Sustainable Approaches To Denim Dyeing

Stephanie Steele Thursday, 1 April 2021

Harmful chemicals are used in the cotton dyeing process, for example, carcinogens in the form of azo dyes. There is the addition of cleaning, washing and sizing agents within this process that also increases the water and energy consumption, along with harmful substances that are washed away. In this lesson we look at the traditional approaches to denim dyeing to give you an underpinning of the processes, before moving on to the sustainable approaches now in use in denim production today.

In this video you'll learn:

  • Key issues with traditional denim dyeing
  • How denim is synthetically dyed
  • Traditional denim dyeing techniques including rope dyeing, slasher dyeing, overdyeing and garment dyeing - their benefits and problems
  • Eco-friendly approaches to denim dyeing, with an overview of pros and cons for the innovative technologies

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  • Environmentally Friendly Denim Laundry Technologies

    with Stephanie Steele

    The finishing and washing stages of denim garment production, are arguably where your item comes alive. This is where the design elements you envisioned become 3D on the fabric surface. Processes such as stonewashing, sandblasting, sanforization... whether you are a sustainable fashion brand or not, it is likely you will have considered these ubiquitous denim looks for your design. They are what customers want to see. Or do they?

    According to Good On You, 2 billion pairs of jeans are produced worldwide each year. As the current world population is 7.9 billion, and not all of those people choose or have access to new denim, where are all of those pairs going? The problem for this lesson does not necessarily lie, however, in how many jeans are being produced, but the potentially unnecessary production processes in response to brand demands that make those figures even less palatable.

    One pair of Levi jeans requires 3781 liters of water to produce, and over 10% of the world’s population is currently deprived of access to clean drinking water. The hardest hitting bit, is that it is the driest countries - e.g. Pakistan - that produce cotton for the denim products. There are debates over the water consumption data when fibres such as recycled or organic cotton is used instead of conventional virgin. Yet, the denim laundry stage is water and energy intensive enough that the industry is now reviewing its technologies.

    In this 28 minute lesson we give you a rundown of the existing traditional finishing and washing processes, along with newer environmentally (and people)-friendly technologies, so that you are more equipped when designing, and then when communicating with and visiting factories.

    Thumbnail image: Saitex laser finishing by Whitney Bauck for Fashionista