DyStar Colours Distribution GmbH, head of technology, denim and sodamide
Günther Widler
DyStar Colours Distribution GmbH, head of technology, denim and sodamide

Deep Dive

Dyestuff and chemical manufacturer DyStar is capitalizing on a milestone for indigo. This year represents 125 years since the first industrial synthesis of indigo was manufactured and brought into the market by BASF. Today, at the same production facilities where BASF started, DyStar continues this tradition. The company has been building on its own milestone it accomplished in 1998, when it introduced pre-reduced indigo to the denim market—called the DyStar Indigo Vat 40% Solution—in a move away from the more traditional synthetic indigo powder used during dyeing.

Günther Widler spearheads the technology side of DyStar’s denim initiatives, including the Cadira Denim concept, which combines this pre-reduced indigo with a new organic reducing agent. The combination makes way for salt-free dyeing, eliminates the potentially toxic sodium hydrosulfite from within the process and prevents salt from ending up in landfills each year. 

True do denim’s collaborative nature, the company recently partnered with Lenzing to make a custom indigo dye for the textile producer’s new fibers. The dye lowers the level of the carcinogen aniline to the smallest possible amount, enabling the Lenzing fibers to receive Standard 100 certification from Oeko-Tex.

What denim buzzword do you think is overused? And what would you replace it with?

“Sustainable”—it is used too much and it is neither defined nor clear what this means. A bit more “truth” in the segment and less marketing stories would be nice.

What do you wish more consumers knew about the jeans they buy?

Why should a consumer know a lot about denim? Because the consumer decides to buy a denim for optical, quality and price reasons. It’s in the responsibility of the so-called “experts” in the industry to guarantee that only ecologically advanced products are on the market.

If you had one request for denim brands, what would that be?

How should a consumer identify an ecological denim against an ecological low-level produced denim that significantly damages the environment? In my view, bad denims like this should not be on the market.

What can other apparel categories learn from the denim industry?

Much of the image portrayed of the denim industry, particularly when it comes to greenwashing, is bad enough and no one should learn from that. The reality is clearly different in well-structured production units and this bad image needs to be changed.

What was your most recent denim purchase?

A pair of jeans for my son, nothing special.

What is your first denim memory?

To wear a pair of jeans that was tight, you had to lie in the bathtub with them and let them dry on your body. This was long before there were elastic fibers in jeans.