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ORTA Bringing Renewed Life to Denim Sustainability

As the denim industry reaffirms its commitment to sustainability, ORTA is leading the charge with a new vision to promote circular fashion.

With the introduction of the new DENIMIMICRY Spring/Summer 2021 collection that takes nature’s lead and exploring the symbiosis between science and design, ORTA aims to establish the foundation of a new platform for thinking about energy-active and materially smart design for a resilient future. This next-generation platform looks to harness nature’s creative and technological processes that recycle, up-cycle and repurpose everything, so that nothing is wasted.

The effort can come at no better time, as the daunting statistics surrounding fashion continue to pour in: The Council for Textile Recycling projects the U.S. alone will generate 35.4 billion pounds of post-consumer textile waste.

While ORTA’s DENIMIMICRY collection is spurring the industry to learn from nature’s biological immortality—a sustainable design process known as “biomimicry” that inspires the search for eco-friendly solutions—the IMMORTALIST concept was inspired by the Silicon Valley titans and VCs who are investing heavily in the race to extend human lifespan. With the IMMORTALIST, ORTA wants to help create denim with a nearly infinite life.

“Last year, we celebrated our 65th anniversary with a handprint mission,” Dr. Sedef Uncu Aki, who leads ORTA’s denim sales and marketing, PD, R&D, planning and operations, said.  “While our footprint is what we take from the planet when we consume, our handprint is what we give the planet back when we create change for better.

“We are working toward creating a future where denim is designed, produced, consumed and disposed of in radically different ways, and our handprint reflects our present, and embraces our sustainable future,” Dr. Uncu Aki said. “The second life of apparel plays a vital role in this mission.”

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About 80 percent of the fibers in DENIMIMICRY have at least one sustainable characteristic, whether that’s organic, recycled, biodegradable, regenerated, bio-based or recyclable. All articles are dyed with Indigo Flow, ORTA’s sustainable dyeing process that saves up to 70 percent of water.

For Spring/Summer 2021, ORTA introduces a unique concept made from eco-wise hemp: Gen H. ORTA selected hemp because of its naturally anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, super soft, biodegradable and breathable properties. The net-positive plant is farmed as a cover crop to enhance soil health by shading out weeds—reducing the need for synthetic herbicides—and adds diversity to crop rotations to improve soil health. Hemp potentially supports greater biodiversity of soil, said Dr. Uncu Aki, which is important for mitigating climate change.

“It is the closest we will get to a natural nirvana in denim,” she added.

Orta's Immortalist collection

The IMMORTALIST concept meanwhile, is geared toward consumers who seek a second life for all of their purchases as a way to reduce waste. ORTA is striving to create denim with an “almost infinite life” from original fiber to recycled post consumer.

The environmental impacts of the fabrics are assessed with LCA methodology, with results shared via QR codes on product hangtags, a practice ORTA began with its Autumn/Winter 2019/2020 collection. This important transfer of information is key in communicating the benefits of sustainability to consumers.

“The mindset of the consumer needs to change towards sustainable denim,” said Dr Uncu Aki. “This will push brands, mills and technology providers for the textile industry to create more eco-conscious solutions.”

But first the industry must better understand consumer needs, she said, and then companies will be able to create appropriate marketing strategies around them. This requires that brands analyze their customers’ buying desires and behaviors and share these details with their supply chain partners.

“When we first started our sustainability practices in the beginning of 2000s with organic cotton use, it was our initiative to take such an action to create a better world,” she noted. “Until recently, it was the textile industry supply chain—especially mills—that took action for responsible production. And today, with the increasing environmental awareness of the end consumer, the brands and retailers are also pushing us to improve and innovate towards a better future.”

Click to learn more about ORTA.