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Head of Special Dyes -Textile specialties Archroma
So, is Patagonia's denim 'rational denim'?
The denim by Patagonia can be called Rational Denim since sustainability is the core concept. Patagonia is using organic cotton, is applying the dyes and chemicals we suggest, as well as the application process, which is set up for saving large amounts of water. Patagonia worked with Archroma products and technologies, and the denim fabric is dyed by Advanced Denim and manufactured by Arvind Mills in India. Arvind is one of the mills that Patagonia has certified for producing fabrics for them. However, Patagonia is not using all four of the partners. For example, it does not use any Tencel-the fibre from Lenzing that strengthens the Rational Denim concept with its low water requirements, and does not use finishing chemicals from Garmon for the garments.
Their jeans are left raw, or just washed, since Patagonia does have a different target market. Good functionality embedded in a full sustainable manufacturing pipeline is the requirement.
Who do you want to reach through your roadmap?
We don't want to reach only brands like Patagonia, who are already aware of the ecological problems with denim and deal with them. We want to reach the big fashion brands-the ones who produce the lion's share of the world's denim and who currently use resources in a less sustainable way. Imagine: Three billion pairs of jeans are produced each year, each using ten cubic meters of water, and the demand is growing. The market itself is growing. Especially countries like China and India, who traditionally wore other clothes, show a growing interest in jeans. People in these countries want to wear denim now, and they have all the right to have it. But we have to think about the issues related to that growing demand and how to better serve it.
How can you convince these big fashion brands to change their current mode of denim production?
We actually just had someone from a big fast fashion chain here at the booth and their reaction was more positive than we anticipated. People think that the only concern for retailers like these is a low price. But that is not necessarily the case anymore. They are very much under pressure, and have an interest in changing their negative impact on the environment. And when these big players change something in their production habits that will have an immediate and big scale impact. If they were to adapt Rational Denim-yes, it would be more expensive- but it has to be seen not as a cost, but as an investment. They will get something more in return. And it is inevitable. Everybody will have to adapt to the challenges we face: we cannot generate more water, we cannot generate more natural resources, and denim is, within the textiles business, the largest consumer of resources on earth. At some point, it will not be possible to continue producing denim the way it is conventionally done today.
What would you mean by that?
Denim is very often produced in dry places. The United Nations brought out a report at the beginning of the year, which stated that two billion people have no direct access to water. So each litre that we save can be a litre of drinking water for a person. We can live without denim, but we cannot live without water.
What was the kind of feedback that you received at Kingpins?
Considering the number of people that visited our booth and those attending the Rational Denim panel, we are very satisfied. This Kingpins show has confirmed that sustainable denim is becoming more than just a 'clean face' marketing concept. I guess brands are realising that they are responsible for making denim a sound article in all aspects and that sustainability is no longer a 'nice-tohave', but a real element to be considered when designing collections.
What will be your next step?
We are currently discussing with Andrew Olah the possibility of showing Rational Denim at other events. We are also going to discuss what kind of new collections we-the four companies that collaborated in the project- want to jointly work on in the future. Rational Denim is more flexible than conventional denim, so we can explore many alternatives. On the other hand, we will discuss and set up projects with the brands that have already shown an interest in the concept. It is all very exciting.
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