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Calik’s E-Denim Technology Opens New Realm of Circular Possibilities

Textile waste isn’t just an environmental issue—it’s also a financial burden. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates that more than $500 billion of value is lost every year due to clothing underutilization and a lack of recycling. Money is literally being thrown away, with heaps of industrial scraps discarded, finished clothing never sold and worn items sent to landfills.

Rather than perpetuate fashion’s traditionally linear model, the industry is being called to adopt circularity—and denim is at the forefront. In recent years, a number of denim-focused initiatives have tackled this issue, including the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Jeans Redesign program, a set of guidelines for jeans production based on the principles of the circular economy, and the Denim Deal, a circular-focused initiative that calls for the use of at least 5 percent recycled fiber.

But with Calik Denim’s new technology, the industry could see a greater shift to circularity, and much higher levels of recycled content being used in denim.

The Turkish denim mill recently debuted its E-Denim technology for Spring/Summer 2022, demonstrating its ability to incorporate high levels of recycled content into denim without sacrificing quality. While incorporating recycled materials often leads to a lower quality, more brittle product, E-Denim technology allows the mill to increase its total recycled content rate to 50 percent in stretch fabrics and 80 percent to 100 percent in rigid product groups. For context, the industry average currently hovers around 20 percent, Calik stated.

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According to Tolga Ozkurt, Calik’s deputy general manager of sales and marketing, the patent-pending technology is able to achieve such high levels because of a specially developed core.

“As the amount of recycled fiber increases in ring yarn production, there is a decrease in ring yarn product quality,” he told Rivet. “To keep the quality and recycled material content high, we use 100 percent recycled open-end yarn as the core and integrate it into the ring yarn.”

This step is followed by wrapping the core yarn with recycled cotton to produce the ring yarn. Lenzing’s Refibra is also added to the yarn, achieving the maximum amount of recycled content that can be used in ring spinning.

There are currently two types of constructions available: Comfort, which contains 20 percent elasticity, and Sport Stretch, which 100 percent elasticity. Because of the increased recycled content, the fabric is not durable in very thin garment constructions, and can pose a challenge for dyeing and coloring effects.

Though the technology is still being perfected, Ozkurt considers it an overall win for the industry—specifically in terms of transparency efforts.

“The investment in recycled fabric is bringing circularity into the spotlight and transforming our understanding of a linear production model to a circular production and business model,” Ozkurt said. “The use of recycled content will provide many benefits to the industry such as increased traceability, transparency and fulfillment of eco-friendly product demands by eco-conscious consumers.”