A look from the Wrangler 70th anniversary collection.

The Fiber and Biopolymer Research Institute, a division of Texas Tech University’s department of plant and soil science, today revealed a new foam-dyeing process for denim at a special event. Heritage denim brands Wrangler and Lee, as well as the Wal-Mart Foundation, are early investors in the technology and were in attendance at the event hosted by Indigo Mill Designs to show support for the initiative.

Foam-dyeing is a cost-effective and environmentally friendly process for dyeing yarns, but its use was limited for denim manufacturing. The indigo dye that creates denim’s blue color reacted to oxygen in the air and rendered the process ineffective — but Indigo Mill Designs’s Indigo Zero solution maintains oxygen-free conditions throughout the dyeing process until yarns are ready for “oxygen environments,” namely open-air or oxidation chambers. And the process “reduces chemical usage while achieving the same or better dye quality compared to conventional processes” in addition to “[resulting] in net reductions of water and energy usage of more than 90 percent.”

Wrangler has saved 3 billion liters of water since 2007.

Wrangler has saved 3 billion liters of water since 2007. 

Tim Waldron, the brand president of Wrangler, said that “Wrangler advanced the commercialization 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.”

Sudhakar Puvvada, who leads denim innovation work for Wrangler and Lee’s Global Innovation Center and served as an advisor to Indigo Mill Designs, said that “a large fabric mill uses millions of gallons of water every day to dye denim” and that “Indigo Mill Design’s innovation can greatly reduce that amount and cut the energy needed for dyeing and wastewater treatment.”

The lead researcher at Texas Tech, Dean Ethridge, said they are “grateful for the support of Wrangler and Lee, whose investment and technical contribution greatly advanced the process of commercialization with Indigo Mill Designs.” Ethridge added, “Credit also goes to the U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund for supporting the research project that made development of this technology possible.”

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