Archroma, a manufacturer of colour and specialty chemicals, is combining the old and the new in a range of "biosynthetic" dyes for cotton and cellulose-based fabrics - 'Earthcolors' - which are derived from natural products such as almond shells, saw palmetto, rosemary leaves, and others.
Earthcolors make use of agriculture waste products that would otherwise be sent to landfill. They can be used to provide rich red, brown and green colours to denim and casualwear.
Wearing its heart on its sleeve, so to speak, Archroma is providing brand owners with the possibility of transparency along the complete supply chain for Earthcolors. And it is also offering to make that transparency available to clothes shoppers – just as long as they have a smartphone with them.
Archroma will put all the information about individual batches of colour on hang tags to be attached to each item of clothing. Each hang tag incorporates a chip with all the information on it, and that information can be accessed by the prospective buyer in the shop using Near Field Communications (NFC) technology incorporated into their phone. Archroma believes that this is the first time that NFC is being used in this way.
NFC is a relative of RFID, or Radio Frequency Identification, which many retailers already use for tracking products. Archroma is hoping that it will provide shoppers with a more "involved" buying experience.
Alan Cunningham, Head of Textiles Dyes Marketing at Archroma said: "We all should have the possibility to choose the fashion option with the least environmental impact and to be safe in the knowledge that there is substance behind what is claimed on the label. With Earthcolors, we allow just that."
The chip can contain information such as the mill which dyed the fabric and where the garment was laundered, as well as the source of bio-based raw material.
The new dyes, which Archroma describes as biosynthetic sulfur dyes, have been four years in the making. They have the overall performance of the company's existing range of sulfur dyes made from conventional raw materials. Archroma describes this new development as a step-change in dyes manufacturing and colouration technology.
To make Earthcolors, Archroma transforms biomass from waste products of the agriculture and herbal sectors in a patent-pending process. "Not one square metre of land is set aside to grow the raw material for these dyes, so there is no competition for arable land," says Cunningham.
The new range is produced near Barcelona, Spain, with all raw materials sourced from within a radius of 500 km.
"At Archroma we develop the latest technologies to deliver fashion trends in the most sustainable ways possible," says Cunningham. "We aim to help brand owners and textile mills by letting them know how our colours are made, and how and where our raw materials are made. We are more than happy to share that information, not only with our customers, but also the final consumer."
For more information on Earthcolors visit http://textiles.archroma.com which includes a 5 minute video explaining the process.