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Kingpins24: Automation, Hemp and Circularity Lead Conversation

The ins and outs of advancing circularity, efficiency and the production of hemp fibers were key topics during Kingpins24, the virtual industry event organized by Kingpins Show. The three-day event gave companies across the denim supply chain the opportunity to present their latest technologies and solutions to reduce the industry’s impact on the environment.

For its latest innovation to streamline the production of denim, Jeanologia turned to industries where humans and robots produce in the same work space for inspiration.

Taking a page out of the automotive sector’s playbook, the technology company presented Handman, a finishing system that is equipped with two robots and eight lasers. The systems require two people to load jeans onto hangers, or “collaborate” with the robots, ultimately leading to 10,000 finished jeans in 24 hours with zero waste.

Jeanologia CEO Enrique Silla described Handman as the “future of our industry,” adding that only with automation is it possible to have clean and scalable manufacturing with reduced costs, greater agility and a better production look. The technology is already a reality and is being used in three manufacturing facilities in the U.S. and Tunisia, producing 5 million jeans a year.

Jeanologia new finishing system, Handman, require people to “collaborate” with the robots in the same work space.
Handman technology Courtesy

Along with being a more efficient solution in jeans production, Silla said Handman revolutionizes the dynamic between brands, retailers and manufacturers as brands are able to communicate their digital designs directly to Handman. Digital design makes it possible to create accurate virtual collections that can be efficiently transformed into new garments while sparing the environment.

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Silla said this new level of interconnectivity “changes everything” and transforms traditional transactional relationships between brands and production centers into a truly strategic partnership.

Reduce and recycle

Facilitating a circular economy is the goal behind The Lycra Company’s newest innovations for its Coolmax and Thermolite EcoMade ranges. The two fibers are now made with 100 percent textile waste, as a result of a strategic collaboration with Itochu Corporation, a Japanese trading company with a foot in the global textile sector.

The new offerings pair the performance attributes of these cooling and warming brands with the sustainability benefits of reusing waste. A unique depolymerization and refining process is used to convert textile waste, which consists of scraps from garment manufacturers, into fibers with properties comparable to virgin polyester, Lycra reported. The new fibers are available in filament and staple forms, suitable for common textile processes and insulation batting uses.

The circular products are in line with the company’s other ongoing efforts to recycle raw materials such as recycled PET bottles and Lycra’s Planet Agenda Sustainability Platform—a framework ruled by the idea that a healthy business requires a healthy planet. While Lycra is currently using pre-consumer waste, Jean Hegedus, Lycra’s director of sustainable business solutions, said the company envisions eventually having a reliable supply of post-consumer garments to recycle at end of life.

“This textile waste technology is the first of a number of planned innovations from The Lycra Company aimed at advancing the circular economy,” Hegedus said. “As we all know, waste is a huge issue for our industry and our planet, and we need to work together to meet this challenge. Our Planet Agenda Sustainability Platform is based on the belief that in order to have a healthy business, we must have a healthy planet. Toward this end, we’re excited about taking this first step toward circularity.”

Naveena Denim Mills is dedicated to looking for new ways to reduce its environmental impact. Sustainable raw materials, efficient processes and recycled materials are all examples of the steps the Pakistani mill is taking to reduce its own environmental impact.

“While these efforts are very important, we knew that the consumer use part of the product lifecycle is of utmost importance. Consumer use stands for the majority, approximately two-thirds of the environmental footprint of a garment,” said Aydan Tuzun, Naveena executive director of global sales and marketing. “Indeed, consumers can do more to reduce the environmental impact of apparel simply by washing clothes less frequently.”

To help consumers in this journey, Naveena is making fabrics that stay fresh and odor free. During Kingpins24 the mill debuted the Stay Fresh collection, a line of fabrics treated with Polygiene’s Stay Fresh technology. Applied in the finishing stages of textile production, the treatment is based on a silver salt solution that makes it impossible for bacteria to multiply.

This allows consumers to wash their jeans less frequently and helps extend the life of the product. Consumers will have fewer issues that are caused by at-home washes, such as fading, shrinkage and wear and tear on the product, Naveena claims.

Jeanologia’s “Road to Mission Zero” is more than a philosophy about a greener future for the denim industry. The goal—to eliminate 100 percent of waste and pollution in a single pair of jeans by 2025 and reduce water usage to near zero amounts—is now the foundation of a new collection made in partnership with Cone Denim.

