Making Your Jeans Blue Takes a Lot of Water. This New Process Could Change That.

You’ve read the headlines about how polluting fashion is, how brands have been guilty of greenwashing products in their marketing, and how shoppers are demanding sustainability more than ever. It’s not just newcomers building conscious businesses, being vocal, and advocating for change in the industry. More and more, we’re seeing heritage brands course-correct, investing their resources and know-how into real innovation. The latest contribution comes from one of the most well-known American denim companies, and it’s addressing one of the most contaminating steps that goes into making a pair of jeans.

Wrangler decided to tackle indigo dyeing—“because it has the most significant visual and ecological impact on the planet,” Roian Atwood, the brand’s Senior Director of Sustainability, tells Glamour in Valencia, Spain, during a visit to the factories that are producing its new collection. (Disclosure: Wrangler paid for my travel and accommodations for the purpose of reporting this story.) “When you see a blue river ecosystem, there’s no way morally, ethically, and from a good corporate citizenship standpoint that that is okay.” Documentaries like 2016’s RiverBlue and 2018’s Fashion’s Dirty Secrets have brought attention to the issue of water waste and contamination as a direct result of clothing manufacturing at a global level. Still, when something as popular and enduring as denim requires thousands of gallons of water just to dye it its signature blue, you need more than awareness to address the problem.

“The reality is that, if we can cut it off at the source, if we can create a technology that has no waste water and that minimizes the water consumption, we’ve solved for a really big industry issue,” Atwood says. That’s what two years of research, testing, and collaboration between the iconic Americana brand, Texas Tech University, Gaston Systems, and the Spain-based fabric manufacturer Tejidos Royo hopes to be bringing to the table.

Wrangler is introducing Indigood, which it bills as its most sustainable denim to date and the first ever to use a foam dyeing technology. According to the brand, it uses 90 percent less chemicals and 60 percent less energy than the traditional dyeing method, and it creates zero water waste.

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