COPENHAGEN — Danish biotechnology company Novozyme made a fashion splash during the U.N.’s climate summit in Copenhagen last week with the launch of a technology that replaces chemicals with enzymes to produce eco-friendly knitwear.
This story first appeared in the December 15, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Novozymes’ “elemental textiles,” developed in collaboration with Hong Kong-based apparel manufacturer Esquel, is said to improve the strength, softness and smoothness of fabrics while reducing hazardous carbon dioxide and chemical emissions.
The three-step process involves “bio-scouring” textiles to remove impurities and prepare them for dyeing, followed by dyeing with a special enzyme solution that removes protruding fiber ends. Finally, excess dye in the fabric is removed with an enzymatic rinse that also boosts colorfastness.
Thomas Nagy, executive vice president of Novozymes, said the process is cost neutral as savings in water, energy and time offset other outlays.
An estimated 8.6 million tons of knitwear is produced worldwide every year, and switching to the enzyme process could substantially reduce the environmental damage caused by this production, according to Novozymes. The company’s lifecycle assessment for the process showed a potential savings of 18,500 gallons of water and 2,200 pounds of CO2 per ton of knitted fabric.
“It’s a win-win for business, customers and fashionistas everywhere,” said Nagy.