It’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks—including legacy denim manufacturers.
Siddiqsons Group is rebooting its denim business with major investments in sustainable innovation, including adopting Archroma’s aniline-free indigo across its entire production, and becoming the first fully-operational Jeanologia 5.0 laundry in Pakistan.
The vertical company helped lay the framework for denim manufacturing in the country, setting up a spinning unit in 1982 and its first denim fabric unit in 1989. Knit and garment units followed with success, leading the company to diversify into other industries including real estate, construction and energy. However, with large investments and success in other sectors, Siddiqsons’ footprint in denim manufacturing started to diminish—and it’s rebuilding that business today through strategic investments and supply chain commitments.
“They made a decision that they wanted to regain market share and to become relevant in the world today,” said Matthew Fuhr, a consultant brought on by the firm to help kickstart its denim business for the next generation of brands and consumers. Siddiqsons, he said, is making investments in areas that will put the business “ahead of the curve of what’s happening in the marketplace.” The company plans to use those investments to rebuild the relationships they previously enjoyed in the U.S. market.
Each investment, Fuhr said, be it in spinning, finishing or garment processing, is a step closer to transparency and sustainability.
“They have to go hand in hand because people talk about being sustainable, but they’re not willing to share what they’re doing or how they can validate it,” he said.
The roll-out of Archroma’s aniline-free denim indigo dye timed well with Siddiqsons’s renewed focus on denim and its expiring contract with Dystar. The mill, Fuhr said, contemplated shifting a portion of its production to Archroma, but after a series of wash down tests with the aniline-free dye, they were satisfied with the results.
“We looked at all of our shades that we were running and how we were doing our product development and we figured out that we could make more of a commitment to the transition of a new dyestuff,” Fuhr said.
The decision to be sustainable across the entire supply chain led the vertical operation to adopt Jeanologia 5.0 for laundry, and the laundry will be operational in Q3 2019.
“Our intent is to produce a large percentage of our internal fabric capacity into garments,” Fuhr said.
To reduce the time and cost of sampling, Fuhr said Siddiqsons is developing fabrics that are conducive to the technology of 5.0, including no stones, ozone, laser and limited chemicals.
“You can develop the fabric so that is reacts in an appropriate manner,” he said. “We can manage the expectation of what design wants and what the production team is able to execute.”
Up next, the company is planning to set up a lab in the United States in 2020 to give its brand partners a place where their design and merchandising teams can gather and innovate with the Siddiqsons team.
“The way our technology is set up, you can develop something in the U.S. and it can be transferred to a production unit anywhere in the world,” Fuhr said. The lab, he added, will help the company have an “upper end” research development environment, which could bring better business to Pakistan for production purposes.
These investments, Fuhr added, have been made knowing Pakistan is viewed as a lower cost producer.
“We have to engineer the plant and make our investments knowing that it’s always going to be a place where people are looking for an inexpensive product,” he said. “With that being said, based on the technology and the investments, we are able to offer a more premium product at a more affordable price.”
And Siddiqsons is fitting comfortably back into its role as a leader in Pakistan’s denim sector. Fuhr said the response in the marketplace has been “significant.”
The ability to show customers how they plan to develop fabric for the future, to be able to cut and sew their own capacity and then to have the product development capabilities from a processing standpoint—and be transparent about its impact—has been a compelling story for Siddiqsons to share with its clientele, which Fuhr noted are under pressure themselves from stakeholders to become more sustainable.
“We are building our production system to be able to provide accountability,” Fuhr said.