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The Environmental Damage of Denim Manufacture


With SVP Fashion kicking off their annual show today (26th June, 2018), this article looks at the recent interview between SVP and Anubha, and the implications and ease for companies wishing to focus more on sourcing sustainable denim.

Anubha Industries is a company which only uses eco-friendly yarn. They are specialists in denim and piece dyed fabrics, and as a relatively new company, having being founded in 2013, their focus is very much on sustainability.

To emphasise this, Anubha comment on how they are a “BlueSign System partner”.

“BlueSign is the standard that holds all textile supply chain participants to meet contemporary ecological requirements which focus on reducing environmental impacts and take a holistic approach to input stream management and sustainable processes”.

Historically, the manufacture of denim has been highly unsustainable. Previous reports supplied evidence that processes such as sandblasting were dangerous for workers, and it was reported that sandblasting was responsible for disproportionate instances of silicosis. Silicosis is a deadly lung disease which is already responsible for the deaths of many denim workers.

There have also always been concerns over the amount of water required to produce the cotton used in many denim products. It was estimated by a 2017 research paper that it takes fifteen hundred gallons of water to produce just one and a half pounds of cotton. Anubha have made some progress to combat this issue. They highlight their “ultra-sonic technology that has helped to reduce chemical and water consumption by about thirty percent”. They also say that this technology has allowed them to “use thirty percent lower heat” in their washing process.

Whilst this is impressive, it is also worth mentioning that the impacts on the communities which produce denim are huge. Many of these communities are found in China, Bangladesh and India and following information gathered by documentarians David McIlvride and Roger Williams, it was discovered that these people have a higher risk of cancers, gastric disorders, skin diseases, and other related issues. This is due to over seventy percent of Asia’s rivers and lakes having become contaminated by the two and a half billion gallons of wastewater produced by that continent’s textile industry.

As such, the work being done by companies such as Anubha to combat the historic unsustainability of denim is incredibly valuable; and one of the most important ways to increase sustainability is to educate consumers about just what goes into making their denim.

Sustainability in the fashion industry as a whole is becoming a very important focus for companies both new and old. In an article previously featured on FashionCapital, Gucci’s Equilibrium scheme was looked at in detail, and it was surmised that an increased focus on sustainability in fabrics and materials leads to greater innovation where fabrics and materials are concerned.

Whilst there still exist clear and challenging obstacles in ensuring denim sustainability, there are lots of promising points to take from Anubha’s model and this can only help contribute to the ever-growing focus on sustainability in the fashion industry.

By Callum Cliffe

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