around the core beliefs of innovation, service, quality and people. But as the denim manufacturer aimed to keep an eye on the future and constantly evolve to meet customer needs, it realized that it would have to invest more in infrastructure and systems to be a leader in sustainable manufacturing.
How did Advance Denim set out to maximize its sustainability efforts and minimize its carbon footprint? By making the decision to produce denim closer to its customers when their sourcing strategies started to shift.
So while Advance Denim’s roots are firmly in China, the company opened its new fully integrated denim mill in Vietnam with the founding of Advance Sico. Located in Nah Trang, Vietnam, Advance Sico is designed to efficiently manufacture and ship more product to fulfill growing customer demands throughout Vietnam and Cambodia. With Vietnam emerging as a popular manufacturing alternative to China in recent years, Advance Sico believes the country will continue to grow as a global apparel powerhouse with its support.
Opening a new mill in a new country isn’t the only way to empower sustainability within denim manufacturing, although being able to complete the dying, weaving and finishing processes all out of just one facility certainly helps.
Advance Sico has made the commitment that by 2023, more than 90 percent of all fibers used will be sustainable. Additionally, 100 percent of all indigo used at Advance Sico will be Archroma aniline-free liquid indigo. This ensures that minimal sodium hydrosulfite will be used and no carcinogenic aniline will be present in the company’s indigo dyeing process, ultimately eliminating hazards within the production process. During typical denim production, some aniline stays locked into the indigo pigment and can be difficult to wash off the fabric. The remainder of the aniline impurity is discharged during dyeing. This poses concern as aniline is toxic to aquatic life, and elevated exposure levels can put factory workers at risk.
While Advance Sico aims to commit to pure indigo, the mill also operates its own state-of-the-art reverse osmosis water purification system on site to remove any harmful impurities from its effluent water supply. As Advance Sico grows and diversifies its manufacturing capabilities, the company isn’t losing sight of its goal to produce the highest-quality denim with minimal environmental impact.
In bringing its manufacturing to Vietnam, Advance Sico is also taking some of its Chinese tradition with it. The manufacturer believes that crafting true indigo comes from rope dyeing, and it is already operating two indigo rope ranges designed to dye the highest-quality vintage shades. To replicate these shades, Advance Sico has a team of expert Japanese dyeing technicians that have been crafting rope shades for more than 30 years.
To complement the dye ranges, Advance Sico has 160 Picanol rapier looms that are known for their quality and reliability at weaving the full range of denim styles. The mill recently added two preshrunk finishing ranges designed to give added quality and flexibility to the denim. The total capacity is 1.5 million yards of denim a month, with the flexibility to grow with market demands.
The desire for sustainability across the denim industry is more prevalent than ever, and it has gone a long way in convincing Advance Denim that growth depends on adapting with the times. Back in China, the company is throwing its full support behind the global effort to make the denim industry more sustainable by introducing big-box dyeing and closed-loop finishing in the Shunde mill to save as much as 95 percent of the added water used in dyeing and finishing.
As the first Chinese mill to adopt aniline-free indigo and one of the pioneers of colonized hemp denim, Advance Denim is now excited to draw from these years of innovation and evolution and bring these capabilities to a new audience in Vietnam.