Photo courtesy of Citizens of Humanity.

Sustainability has come into clear focus as more brands and retailers expand their eco-minded product offerings to better align with consumer demand. And for companies such as Citizens of Humanity, a vertically integrated denim manufacturer based in L.A., the brand takes a solution-oriented approach for enabling sustainable manufacturing processes by embracing new technologies and keeping a watchful eye on company-wide practices and procedures.

Through continuous investments in new machinery and technologies, Citizens of Humanity zeros in on water and energy conservation, as well as technologies that quicken manufacturing processes whilst conserving resources and diminishing pollution and chemical usage.

“We always try to find new technologies and we invest in new equipment that can allow us to reach our goal to reduce the impact on our environment by developing a finished product [that] uses less utilities such as water, gas and electricity, as well as less chemicals and dyes, whenever reasonably possible,” said Federico Pagnetti, chief operating officer at the brand.

The company’s ozone machine combines electricity and gas to create a wash that consumes less than 1/10 of the water usage, the company said. “We’ve been using the Ozone machine since 2008. This machine can replace some of the traditional processes that use chemicals. All of this is accomplished in a zero discharge process without water or chemicals and with a considerable reduction in the steps required to produce a finished product,” Pagnetti told WWD.

Photograph courtesy of Citizens of Humanity. 

And its success is in the numbers: “Savings may be as much as 65 percent less water consumption, as much as 20 percent less gas and electricity and as much as 80 percent less chemicals. The actual savings depends on the particular fabric and desired finished product,” Pagnetti explained. Its high-efficiency dye and washing machines reduce water, chemical usage and power by over 70 percent; high-efficiency dryers use 40 percent less gas; and its water catch machines catch and recycle dirty water.

Also of note is “E Flow,” its washing process that applies softer and resin to denim and uses less than 60 percent of the water and applications compared to prior alternatives. And the company said it has begun testing a new type of stone made of recycled materials that should soon be able to reduce its usage of stones by at least 60-70 percent, compared to alternatives such as pumice stone.

Citizens of Humanity also invests in laser technology, which adds abrasions to denim through an ecologically minded process: The procedure saves multiple water steps and reduces its gas consumption by 20 to 30 percent, the company said.

“We’ve been using the laser machines since 2013 as a method that can create desired finishes on our products while reducing the environmental impact,” Pagnetti noted. “In the laser process, there is no use of water, stones or sand to process the jeans. The process uses a laser beam across the jeans to ‘burn’ the desired look into the jean and achieves the result faster than through traditional processing methods.”

Pagnetti said the technology “may be able to achieve the desired ‘distressed’ or ‘vintage’ finish. The laser in combination with the ozone can virtually reduce the usage of water to zero.”

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