Sourcing Journal’s Sustaining Voices celebrates the efforts the apparel industry is making toward securing a more environmentally responsible future through creative innovations, scalable solutions and forward-thinking initiatives that are spinning intent into action.
We aRe SpinDye is revolutionizing synthetic-textile dyeing—and helping save the planet at the same time.
While the first product using We aRe SpinDye’s sustainable dyeing technology debuted in 2016, the company recently secured a 3 million euro ($3.46 million) investment, allowing it to scale. In the last year, brands such as Bergans of Norway, Quiksilver, Fjällräven and Odd Molly have been early adopters.
The Swedish company's method represents an all-new way of approaching color in the apparel supply chain. Andreas Andrén, COO at SpinDye, explained the process behind SpinDye’s tech in the simplest terms: the company adds a customer’s choice of pigment directly to the recycled polyester melt before the yarn is spun.
“Research cited by the World Bank indicates that nearly 20 percent of all freshwater pollution worldwide is related to one step in the production chain of textiles: the dyeing step,” Andrén said. Compared with piece-dyeing fabrics, SpinDye’s solution dye technique reduces water use by 75 percent and chemical use by 90 percent, according to third-party insights from Swedish NGO Swerea and RISE.
“One of the challenges is to get the brands to change their mindset and work with color choices differently,” Andrén noted, adding that many brands are reluctant to commit to a color so soon in the production process. But that choice, Andrén said, not only adds up to cost savings via bulk materials orders, but it also gives manufacturers additional flexibility if a color becomes in-demand and needs to be produced again.
SpinDye is already on the market with nine international brands and the company is prepared to scale up, thanks to the money it raised in 2018. Andrén said the investments will extend SpinDye’s commercial reach, as well as implement more advanced digital technologies that can make the dye technique more appealing to manufacturers. “We see a potential to develop powerful digital prediction tools that may make color development or ‘lab dipping’ obsolete,” Andrén said.
SpinDye’s technique only works with synthetic materials, but as Andrén points out, it uses far less water than piece-dyeing natural fibers. It also presents an opportunity for recycling materials. “We are convinced that circularity is a clear way to a sustainable future of textile production,” Andrén said. “Synthetic materials are fundamental to achieve these goals.”
Andrén said that thanks to awareness campaigns, consumers are educated on the toll fashion companies exact on the planet. Now, he said, the onus is on apparel manufacturers to make sweeping changes in their production efforts, not just small steps towards sustainable practices. “The technique is here,” Andrén said. “It is up to the brands to show that they want to change for real.”
In what areas has the fashion industry made the biggest strides in sustainability in the last five years?
"Awareness and production. We think the fashion industry has done a great job of exposing and bringing awareness to the dirty sides of the industry. When it comes to conversion to a more sustainable production, there are steady steps forward with every year that goes by. We want more brands to show willingness to change on a broad and deep front towards sustainable production."