Consumers are challenging brands everyday to be better. But, brands wouldn’t be able to deliver on these demands without their trusted supply chain partners. And because consumers crave vintage and bleached denim looks so much, brands are relying on their partners to help them achieve these looks without the traditional water, chemical and energy intake. To show you how each link in the supply chain is helping brands reach their sustainability goals, I challenged denim laundry Blue Matters, denim mill Calik Denim, and chemical supplier Officina+39 to recreate one of my lightest pairs of vintage jeans while prioritizing Sustainable Development Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation! Dive in to see what technology we used and the finished product.
With the many bad stats circulating about how much water a pair of jeans actually uses, people assume this comes from growing the cotton and washing the jeans. But what people often aren’t aware of is that water is used in basically every step of the supply chain. So, how did we approach every step with a waterless mentality? Starting with our fabric, we chose fibers that do not require a lot of water like hemp and recycled cotton, as well as using Calik’s Dyepro and Aware technology.
According to Calik Denim, it takes 20 liters of water to dye 1 meter of fabric based on internal calculations. And when millions of meters are being produced on an annual basis, that adds up to be a lot! Calik’s Dyepro technology has allowed them to eliminate water usage and wastewater in the warp dyeing process. To back up these statements, Calik completes Life Cycle Assessment studies and shares them as an Environmental Product Declaration that is independently verified. What does that mean? An Environmental Product Declaration is an objective report that communicates what a product is made of and how it impacts the environment across its entire life cycle from cultivating cotton and the production of chemicals, to manufacturers and consumers' use of fabric. On top of this, this is one of the first completely traceable dyes on the market thanks to Aware technology.
After selecting the fabric from Calik, the jeans were constructed and washed at Blue Batters, the first ever denim factory in Turkey built according to LEED principles. One thing I found very interesting was the way Blue Matters harvests rainwater to use in production (and in common public areas of the facility) in combination with low liquor ratio washing machines to reduce the amount of contaminated water. And come October, they will be able to recycle 80% of their waste water in a closed loop system! Not to mention Blue Matters is certified by GOTS, GRS, ISO 50001, BSCI & SEDEX.
In order to achieve a virtually waterless washing process, Blue Matters uses Officina+39’s chemical experience and knowledge, joining them on their AQUALESS MISSION. Using REMOVER BC to boost the lasered wear patterns, AQUALESS AGED to give the effects of abrasion, and OZ-ONE powder to achieve a bleached look, we were able to recreate my very worn and well lived in jeans.
Using EIM software, we found lasering and REMOVER BC required 0 water, but a quick rinse after that used 4 liters.
AQUALESS AGED and OZ-ONE POWDER used 0 litres of water, but two short rinses were needed after both requiring 4 liters of water.
Lastly, softener was added through nebulization requiring 0.5 liters of water.
In total, the wash and finishing processes took 12.5 liters of water.
As you can see, water has a very big role in denim production, but everyone is working to reduce their reliance on it, while also learning what good water stewardship looks like. We must remember that water is not actually used, it’s borrowed. So, we must make it a priority to keep our water sources clean, returning it the way we found it, so it can continue to follow it’s natural cycle.