The duo presented the Mission Zero Collection, a line of garments made with Cone’s highly light-sensitive Flash Finish fabrics that respond well to alternative finishing such as Jeanologia’s G2 Dynamic ozone and laser technologies. By integrating the zero-discharge ozone technologies, the collection eliminates “highly inefficient and hazardous practices and create[s] amazing denim and jeans without sacrificing denim’s authentic look and iconic soul,” Jeanologia stated.

The collection has been developed across a full range of sustainable finishes, with a wide scale of wash levels and highs and lows achieved with atmospheric finishing that maintains an authentic, traditional stone-washed look.

The Denim Industry Looks to a More Automated and Circular Future
Mission to Zero collection Courtesy

“We are excited to partner with Jeanologia as we focus on building a sustainable future and minimizing our impact on natural resources,” said Steve Maggard, Cone Denim president. “One area of particular focus for us is water conservation, which is perfectly aligned to the Mission Zero goal.”

Cone currently uses Jeanologia’s G2 ozone finishing ranges, lasers and Bluescan machinery. Maggard reported that the company is in the process of installing a Zero Liquid Discharge wastewater treatment system at its mill in Northern Mexico. “These investments will enable us to make significant advances towards Cone’s 2025 water usage reduction goal,” he added.

Hemp is here to stay

Drought-resistant, fast-growing and durable, the environmental benefits of hemp made the natural fiber a key part of a collection of fabrics by Pakistan-based Crescent Bahuman Limited (CBL). The vertically integrated denim company is the first denim mill in Pakistan to process indigenous, rain-fed hemp fiber, which became legal in September last year when the government lifted a ban on growing hemp.

The mill’s new Now or Never collection was co-designed by design consultant Miles Johnson, who believes hemp is the future for a more sustainable denim industry. The collection features fabrics made with sustainable blends of hemp, organic cotton, Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) cotton and Tencel, which allow the mills to produce cotton-free denim fabrics that replicate the feel and character of authentic denims.

Miles’ desire to push the boundaries of eco-fashion has led to a collection that not only boasts a high content of hemp—up to 40 percent in some fabrics—but also utilizes sustainable, waterless dyeing methods.

Overall, Zaki Saleemi, CBL VP of strategy, reports a savings of 98 percent of water in dyeing and 80 percent of water in finishing with the use of the company’s Naya denim indigo dyeing process. The process has been audited and validated by quality assurance service TUV Rheinland, and CBL plans to scale it to 1.5 million pairs of jeans.

Drought-resistant, fast-growing and durable, the environmental benefits of hemp made the natural fiber a key part of a collection of fabrics by Pakistan-based Crescent Bahuman Limited.
Now or Never collection Courtesy

The hemp-blended fabrics come together in a range of garments inspired by workwear and military styles, trimmed with natural and recyclable accessories including removeable shank buttons, organic cotton labels, recycled back patches and Crescent moon bartacks.

Kingpins24 was also an opportunity for AGI to share how its new fabric, HempX, received a Cradle to Cradle Gold certification. HempX is made with a blend of organic cotton, hemp and elastane made from recycled components. Its material health and water stewardship assessments showed significant water savings: AGI recycles 300,000 gallons of water each day, and is able to save 4.4 million gallons of water each month.

HempX material is made with 50 percent renewable energy, which helped it earn accolades in its energy and carbon management assessment. In the social fairness category, AGI has helped provide medical care to more than 90,000 people in the community and ensures employees receive fair wages as well as personal and professional development opportunities.

More hemp denim is on the way from AGI, which recently inked a global production deal with Panda Biotech, a first mover in the emerging U.S. industrial hemp fiber sector and developer of large-scale, industrial hemp ginning facilities. With the company’s exclusive one-year deal with Panda for the Pakistan denim industry, AGI Denim expects to further scale its use of sustainable raw materials at its new facilities.

Lenzing unveiled a capsule collection that captures the industry zeitgeist as well. The Bast Recast collection featured fabrics made with Tencel-branded lyocell and modal fibers alongside GOTS-certified conventional and cottonized hemp designed by Naveena Denim Ltd.

True to Lenzing’s collaborative nature, Bast Recast also spotlights the specialties of several industry leaders. The hemp fibers and yarns were supplied by Kingdom, one of the world’s largest linen yarn and hemp yarn manufacturers. All fabrics were developed exclusively in-house by Pakistan-based denim producer Naveena Denim Ltd. and garments were finished using Jeanologia’s sustainable technologies.

The entire workwear-inspired collection was designed, pattern cut, and sewn by U.K. studio Endrime, which partnered with Lenzing to create its Hardwear capsule collection in 2019. Garments in the range were finished using Jeanologia’s sustainable technologies.