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The Denim Supply Chain Came Together to Advance Sustainability in 2019

The year 2019 might go down in denim history as the year supply chains got a much-needed reboot.

The denim supply chain and brands realized that partnering together can optimize their processes for products that are better quality and more sustainable. Recycled fibers, stretch denim and water reduction were some of the greatest innovations that came from these supply chain collaborations.

In June, Gap worked with Arvind Limited in India, to develop an innovation center that addressed water scarcity in the region. Together, they also invested in a new water-treatment facility that eliminates the use of fresh water at Arvind’s denim mill in Ahmedabad. By doing so, they’re on target to save 3 billion liters of fresh water by the end of 2020.

More recently, Gap teamed with researchers to tackle two major obstacles hindering the push to develop circular design solutions: spandex separation and denim decolorization. Within the partnership, HKRITA is working with textile manufacturer Artistic Milliners to separate spandex from cotton using bio-solvents. It’s also working with denim manufacturer Arvind Limited on a physical method to decolor denim without using damaging chemicals. Once both of these issues are resolved, materials can more easily be recycled and used to make new garments.

Denim mill Isko also championed recycled fibers this year when it called on former Levi’s and Patagonia designer Miles Johnson to create a denim collection made from low-impact materials and responsible finishing techniques.

The collection, named Light on the Land, was created using Isko’s R-TWO program, which combines a mix of reused and recycled materials taken from the mill’s own production loss. The fabric is tracked, traced and has the Content Claim Standard (CCS) certification. The reused cotton is then blended with recycled polyester derived from PET bottles. The capsule collection consisted of 34 pieces and debuted in September.

That same month, Isko partnered with Mustang on a stretch denim collection that’s made using the mill’s patented Blue Skin technology. Named MoveOn, the men’s and women’s Fall ’19 denim collection featured lightweight stretch fabric with 360-degree elasticity and a special weaving technique that gives an authentic denim look with contemporary washings.

Candiani also unveiled new innovations in stretch denim in 2019. In November, the mill partnered with Denham to launch a collection of stretch denim that’s biodegradable. Using Candiani’s patented plant-based Coreva Stretch Technology, the Life is Movement collection is created with organic cotton wrapped around a natural rubber core and has all of the same recovery and elasticity properties of other stretch denim.

Similarly, Spanish mill Tejidos Royo launched Fashility, a 14-piece capsule collection featuring premium Lycra brand fiber technologies. The company partnered with Lycra on the collection of woven trousers, jackets and skirts for men and women to showcase the versatility of its fabrics and performance range of Lycra fibers. The collection uses Lycra dualFX technology for shape retention, and Lycra Shaping for figure enhancement.

In August, denim manufacturer Cone Denim and apparel producer Crystal collaborated on a collection that focuses on sustainability at the source: fabric. The collection supports sustainable practices throughout the development and production lifecycle, featuring responsibly sourced cotton, recycled content and processing that’s environmentally friendly.

This year, Cone Denim also partnered with color and specialty chemical company Archroma to ensure it stays on track with its sustainability efforts. The mill signed on as an adopter of Archroma’s One Way sustainability service, a tool that helps mills understand the environmental impact of its manufacturing products. The partnership helps both companies cement their role in sustainable production.

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