COLOR WITHOUT COMPROMISE
We're committed to dyeing all of our fabrics with safe chemicals and the best practices for water and energy usage. That's why we're asking our global dyehouses to learn about the bluesign® system.
A Higher Standard
The strict and holistic bluesign® system calls for:
- Starting with safe dyes, so that toxins are reduced before they enter
the manufacturing stream.
- Reducing toxins in dyes and chemicals, meaning there's less to clean up in wastewater. Mills save resources; they need less water and energy, which is not only good for the environment, it reduces costs.
- Looking at everything connected to color: dyes, dispersing agents, salts, acids, fresh water, wastewater, electricity and steam.
- Making human rights part of the equation. With the bluesign' system, workers are not exposed to hazardous chemicals, whether in the air at dyehouses or in the water surrounding their communities.
A Tale of Two Mills
We've been working with bluesign technologies since 2009 and currently source bluesign® certified fabrics from two very different dyehouses, one in China and a second near Barcelona.
- Suzhou Hengda Silk Printing and Dyeing Co., China
For more than 20 years, Suzhou Hengda has been dyeing our core China silks. Because of that long relationship and because we provide almost 90% of the mill's business, they were an ideal partner for our first project with bluesign technologies.
From 2009 to 2012, Suzhou Hengda enthusiastically renovated its facility and invested in state-of-the-art energy-and water-saving equipment. In 2012, it produced our bluesign® certified silks that were a first for us–and for the fashion industry. In one fell swoop, 10% of our product became bluesign® certified.
Suzhou Hengda specializes in silk, which is is one of our core fabrics. However, our orders wax and wane depending on the design of our collections. To ensure that Suzhou Hengda has a steady flow of work-and to increase our bluesign® certified product-we recently began dyeing core linen and cotton fabrics there. In 2013 we introduced bluesign® certified Organic Linen Jersey and, in Spring 15, bluesign® certified Organic Cotton Baby Rib, along with other key organic cottons.
- Dobert Textile Group, Barcelona, Spain
Though we are not a major client at Dobert's dyehouse, general manager Xavier Bombardo immediately said "yes" when we asked him to attend a bluesign conference in Switzerland. His is a small, family-owned business. "Bluesign® certification would make our workers proud of what they do," he says. "They would know that products they produced were much cleaner and created a better world." At Dobert, bluesign® certification happened swiftly because the mill had already invested in state-of-the art machinery. Bluesign suggested minor improvements in water and energy efficiency and shared its expertise in chemistry. "Bluesign gives you a guide, a way to make true judgments about what to avoid–and what is safe to use instead," Xavier says. "For us that was the most important part." In Spring 15, Dobert produced its first bluesign® certified fabrics–our Washed Organic Linen Delave and Tropical Viscose Wool Stretch.
Currently 13% of our product is bluesign® certified. By 2020, we expect that number to grow to roughly 30%. Why not more? We face a number of challenges:
- Demand. While outdoor apparel brands such as Patagonia, The North Face and REI have embraced the bluesign® system, the rest of the clothing industry has been slow to follow. "We are a fashion mill," says Xavier of Dobert. "Right now the only brand asking us for bluesign® certified fabrics is EILEEN FISHER."
- Cost. Bluesign® approved dyes can be more expensive; certification comes with fees. But in the long run, the bluesign® system saves money by reducing the need for water and energy in the dye process and wastewater treatment.
- Awareness. Eco marketing stresses sustainable fibers and seldom mentions dyes. "Organic cotton implies to the customer that everything is alright," says Kurt Schläpfer, of bluesign technologies. "The dyeing and finishing are as important as, if not more important than, the raw material."
- Ultimately, we want 100% of our product to be dyed with the same rigorous criteria that the bluesign® system uses. To reach that goal–without waiting decades–we need to raise awareness about the urgency of shifting to safe dyes. And we need to create demand by reaching out to other brands. If we share our sources and talk to dyehouses together, we can turn safe chemistry into a new industry norm.