Wrangler’s stylish new collection has sustainable attributes, weaves in recycled cotton and has a smaller environmental footprint. The brand is aiming to democratise sustainability and make it more ‘mainstream consumer’ inclusive.
There’s a lot that goes into making a pair of denim jeans. From water-intensive cotton production through to the vast amounts of resources needed for manufacturing such as the sizeable quantities of water, energy and chemicals, there is no doubt that the denim we love and can’t live without has a high environmental impact.
Thankfully there are companies who understand the importance of transforming their operations to minimise environmental footprint and mitigate climate change. One such brand is iconic global jeans brand Wrangler along with its parent company Kontoor Brands who are committed to becoming sustainable leaders in textiles. Over the last decade, the company has focussed on improving dyeing technology; developing a more efficient and sustainable method of making jeans blue.
Environmental impacts of denim dyeing
In denim production, the dyeing process is Qantis Measuring Fashion 2018 report, which analyses fashion’s carbon footprint and estimates that the industry accounts for eight percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, found that the dyeing and finishing processes is a primary driver of the industry’s total climate change impact, contributing 36% of the emissions. The report also found that yarn preparation and fibre production are also key contributors, though to a lesser extent at 28% and 15% respectively.
So what is it about the dyeing and finishing stage that contributes so much to fashion’s environmental impact?
Water use and wastewater are denim manufacturing’s two largest sustainability challenges. Conventional dyeing processes require vast amounts of water, chemical dyes and energy resources as yarn must be dipped multiple times in extensive vats of water –up to 12 with each containing thousands of litres of water– and dye in order to reach just the right level of colour saturation. Denim is then made when indigo-dyed yarn is weaved between standard natural yarn, creating its signature indigo colour. Thus in denim manufacturing, the dyeing stage is one of the more wasteful steps; resulting in blue wastewater.
Indigood, sustainable foam-dye
After years of investment into research and development at Texas Tech University, Wrangler have designed an innovative foam-dyeing process that almost entirely removes water from the equation and uses 90% fewer chemicals (yes, you read that right). They’ve called this new foam-dyeing innovation IndigoodTM. Not since the discovery of the denim textile over 150 years ago or synthetic dyes decades later has there been an innovation in jeans production quite like this.
Here’s how the brand’s new IndigoodTM foam-dyeing technology functions: the indigo dye is transferred to the cotton yarn with a foaming agent in an airtight environment sealed by a nitrogen hood. According to the brand, the process results in a 99% water reduction, but thanks to its efficiency, the technology uses 60% less energy compared with conventional denim dyeing, creates 60% less chemical waste and eliminates wastewater. Talk about a denim revolution!
Recently Wrangler Australia launched its rich and vibrant foam-dyed IndigoodTM denim which includes an initial six-piece Icons denim collection that features a men and women’s jean, denim jacket and its iconic Western shirt. With brand ambassadors such as Australian musician Ash Grunwald and sister textile artists Lauren and Kass Hernandez of Crossing Threads on board, Wrangler is hoping to hit its mark with the mindful and fashionable Australian consumer.
This collection is only the beginning too; Wrangler is working with textile mills across Asia and North America to scale the new technology. So foam-dyed denim will not just improve Wrangler’s supply chain, it may positively impact the entire denim production industry.
Given the challenge of climate change together with the myriad of washes, treatments, styles and cuts offered by small and large denim labels, Indigood sustainable technology has great capacity to revolutionise the textile industry.
“We’re excited to be the first brand to sell foam-dyed denim, but we’re even more excited that we won’t be the last.”
But the brand goes even further. In its Indigood collection, every detail has been considered and made more sustainable, from the use of 28-30% recycled cotton in each garment, using recycled plastic labels, 100% recycled paper tags, responsibly-sourced rivets and metal hardware and even its “eco-tech finishing”– faded denim created with sustainable technologies such as lasers, ozone and nanobubbles, all of which reduces the use of polluting chemicals, energy and water.
From a broader supply chain perspective, the brand is making efforts to prioritise workers’ wellbeing, health and safety, partnering with responsible suppliers and conducting regular third party compliance audits to ensure strict adherence to its Global Compliance Principles.
“We pride ourselves on strong supplier relationships that are built on trust and shared values regarding human rights, ethical practices, health and safety, transparency and environmental requirements.”
Adding to its sustainability credentials, Wrangler has also partnered with the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI). Producing new cotton requires lots of land, water and energy so partnering with BCI-licensed farmers who grow cotton using sustainable farming methods that prioritise soil health, water efficiency and minimise application of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides goes a long way to minimising resource consumption and environmental impact.
Furthermore, the brand is increasing its commitment to circular fashion, introducing recycled cotton into its wider collection; t-shirts, for example, made from post-consumer cotton waste. Since textiles are a growing waste stream in landfills, with Australians discarding more than 6,000 kilograms (six tonnes) of clothing and textiles every 10 minutes according to popular TV series War On Waste, Wrangler’s use of cotton from existing clothing that have been discarded for landfill is a big sustainable step forward.
Wrangler may seem late to the sustainability trend in Australia, but it is certainly no stranger to innovation. For over 70 years, it has pioneered cutting edge technological and textile innovations in denim. Launched by the Blue Bell Overall Company in the mid-40s the Wrangler brand quickly became known for its high-quality and authenticity. Featuring 100% Sanforized fabric in its popular five pocket denim jeans, the company set a new industry standard by creating durable denim that didn’t shrink; its heavy duty, high performance jeans catering to the practical needs of cowboys, rodeo riders and rock stars of the time.
Today, Wrangler’s focus on delivering effortlessly cool, long-lasting denim garments that meets the needs of the modern eco-conscious consumer is at its core. Its latest collection may be its most sustainable ever, but given the brand’s history of technological innovation and its ambition to be the most sustainable denim label in world, consumers can expect more exciting developments to come.
To browse Wrangler’s Indigood range, visit their website here.
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Wrangler Australia. Denim garments were gifted as part of this partnership and ambassador images supplied. Any opinions expressed are held by that of the author. Facts and other specific product information is checked with the company. For more information about our policies, click here.
Feature image of Eco Warrior Princess editor-in-chief Jennifer by Ben McGuire.