Indigo Mill Designs (IMD) debuted a foam-dyeing technology, IndigoZero, for denim at the Fiber and Biopolymer Research Institute of Texas Tech University Tuesday. Denim brands served as early investors for the technology, including Wrangler, Lee and the Walmart Foundation.

IndigoZero reduces overall water and energy usage by more than 90 percent. The foam-dyeing process also reduces chemical usage while producing equal, or even better, dye quality compared to the typical dye processes. The new technology allows mills to make smaller quantities than the traditional dyeing processes, allowing for waste reduction and smaller fabric runs.

The new technique is both sustainable and cost effective, but was previously difficult to implement in the denim world due to its reactive properties towards oxygen in the air, which would impact the classic blue color of denim.

“A large fabric mill uses millions of gallons of water every day to dye denim,” said Sudhakar Puvvada, who leads denim innovation work for Wrangler and Lee’s Global Innovation Center 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.”

The technology will be first implemented by Wrangler and Lee suppliers in the U.S. and Mexico, and then rolled out to facilities around the world.

“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,” said Wrangler Brand President Tom Waldron.

Wrangler projects that if the technology is implemented only by Wrangler and Lee fabric suppliers in the Americas, 8 billion liters of water will be conserved annually, or equal to the amount of water used by 70,000 Americans each year. Once adapted by Wrangler and Lee suppliers globally, at least 17 billion liters of water will be saved annually, equal to the total amount used by 150,000 Americans each year.

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