It’s a common misconception that sustainably made garments can’t compete with the look and feel of their conventionally produced counterparts. But advancements in denim finishing and washing have led to products that occupy the top spot in terms of both quality and sustainability.
Companies throughout the denim supply chain presented some of their latest innovations at Kingpins24 last week, showcasing technological prowess that promotes significant water savings, a reduction in harmful chemical usage and an overall lesser environmental impact than the industry is used to.
Leading the charge is a new collaboration between Italian supply chain titans Tonello and Candiani. The chemical company and denim mill teamed on Tonello’s O-Zone, a finishing system that changes the game for denim treatments, experts say.
“We can say without any doubt that we open a path for a new way ozone [to] be applied,” said Alberto Rigo, laundry manager at Candiani Denim. “In fact, O-Zone allows us to get completely new and sustainable washing effects and discoloration. These projects represent the present and future of our philosophy, and it will be a huge evolution of denim treatments.”
Like Tonello’s other finishing systems, O-Zone achieves unique wash effects without the use of harmful potassium permanganate (PP spray). Featuring a touch screen to set desired wash parameters, the system is able to produce localized discoloration, lightening and sun-faded looks.
Tonello is a featured partner within the new Candiani Custom, an extension of Candiani’s existing Milan-based boutique that includes a microfactory specializing in made-to-measure jeans produced and washed on-site. The one-of-a-kind experience is based on the five pillars of personalization, transparency, sustainability, technology and Made in Italy.
Rudolf Hub 1922 also made waves with Offuel, its latest range of chemical auxiliaries that provides renewable alternatives to crude oil, a finite substance used to make plastic-based materials such as polyester—and a main contributor to climate change. The 11-product range consists of new and existing chemical denim finishing agents that reduce companies’ reliance on crude oil and instead features raw materials sourced from botanical or biological origins, recycled waste, recycled plastics, salts, water, basic acids and alkalis. The company notes that at least 90 percent of the product series consists of alternatives to crude oil and/or components based on recycled materials.
The range includes enzymatic products for stonewashing, as well as alternatives to PP spray and sodium hypochlorite that improve laser performance, and a mild bleaching agent for cleaning. Included in the collection is Rucogen Upcycle RNB, a recent development that turns chemically recycled PET plastic waste into valuable textile chemistry used for denim washing. Every product within the Offuel range is compliant with Bluesign, ZDHC Gateway Level 3 and Standard 100 by OEKO-TEX.
Wiser Tech, which launched denim finishing system Wiser Wash in 2018, announced expansion plans to scale its sustainable product range. The company disrupted denim finishing in May with Wox, an AI-powered device that marked its first venture into hardware. Through a secure cloud-based platform, the device collects data on the production process and feeds it to artificial intelligence algorithms. Sensors located at different parts of the system can identify possible abnormalities at all stages of the process, giving it the ability to identify and assess its own needs. Combined with Wiser Wash, the system halves the amount of water needed during washing.
After factories throughout Turkey, Italy, India and Vietnam, Romania and Tunisia implemented its products, the company partnered with global certification company Control Union to develop a set of standards that would take the product range to the next level. The Wiser Wash Sustainability Assessment Standards focus on chemical management, environmental performance, social responsibility, safety, performance, quality, management and transparency to ensure that its products are backed by international benchmarks for safety.
“As a requirement of the ‘do good together’ philosophy that lies at the center of our projects, we believe that joining forces with different stakeholders is one of the most effective methods in business growth,” the company said during the presentation. “It brings significant benefits to all parties and creates a true win-win situation that boosts resources such as manpower, skill set, knowledge, equipment and technology.”
Wiser Wash facilities are audited by Control Union to ensure a high production standard. India-based manufacturer Arvind and Turkey-based Wiser Wash Turkey have both recently completed the audit process and received the certification.
“Our goal is to set high standards and to ensure that these standards are sustainable,” said Fuat Gozacan, founder of Wiser Initiatives, Wiser Wash’s parent company. “For this reason, our improvement and development efforts will always continue.”