The average pair of jeans uses 42 litres of water in the finishing process. And It wouldn’t be too far to call this “hydro-cide”.
So what now? Is there a solution? A better alternative?
While we are often presented with these problems, we seldom have a good answer.
But today, we want to go a little in-depth about two notable technologies, present in the market that can be the answer, as they offset the impact legacy processes have on the environment.
So let’s dive in, shall we?
- 0 Water
- 0 Chemical Process
Here at ID, we use the VAV Technologies’ Wilma 7 machine. This machine uses a highly precise laser beam to burn the top layers of indigo from the fabric. The garment is placed inside the glass chamber with the laser beam and the machine is operated remotely. This makes the process very safe and at no point does the laser beam come into human contact.
Wilma is the main operating system of the laser application. It has a user-friendly interface with various sub-settings. This gives it great flexibility and creativity in designing. So we can achieve all the effects that are found in the traditional finishing process of jeans including but not limited to scrapping, whiskering and distressing and ripped effects. Read more about it here.
- Saves 45% water consumption
- Saves 60% energy consumption
- Saves 90% chemicals consumption
- Saves 40% of the required installation area
Ozone doesn’t completely erase the use of water and chemicals in the finishing process but it uses these resources sparingly. Here, damp garments are loaded into the washer. VAV Technology’s Cyclone-X is split into two machines. One machine takes in oxygen from the air and splits O2 molecules to make O3 (Ozone) molecules. The ozone gas is then internally transferred into the washer. The garments are then washed in the ozone gas to achieve the same effect as bleach without any discharge.
This process significantly reduces the laundry’s water consumption and energy. Once the washing is done, the ozone molecules are converted back to oxygen before the washer door opens so that the ozone gas doesn’t come into contact with humans. Read more about it here.
Along with being sustainable processes, laser and ozone technologies have many desirable features. Both have a high consistency rate when it comes to the replication of designs. They are both faster more efficient processes cutting the time required by legacy methods in less than half.
They also have a high rate of accuracy, the rejection rate of Laser is only 1-2%, preventing waste of resources and capital. They also require less manpower and are overall better for human health. In legacy methods, the high use of chemicals increases the risk of injury in case they come into contact with human skin or other sensory organs such as the eyes, nose and mouth. In ozone, the whole washing process requires about 30 mins and needs only one professional whereas the legacy method requires an entire day and at least five professionals.
Since laser is software operated, there is greater flexibility and variety when it comes to design capabilities. In addition to standard effects, laser printing can achieve precise artwork prints as well as recreate tie-dye effects.
Ozone and laser are the start of the conversation when it comes to sustainable denim – and fashion at large – not the end. The limitations of these processes must not be a reason to regress into old processes but an opportunity to integrate them with other sustainable processes.
Laser is limited to 2D and cannot achieve the 3D whiskering effect of legacy methods. However, the 2D whiskering of the laser can be used in combination with a wet process. A wet process where harmful chemicals are replaced with natural agents or milder chemicals.
Along with dry processes like Ozone and laser, we need to ensure that we use recycled water in wet processes. The water used is treated properly before it is reintroduced to the environment.
(You can read about how we recycle water at Indian Designs’ central washing unit at Hindupur here.)
At the “ Denim and Jeans: India”, 2022 exhibition, in Bangalore, Mr. Manuj Kanchan (Division director, CEA, Jeanologia) said at the end of his presentation that consumers must not hesitate to ask “How much water went into the jeans?” when they buy them. It is their right as a consumer to know this information. When they ask the question brands will be obligated to answer. And the anwers are trickling in. You can check labels to see if your jeans are laser processed or if it was produced using recycled water.