It’s really not that complicated when you get right down to it: The entire denim industry has a responsibility to enact more sustainable production.
After decades of inflicting harm upon the planet through reckless and damaging practices—not to mention to those living upon it—all channels within the industry need to be held accountable for bringing about positive and meaningful change.
For Twin Dragon, a denim mill headquartered in Los Angeles, this responsibility has translated into a revised corporate mission that involves producing what it’s describing as the cleanest denim on Earth.
“Global warming needs to be addressed,” said Dominic Poon, Twin Dragon founder and CEO. “We’re seeing real effects from climate change. Everyone should try to put forth all of the effort they can to keep the world lasting as long as possible. If we don’t do anything, the next generations are going to suffer.”
In order to accomplis this, Twin Dragon has devoted itself to enacting a number of significant operational improvements. For one thing, the company is consolidating its yarn production to Mexico, Vietnam and China, allowing it to strategically service all of its customers around the globe.
In denim production, Twin Dragon has partnered with Indigo Mill Design to develop Indigo Zero, a foam dyeing process that reduces 99 percent of the water used during the fabric making process. The technology is expected to decrease water usage by more than 500 million gallons per year.
During the finishing process, meanwhile, Twin Dragon is using fewer chemicals, Poon said, which again reduces water consumption and energy usage during garment washing. The practice also has the much-needed benefit of decreasing the hazardous discharge of chemicals into the environment.
Finally, the company is tying this all together by only using recycled polyester fibers moving forward, as well as sustainable cellulose fibers like Tencel Lyocell and Modal.
Beyond cultivating an innate sense of responsibility for improving industry efforts, the greening of denim production carries a host of other benefits. For one thing, there are cost savings to be had with these water-saving initiatives and the reduction of chemicals associated with garment finishing.
And not only do these changes improve the working conditions for those on the factory floor, it also brings the benefit of creating a stronger bond between employees and their work, said Poon, who are encouraged by the more environmentally friendly jeans they’re creating.
While the jury is still out on how much more consumers are willing to pay for sustainable apparel, the expectation is that the more accessible clean denim becomes, the more they will begin to demand it. As such, the industry should prepare itself for a time when eco-friendly denim is the rule, not the exception.
“If consumers can purchase sustainable goods, they’ll make the choice to do so,” noted Poon. “It’s like going to the grocery store. If they can buy organic groceries at the same price, they will go for the organic. For our customers, once they realize they have a choice to use and sell cleaner denim—and it will benefit them during processing—they’ll make that choice.”
To be sure, there’s still progress to be made. Poon believes we’ve reached the point where additional government support is required. As some denim brands and manufacturers develop their own sustainable initiatives, others find themselves working against each other by creating conflicting standards or programs—or, worse, doing nothing at all.
“There needs to be more intervention,” he confirmed. “The government needs to get involved to talk to the industry and set a higher standard.”
In a similar vein, additional collaboration and transparency within the industry will help drive the movement forward, he added. By once again following the lead of the grocery industry, retailers can do their part by providing clear labeling that displays insight into denim’s finishing process, providing the information consumers need to make better choices.
“Collaboration is extremely important in this industry,” Poon said. “If there is a method or process that’s going to make the industry greener, I don’t mind sharing it. We need to think of the next generation—and the one after that—to consider what our impact is going to be on them.”
Click to learn more about Twin Dragon.