Welcome to textile dyeing 2.0

Mark Lane | 28th September 2018

SHANGHAI – There are all manner of sustainable innovations occurring in the textile dyeing process right now. One of the most intriguing we have come across is We are SpinDye, a Swedish business whose proprietary method essentially eliminates the water and chemical-intensive wet processing stage of textile dyeing.

The brilliance of the company’s method is that rather than reinventing the wheel, it has instead refined and fine-tuned an existing process – with some remarkable results. As the company’s technology gets set to take the global apparel industry by storm, Apparel Insider caught up with CEO Micke Magnusson at the Intertextile Shanghai Apparel Fabrics exhibition.

We are SpinDye’s method is evolution rather than revolution. Its process sees it take colour pigments and add them to raw materials during the spinning process, at the point where yarn is made. By doing this, the business not only cuts the amount of wastage but this also means the colour is bound inside the textile fibre – creating excellent colour fastness, and colours that last a lifetime. This method also takes away the unnecessary step of soaking textiles in a huge amount of heated, chemically contaminated water.

The net result is a decrease in water use of 85 per cent, chemical use by 75 per cent and energy use by almost half – and all with better end results in terms of precise, lasting shades.

The company has not surprisingly attracted considerable interest, including an investment injection of €3m from Textile Innovation Fund (TIF) and Social Impact Ventures along with Chinese business Bestbase Group.

Magnusson told Apparel Insider the money will be used to speed scale-up. “Predominantly we will further invest in our sales and marketing, with more people,” he told us. “On top of this we will further fuel a few infrastructural investments intended to faster drive the digitisation of colours for the fashion and apparel industry.”

Excitingly, Magnusson tells us the business is currently integrating its production method with the supply chains of several global brands. “The obvious challenge is to [achieve] visible volumes with a few global brands, where supply-chains will have to adopt to a modern way of working. We call it ‘the 2.0 of dyeing.’”

It sounds extremely promising, but Magnusson is acutely aware there are many challenges yet to overcome. Asked about barriers to the technology’s widespread use, he tells us it is, “the two ‘p’s – people and processes.” He adds: “Change is always driven by people with mandate within organisations, and never solely by new technologies. The apparel industry is rather conservative, where risk and new ways of working is not always welcomed with open arms.

“Secondly, the production processes in our industry are quite stale. There is a margin pressure that focuses much more on pressing cost-prices, rather than focusing on driving revenues. This is accompanied by few cross-category sourcing models and silo-oriented sourcing. Together these factors are not making change happening very fast.”

Magnusson says there will be a few visible launches of the tech in the coming season, whereby he and his team will roll-out its ingredient brand to become more visible for consumers, and also retailers. It will also start to service customers in southern europe and, within a few months, the US and Asia.

But what of the million dollar question: price? Is this method of dyeing comparable to traditional dyeing?

Magnusson is refreshingly open on this issue, as well he might be – it is a question he will invariably be asked regularly as he looks to roll this tech out along supply chains.

He tells us: “It is important to know that circular or more sustainable materials are more expensive to produce and to source. The ‘true costs’ are included in sustainable materials, which in comparison to conventional materials are premium priced. Organic cotton, recycled polyester etc are all simply more expensive today.

“My take is that this will change the coming 3-5 years – the cost prices will come down with increased volumes and more technological and sophisticated solutions. As a rough estimate, you should consider a price premium of 10-20 per cent on more sustainable materials, all categories. On a material level, this represents a retail-sale-price premium of 3-6 per cent, which stronger brands can implement, while weaker brands under more price-pressure will struggle with.”