What is ‘Waterless’ Clothing?
Water is precious and not to be wasted: tough droughts and freshwater depletion is a worldwide reality for many with some 2.7 billion people currently experiencing water scarcity. The sheer volume of water used in cattle-rearing alone has gained huge attention recently from the environmental perspective of the veganism movement. We all need to eat, but what about other daily necessities? While many of us are trying to become more environmentally-minded with our clothing choices , do we ever think about the amount of water used in our clothing? Let’s take a look at how we can cut-back on the water-wasting process of clothing production.
From factory to fashion-show, the clothing industry uses vast quantities of water throughout the intensive production and manufacturing process of creating garments. In fact, the fashion industry is the second most water-intensive industry in the world. It takes an average of 10,000-20,000 litres of water to cultivate one single kilo of raw cotton. After cotton is harvested, textiles are dyed and chemically treated in water baths at various stages of production. Huge volumes of water are involved in dyeing, finishing and washing clothes before they get to the customer; manufacturing and finishing processes can be more or less water-intensive depending on the desired style of the finished product.
If we take denim jeans, for example, many years ago they were characterised as tough, durable trousers worn by cowboys and bikers alike. Through years of practical use, sun-fading, softening and creasing became common hallmarks of well-worn denim jeans and yet, as blue denim jeans rose to prominence as a Western clothing staple, so too did these signs of wear. Unless touted as an eco-business prided on reusing pre-loved garments, clothing brands cannot generally sell old, used denim items as ‘new’. So, to create a range of creative effects and high-street fashion styles that mimic these old ‘worn-in’ looks, designers introduced a range of methods such as tumble stoning and water-submersions with the hope of getting those ‘well-worn’ styles on the brand-new finished garments. The main issue here is that these ‘wearing-in’ processes are generally very water-intensive.
In response to the reality of water scarcity and the copious waste of water in the fashion industry, world-leading brand Levi’s innovated the “Water<Less” jeans range. Designers at Levi’s created over 20 techniques to create a range of great designs without using the large quantities of water conventionally required to reach those fashion finishes. With Levi’s starting the trend, it’s only a matter of time before more clothing brands follow-suit and become more accountable at each stage of the manufacturing process. To help this movement, Levi’s shared this patented method with a range of competitors in order to push the trend towards ‘waterless’ clothing throughout the market. In a 35-page document made available in 2016, Levi’s set-out and share the step-by-step “Water<Less” programme, ethos and techniques for other manufacturers to follow. Perhaps a world-first, but hopefully not a last!
With such astounding facts, it’s unthinkable that people are destroying the Earth’s rich and powerful rainforests as such an alarming rate. Check out our range of environmental articles to find out how you can do your bit to treading more lightly on the planet.