Fash­ion Change Mak­ers

When pretty much ev­ery sil­hou­ette has been seen be­fore, it takes more than dar­ing de­sign to send a fris­son of ex­cite­ment through the fash­ion world. En­ter a new wave of in­no­va­tors cre­at­ing so­cial en­ter­prises, mak­ing sci­en­tific break­throughs and de­vel­op­ing

Virgin Australia Voyeur - - NEWS -

Th­ese in­no­va­tors are pi­o­neer­ing ever-more so­cially con­scious ways of pro­duc­ing and sell­ing the lat­est fash­ion.

Jeans might be the most loved piece of cloth­ing in our wardrobe, but from fi­bre to wear, they come with a hefty price tag for the planet. In China, denim fac­to­ries are turn­ing rivers bright blue, sand­blast­ing tech­niques have been as­so­ci­ated with cancer clus­ters in gar­ment work­ers and even the green­est denim laun­dries use large amounts of pre­cious water.

It’s not sur­pris­ing then that many brands are keen to ad­dress denim’s en­vi­ron­men­tal foot­print. Game-changer in­no­va­tions have in­cluded laser dis­tress­ing and re­cy­cled cot­ton, but un­til now no one’s come up with any­thing quite like this: how to dye new denim us­ing old denim.

The idea comes from five Aus­tralian sci­en­tists at Deakin Univer­sity’s In­sti­tute for Fron­tier Ma­te­ri­als. With their Cir­cu­lar Denim project, they turn un­wanted jeans into a fine pow­der that can be used in dig­i­tal printers as pig­ment to dye new pairs of jeans.

It caught the at­ten­tion of the H&M Foun­da­tion, with the team awarded €150,000 ($220,000) and the Global Change Award ear­lier this year. The win might well be over­shad­owed by the team’s at­ten­dance next month at a work­shop in Mi­lan, where they will dress in the very first denim-dyed denim jeans, pro­duced by Mel­bourne la­bel No­body. “Ev­ery­body is very ex­cited,” says Pro­fes­sor Xun­gai Wang. “There are five of us in this project team, but the in­sti­tute is the largest ma­te­ri­als in­sti­tute in Australia, with more than 300 peo­ple work­ing on tex­tile-re­lated projects. We’re try­ing to help ad­dress some of the en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues. Other projects look at waste­water treat­ment, for ex­am­ple, and clean­ing up air.”

Dur­ing the av­er­age life cy­cle of a sin­gle pair of jeans, 3500 litres of water are used. Much of that is ac­tu­ally post­con­sumer use (in wash­ing), but their pro­duc­tion is still very thirsty work, es­pe­cially when you con­sider more than 450 mil­lion pairs of denim jeans are sold glob­ally each year.

“To make one pair of jeans, the dye­ing process alone re­quires a min­i­mum of 200 litres of water,” says Pro­fes­sor Wang, a fi­bre sci­en­tist with a me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing back­ground. “Water dis­charge from this process is a big prob­lem in coun­tries where it’s not reg­u­lated. The as­so­ci­ated en­ergy consumption is an­other prob­lem. Tra­di­tional denim man­u­fac­tur­ing is a water- and en­ergy-in­ten­sive process.”

In con­trast, Pro­fes­sor Wang says, they can use one pair of old jeans to colour 10 new pairs. “That’s a po­ten­tial sav­ing of 2000 litres of water.”

So how do they do it? “We use a shred­ding ma­chine to break the jeans down into a very, very fine pow­der that feels like flour. It’s dif­fi­cult be­cause nor­mally, fine pow­ders are made from brit­tle ma­te­ri­als (which are much eas­ier to pul­verise), whereas fi­bres are elas­tic, flex­i­ble and rea­son­ably strong. That’s why not many peo­ple have cracked it.”

Sci­en­tists at Deakin Univer­sity (be­low) work to turn old jeans into pow­der for dye­ing (above).

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.