“Denims: Deep blue is now really Deep green”

The Tamil Nadu based company, KG Fabriks, well-known for producing the most sustainable denim fabric, did a deep dive into the supply chain processes to create what can be called ‘a truly sustainable yarn’. What is even more interesting is the fact that the company is trying to mainstream the sustainability by not charging a premium on the product.

What is it about denims and sustainability?

There is nothing more popular as a garment than a pair of blue jeans. Blue Jeans find worldwide acceptance among young and old, men and women and across west and east. Initially designed for miners during the Gold rush, it soon became popular defying the societal hierarchies in the world of fashion. In that sense, this garment represented rebellions, displaying the rough and the rugged, I don’t care attitude. This is also one of those garments that got appreciation as it aged, just like old wine. What is unique about this garment is that it is made of indigo dyed, strong cotton, woven using a twill weave, that creates the ribbed diagonal patterns. However, despite its popularity, it has been getting a lot of flak for being unsustainable in the recent past. What makes denim dirty is its intensive water usage, pesticide intensive cotton base, and the processes of sandblasting, stonewashing and contaminating water bodies with indigo blue dyes. This perception continues to rule the mindscapes of many and some think that 100% sustainable denim is at least half a century away. However, at KG Fabriks, the rough and tough denim yarn, gets churned out, with utmost care for the planet and for the people for making your denims fully sustainable.

KG Fabriks: Introduction

KG Fabriks (KGF), a textile company based out of SIPCOT Industrial Growth Centre, Perundurai, Tamil Nadu is a unit of Sri Kannapiran Mills Ltd. an eighty year old textile giant. Four units of the company KG Naidu Mills, Coimbatore, Balaji Mills, Eshwara Mills and Srinivasa Mills produce 80 Tonnes of yarn per day which comprises of 55000 spindles of 3 Ring yarn and 7000 rotors of 2 OE Yarn. This is additional to 20 million meters of denim fabric that the company produces per annum. The Company is GreenCo Gold and Green Pro Certified, the labels recognized and accepted internationally.

Green Yarn or Blue Yarn

The company that is well known for producing sustainable fabric, through process optimization had a realization that what can make the denim truly sustainable, is how the yarn is made, sourced and transported. As a quest, the company took upon itself this challenge to offer Sustainable Yarn to all irrespective of awareness or demand from the customer.

It is interesting that the company has two certified labels for the Yarn, one is Green Label and the other is Blue.

What is Green Label for Yarn?

Vanitha, VP for Yarn Division, KG Fabriks clarifies that if the fibres are conventional cotton and other conventional materials, but nevertheless go through a certified process and product assessment, which is CII’s GreenCo and GreenPro Certification, then it is called a Green Yrn Label, which can be tagged and used by brands and customers across the globe. There is no premium that this product demands and when quizzed if that would make business sense, Srihari Balakrishnan argues that there should be no premium for sustainable.

It is our duty as a ‘responsible business’ to supply sustainable yarn, whether the customer demands or not.”

Srihari Balakrishnan, MD, KG Fabriks

What is Blue Label for Yarn?

That is where things get interesting. At KG Fabriks, Deep blue is indeed deep green. The Deep Blue Yrn Label, assures that the sourced materials are sustainable, which could be Post-Consumer Waste, Post Industrial Waste, PET Bottle Recycled, FSC certified Viscose and Tencel, Organic and BCI certified.

However, irrespective of the Yarn Labels (Green and Blue), the process sustainability applies to all Yarns, which is energy, water, waste management and packaging sustainability. Jigarullah GM, Climate Care at KG Fabriks, celebrates the processes at all factories by creating momentum through initiatives such as Water Wednesdays, that helps in resource conservation.

More than 50% of sourcing at KG Fabriks is sustainable fibres with over 60% energy sourced again is from renewable sources.

What about Social Sustainability?

Using the term sustainability cannot only be green practices, and this is well entrenched in the Company DNA.

Employees:

The company follows due diligence for prohibiting child labour and providing healthy hygienic work environment to all employees with 100% social security. What it does much beyond the peers is helping migrant workers assimilate in local societies. Nearly 250 migrant families were encouraged by giving them relocation incentives for bringing their families and leading a normal life near their workplace. This initiative has also helped in strengthening village economies as they are renting out their premises for the workers.

Communities:

In terms of philanthropic contributions of the company, some initiatives stand out amidst many others, such as running India’s largest skill development centre covering 12 trades spread over seven locations. It has more than 2500 people enrolled in short term programmes. There is an additional programme offered for two years. In one of the ITIs, 400 people are enrolled.

Achievements and Recognition

The Proudest Partner to Ellen MacArthur’s Jeans Redesign Project, and the only participant from India, KG Fabriks could easily achieve the four requirements of Durability, Material Health, Recyclability and Traceability. The jeans are assured to meet 30 home laundries which implies having tensile strength, seam slippage and tear strength and also made from 98% cellulose based fibres by weight.

The commitments taken by the company to conserve water in its operations led to achieving the national water award in 2018 and the Excellence in Water Management in 2019. The net savings achieved because of water conservation measures are equivalent to saving water for 1 million people in a day. The company has achieved Higgs’s Index 84%, apart from GreenCo Gold and GreenPro.

Way forward:

Going one step further, Srihari Balakrishnan explains the concept of four strands of Sustainability, one dimension over and above the three pronged approach that is commonly used which is economic, environmental and social. The fourth dimension he argues is the Sustainability of Time, as the customer turn-around time is very crucial. “So, for that the concept of digital denim, the company is benchmarking itself against Swiggy for sample turnaround time, Quote mechanism against Booking.com and instant delivery against Amazon Prime. Around 92 % of the company’s samples are turned around within 24 hours.”

Continuing progress and pushing for more resource conservation, global benchmarking and getting the perception of dirty out of the denims would require many others to follow what has been perfected at KG Fabriks. Encouraging other Indian counterparts to make use of the GreenPro Certifications would help Denim produced in India differently.

The company has internalized sustainability through effective systems and processes to make denims special once again. The fabric that revolutionized and defined working class comfort while providing dignity is again leading the fashion industry through rediscovering itself as most sustainable. KG Fabriks will continue to innovate and evolve practices that help people, planet, work for customers and for communities.

Written by:

Dr Shashi K. CEO SAGE Sustainability