The Indigo Problem

70,000 TONS OF INDIGO IS PRODUCED EVERY YEAR // after sitting in on the Indigo panel discussion at Kingpins Show with Dystar, Achroma Group, and Blue Connection, I was shocked to learn that only 35% of the market uses pre-reduced indigo, but has been around for more than 20 years. The other 65% of the industry still uses powder indigo, which needs hydrosulfite (a toxic substance) and caustic (bleach) to be produced. This also means that the water used cannot be recycled. 65,000 tons of salt is produced from indigo every year, so we really need to be pushing brands to ask which type of indigo is being used.

The solutions to our indigo problem weren’t as clear as I’d like them to be, but the best thing to do is to use pre-reduced indigo from manufacturers that use more responsible reducing agents and processes. Brands must refuse powdered indigo from their suppliers to move the industry towards a more friendly indigo practice.

Unfortunately, natural indigo does not appear to be the answer today, as it is not a commercially viable product due to the inconsistencies and difficulties with natural indigo. But, Cone Denim offers a fabric that is 100% organic cotton and dyed with natural indigo so, to me, it looks like it is possible... However, 6 billion pairs of jeans are produced a year. This makes it very hard to scale and therefore is not an immediate solution. It is estimated that it will take 10-15 years to take natural indigo from an artisan aspect to a commercial scale.

There are new technologies like Tinctorium, which is a bio-synthetics company that has replicated the Indigofera plant. The bacteria are fed sugar to grow and have been proven to act as the natural indigo plant would in the dyeing process. The question is scalability. With new technologies comes a price. Because this is a new technology, mills and manufacturers have not gotten on board the bio-synthetic train.

However, if everyone were to adopt this technology, the price differential should not be much. The solution, for now, is to keep asking questions, pushing brands and manufacturers to adopt these new technologies, and constantly look for better alternatives with research and development.

I have a lot of information coming your way, but for daily tips follow me at @SimplySuzette, and in the meantime, STAY DILIGENT FRIENDS!