Future of Denim Industry: Moving Towards Sustainability

23 May 2023

Denim is a popular fabric used for various garments including jeans, jackets, and more. From labor to leisure wear, denim has frequently been a vital element of fashion. Denim has revolutionized the world of fashion. Jeans, a worldwide design element, have become an essential textile in the global apparel industry, with a market valuation of $64.5 billion in 2022. This blog will explain what sustainable denim is and why it is so essential to the world.

About Denim Industry

In 2022, the global denim fabric market was valued at approximately 27.1 billion U.S. dollars. Levi Strauss, which recorded approximately 6.17 billion US dollars in revenue in 2022, is one of the most well-known companies in the jeans industry. Leading manufacturers are optimistic that denim will continue to expand in the coming years, with the global market for jeans expected to hit US$87.4 billion by 2027, based on recent Research and Markets projection. Over the past few years, the Indian denim industry has experienced tremendous growth in the local market, which now includes a sizable portion of the worldwide industry. After China, India is the country with the biggest jeans industry.

Problems with the Denim Industry

Denim mills, being one of the best-known segments of the fashion industry, are now gradually adopting circularity in their production processes. Denim manufacturing processes emit a large number of greenhouse gasses, and the environmental impact of this ever-popular garment is significant. Sustainable Denim is a concept that is used in manufacturing denim fabric using fewer components that are averse to the environment. The production of more ethical denim textiles that bridge the gap between fashion and sustainability is something that Indian denim brands are working hard to achieve. 

Let’s start the journey toward Denim sustainability by understanding the challenges faced by the manufacturing mills – 

Dyeing the Denim

Indigo is frequently used as the main coloring agent in the dyeing procedure to produce blue denim. Each year, the production of denim requires 84 500 tonnes of sodium hydrosulfite and 53 500 tonnes of caustic soda. Unfixed colors are discharged into water sources, creating turbidity and biological disturbance as well as being poisonous, carcinogenic, or mutagenic.

Intense water consumption

According to estimates, the manufacturing of cotton uses a lot of water, requiring up to 7600 liters to produce just one pair of pants. The water-intensive production process is particularly concerning at a time when groundwater supplies are becoming scarce due to climate change. 

Toxic chemicals

Denim clothing is made from cotton that is produced using exploitative methods, needs an abundance of water to grow, and must be sprayed with highly toxic chemicals. The ecosystem is severely harmed by the cultivation of cotton, which uses fertilizers and pesticides that have a negative impact on biodiversity both upstream and within areas, as well as on the quality of the water and the soil. The extensive use of chemicals to create the “distressed” look of denim jeans is very harmful to the environment, especially when water bodies serve as the depository for chemical run-off from these production processes.

Treatment of Factory Workers

It is important to note that the treatment of denim workers has been a concern for many years. Many Denim factories are located in countries with weak labor laws. As a crucial part of the entire apparel industry, the denim manufacturing value chain can play a significant role in promoting ethical and sustainable practices.

Current Market Trends

Denim was initially developed for use in work clothes before steadily gaining popularity as a fabric that is used in other kinds of clothing. Denim is a necessary and stylish piece in every outfit right now. Urbanization is growing, and denim garments are becoming more popular, two major factors that are anticipated to drive the denim market’s expansion during the projection era. It is also expected that the increasing demand for stretchable denim pants made by fusing cotton with synthetic material will accelerate the development of the denim industry.

Sustainable Production – Even though the denim industry is steadily growing, there have been certain difficulties because of the environmental problems it has caused. Today, environmentally responsible enzyme finishes and dry techniques are being used on cotton fabrics made of 100% organic cotton, without even bleaching them. When making denim fabrics, vegetable-derived dyes are also used as a colorant along with environmentally responsible reducing agents and alkalis.

Customization – Fitting, a crucial component of the creation of jeans, presents many challenges to makers in terms of the washing and finishing techniques used. Everyone enjoys creating their own unique designs and customizations to add a unique touch to various items. Levi’s, Zara, Converse, and many other companies are developing their goods so that customers can give them a personal touch and become more devoted to the brand. Denim customization is here to stay, and many more brands may follow suit to provide customers with distinctive products.

Use of innovative fibers – In addition to natural fibers like hemp, linen, and silk are being considered as significant alternatives to scarce and extremely resource-intensive cotton fiber. Better Cotton and organic cotton are other sustainable options to conventional cotton. To create a flexible new variety of fabrics, different combinations of silk (mulberry and Eri silk) with cotton and linen are being tested. Whereas Eri silk, like wool, provides warmth to denim clothes, other silk-cotton-linen blends have been discovered to provide breathable and comfortable jeans material for all weather situations. Biodegradable synthetics and bio elastomers are two additional key environmentally friendly developments at the fiber level.

Functional finish (Graphene) – The fascinating substance, graphene is used as a healthy, chemical-free, and non-toxic practical finish to improve denim garments through improved thermal distribution, microbial growth prevention, an anti-odor effect, and quite a high abrasion resistance. The single-layer graphene fiber is said to be a “super material” that is 100 times tougher than steel and 1,000 times finer than human hair, enhancing denim.

Future Challenges

Recent technological developments opened up fresh prospects for the denim industry, spurred on by consumer demand for improved fits and sizes, adaptable workwear, and sustainable product stories. However, the year also saw substantial shifts in sourcing tactics, manufacturing, expenses for raw materials, and shipping expenses.

Chemical Usage – Nowadays, toxins, chemical fertilizers, and petrochemicals are found in large quantities in denim which is made and sold on the market. Because it uses synthetic dyes and acid washes, the dyeing and washing of denim cloth are even more harmful to the ecosystem. Toxic chemicals, such as formaldehyde, are required for the synthesis of indigo dye, and this pollution-causing process also endangers the health of workers and the ecosystem. It slowly decomposes and discolors water, contaminating groundwater, rivers, and streams, and killing flora and wildlife.

Digital Disruption – The rise of E-commerce and the increasing use of digital technologies in the fashion industry will change how denim products are designed, produced, and marketed. This disruption has great influence on every aspect of the fashion industry, including marketing and sales as well as production and the supply chain. Digitalization presents difficulties for denim mills in bringing out the true character and shade of the fabric. The creation of the wash effects, such as the drying procedure and seam accents, is also difficult. 

The volatility of raw material – Material costs, particularly cotton, have tripled in the last year, squeezing margins for exporters who were unable to plan for their acquisitions in advance. These raw materials are subject to price and transportation volatility due to factors such as climate change, political instability, and supply chain disruptions. The main challenges for the Indian denim industry are the fluctuating costs of raw materials and its reliance on China for those materials.


In conclusion, sustainability in the denim industry is not only necessary for protecting the environment but also for creating a more ethical and profitable supply chain. Producing sustainable denim demonstrates the need for more creativity from manufacturers and brands when it comes to seeking natural fibers, developing effective procedures, and repurposing scarce resources. It is preferable to keep coming up with new, innovative ways to make a name for yourself in the industry and pave the way for the next generation of fashion to be more in style with sustainable clothing.

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