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TEXAS – US denim brands Wrangler and Lee have put their financial weight behind a new foam dyeing process which claims to radically slash water and energy use compared to traditional indigo dyeing.

The innovative process, owned by Indigo Mill Designs, has attracted early stage investment from VF Corp brands Wrangler and Lee, as well as the Walmart Foundation.

Representatives from across the apparel industry gathered this week at the Fiber and Biopolymer Research Institute of Texas Tech University to see the new process in action.

“Wrangler advanced the commercialisation of this technology because we believe it has the potential to dramatically improve the environmental impact of our industry and help us achieve our brand goals for water conservation,” said Wrangler brand president, Tom Waldron.

The foam dyeing of yarn is not new technology, however, its use was previously limited in denim manufacture because the indigo dye used to create the traditional blue colour reacts to oxygen in the air.

However, IMD’s IndigoZERO solution, developed at Texas Tech University, claims to have overcome this limitation, resulting in net reductions of water and energy usage of more than 90 per cent while achieving the same or better dye quality compared to conventional processes.

To give some perspective, a conventional water-based dye tank set-up can be up to 300 yards long whereas the new foam dyeing system for the same amount of fabric is said to be only 30 feet long.

“A large fabric mill uses millions of gallons of water every day to dye denim,” explained Sudhaker Puvvada, who leads denim innovation work for Wrangler and Lee’s Global Innovation Centre and served as an advisor to IMD. “IMD’s innovation can greatly reduce that amount and cut the energy needed for dyeing and wastewater treatment.”

It is also claimed that IMD’s foam dyeing process will allow fabric mills to produce much smaller quantities than conventional dyeing processes. In addition to reducing waste, smaller fabric runs will allow for new design and marketing innovations in the denim industry.

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