“Indigo is the heart of denim,” Zaki Saleemi, CBL vice president of strategy for the Pakistan-based vertical denim supplier, told Rivet. “With Blue Infinity, our aim is not to create an indigo alternative, but to create a more responsible technology for a better future.”
Debuting at Kingpins Amsterdam, the “game-changing” proprietary dyeing technology provides a variety of shades and washdown effects beyond what is normally achievable with conventional indigo applications.
Using GOTS 6.0-approved chemicals and 70 percent less water and energy than the standard indigo dye process, the warp dyeing technology meets RSL requirements from major brands and retailers. It also reportedly produces fewer effluents and pollutants than standard indigo. The technology is part of a compact dyeing range, which requires fewer dye boxes and less water. This results in less waste due to reduced salt effluent.
According to Saleemi, it took nine months to develop the innovation from conception to execution. He identified the equipment as being the biggest challenge, as he said the entire production line had to be modified in order to achieve the desired results. Additional control devices were added to ensure consistency, and operators received extensive training to keep the process running seamlessly.
“Breakthrough initiatives require exceptional dedication and effort,” he said.
Saleemi added that the technology provides product developers with more flexibility than standard indigo, as it provides more range in washdown treatments. The innovation is able to achieve vibrant blues, gray and green undertones, vintage and luxury looks and more.
Recently, there have been major strides in sustainable dye methods within the denim industry. Though indigo dye was originally extracted from the indigo plant, most of today’s indigo pigment is chemically synthesized, and not soluble in water, therefore requiring a chemical reaction called reduction. The process uses sodium hydrosulphite, a corrosive salt that ultimately ends up in the world’s waterways. Add to that the fact that the indigo crop is experiencing challenges related to harsh weather conditions in certain regions, and the need for solutions is clear.
U.S. natural dye manufacturer Stony Creek Colors is currently working with Levi’s to scale its production of plant-based pre-reduced indigo. Others are using bacteria to mimic the substance’s iconic blue hues. In June, scientists from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology were able to metabolically engineer corynebacterium glutamicum, a type of bacteria, to produce indigoidine, a natural blue dye that’s more sustainable than conventional indigo.
As the first vertically integrated denim jeans operation in Pakistan, and the first denim mill in the region to extract locally grown, rain-fed hemp fiber, CBL has a track record of trailblazing.
“We have a responsibility to make sustainable production for future generations,” Saleemi said.