Archroma CEO Alexander Wessels would rather his clients leave a much smaller footprint with their product.
Alexander Wessels wants to help the denim industry use less water—much less water. The production of a single pair of jeans, after all, can consume between 8,000 and 10,000 liters of water. As CEO of Archroma, a $1.5 billion color and specialty chemicals company, Wessels would rather his clients leave a much smaller footprint with their product.
“One important aspect of my role is to ensure that our company is 100 percent geared toward bringing a continuous flow of innovations that, on the one hand, support our customers’ needs and, on the other, help them transition to products and processes that are much less demanding on the environment,” Wessels said.
And there’s a variety of ways Archroma delivers on its aims. For one, there’s the company’s Advanced Denim technology, which mimics indigo dyeing but uses up to 90 percent less water than conventional methods. For companies that cannot bear to part from traditional dyeing methods, Archroma offers a range of pre-reduced liquid indigos that it manufactures in its “zero liquid discharge” plant in Pakistan. The latest of these even makes it possible to create indigo-dyed denim without high levels of aniline, which enters the environment as wastewater discharge and is harmful to aquatic life.
Beyond water-saving innovations, Archroma also produces EarthColors, a line of Bluesign-certified dyes derived from recycled plant waste like beetroot and saw palmetto. G-Star Raw has colored its jeans with Archroma, as has Patagonia.
Minimizing environmental impact just makes sense—nobody would be able to enjoy their denim if there wasn’t clean water or air or “the whole nature around us,” Wessels said. “We are all consumers as well, and there is a lot we can do also by taking responsibility for the planet we leave behind.”
Denim, he added, is such a versatile fabric, one that leaves so much room for creativity. It’d be a shame if a changing climate brought about its demise. “[We need to] make denim with soul and make sure that denim remains a wardrobe favorite—an Earth-friendly wardrobe favorite,” Wessels said.
What is your first denim memory?
“My first jeans as an 8-year-old, for which I had to beg my parents for over a year, as some kids in my class were wearing those 'cool' pants way before me.”
What is your favorite pair of jeans?
“I think everyone has their own preference and preferred style and brand, and they are also changing over time. I personally am still a fan of the traditional, authentic, more rough and sturdy ‘USA style’ jeans.”