REBEL WITH A CAUSE
Jeanologia challenges the status quo, pushing finishing sector to clean up act
Posted December 3, 2020
By Rachel Raineri
Founded in 1993 by Jose Vidal and his nephew Enrique Silla in Valencia, Spain, Jeanologia still remains a family company, wherein Carmen Silla, director of marketing, says they like to say "Their veins run blue ... indigo blue."
As a textile family with a business mentality, they began as a consulting company with one main goal: to change the textile sector. As they continued their consulting services over the years, advising businesses in the ways they could be more efficient, ethical and sustainable, they understood more completely that due to the available processes and machinery within the industry, there were clear limitations regarding its sustainability and ethics. The only way to improve the industry was to transform it.
"The textile industry is a very traditional one,” Silla said. “Other sectors develop and use innovative technologies that increase efficiency and sustainability, and it is time for textiles to do the same,"
Silla explained how Jeanologia transformed into not only a consulting business, but also a developer of innovative finishing technologies for jeans. To understand why they focus their efforts on jeans, consider both the universality of the garment – it is prevalent in all ages, genders and classes, with 5 billion pairs being sold a year, and the high level of contamination and water waste caused by jeans – on average 70 L of water is used to finish each pair.
The overall goal of Jeanologia is to be an example of positive rebellion in the textile sector, of challenging the status quo and demonstrating how innovation can facilitate a cleaner impact. Their challenge is to achieve the complete dehydration and detoxification of the finishing process within the next five years.
The aim is the elimination of excess water and toxic chemical use from the finishing process entirely. They are already making progress, having achieved an available decrease from 70 L average of water use down to 20 L with their first three technologies. Launching their newest development brings them significantly closer to their goal of zero with an average 5-6 L of water use per pair of pants.
Lasers and ozone and nanobubbles ... oh, my
The "how" to this mission lies in the technology. With a name like Jeanologia, many people assume they produce garments. However, this company changes the sector from behind the scenes, focusing on the machinery used in the finishing process. Through the use of laser, ozone and nanobubble technology, Jeanologia is completely transforming the jean finishing process to eliminate harmful and contaminating procedures such as sandblasting and stonewashing and minimalize negative effects of processes like desizing, caustification, adding wear, texture and finishing effects.
The first machinery developed by Jeanologia was their laser technology in 1999. While Jeanologia believes that each pair of jeans "has its own soul, and the authenticity of the jeans is that it gets used over time, reflecting its wearer," they also understand that we live in a fast-paced society that wants new looks immediately.
Finished looks and textures on jeans – holes, rips, wear, color – have all previously been accomplished by manual labor and with excess water use and toxic chemicals. However, by the use of design software and laser technology, unethical and unsustainable treatment methods can be avoided. Furthermore, the laser allows for more specific and precise design and thus creativity can be expanded.
The year 2005 brought a new direction for the company, as they introduced their second innovative machinery utilizing ozone technology. Called G2 technology, these machines are capable of taking the air around us and converting it into 03, or ozone, which is a natural medium that removes the need for water or chemicals in certain processes. Thus, G2 technology naturally performs processes of desizing, caustification and elimination of backstaining processes. Furthermore, it results in improved dry crocking and removal of residual dye, all without discharge.
While the use of ozone eliminates the need for water and chemicals entirely in some processes, other processes, such as dyeing, staining and softening, require a chemical application. As water is the vehicle that transports these chemicals to the garment, Jeanologia decided to consider how that carrier could be utilized in the perfect amount and without creating discharge.
Therefore, in 2010, they introduced their nanobubble technology called e-flow, which takes air from the atmosphere and converts it into nanobubbles with the perfect quantity of water and chemical forming the surface of the bubble. The bubbles, then, homogeneously distribute the necessary treatment chemical on the surface of the garment, resulting in zero water waste or chemical discharge during the process.
Between the laser, ozone and microbubble technologies, the average water use for one pair of jeans is reduced from 70 L to 20 L. To continue diminishing the impact of jean finishing, Jeanologia introduced in 2016 their recycling technology, H2 Zero. H2 Zero creates a closed-loop system, taking polluted water from washing machines and cleaning it so that it is 100% recyclable to be used again in the finishing process. This reduces the amount of water used down to 5-6 L, resulting in a drastic savings of water. Their final goal is to dehydrate and detoxify the process entirely.
An indigo bridge
Based in Spain, Jeanologia aims to have a global reach while still working closely with each client. Although they don't directly produce the garment, their technologies are responsible for over 35% of the 5 billion pants produced per year. They consider themselves in a "privileged position, acting as the bridge between the product and the brand."
Their main clients – located primarily in Latin America, Africa and Asia – are the producers of jeans for large brands such as Levi's, H&M, Inditex, Gap, American Eagle and Jack and Jones. However, they also must work directly with these large brands to first establish their overall sustainability goals and determine how they can make the changes to get there.
Nearly all companies seek to make the change to become more sustainable, but the integration of new practices and technologies is a process from traditional to innovative that takes intention, time and work. This is where Jeanologia still remains a consulting company, working with the brand to determine their timeline of change, main goals and, therefore, which machinery is right for their needs and adapting accordingly.
One of the more notably revolutionary companies is Levi's, having made a fast and complete change from traditional methods to innovative ones. Implementing Jeanologia's system, Levi's has the first plant that doesn't need water and is located in a desert, giving a clear visual of the disruptive technologies available through Jeanologia and their limited reliance on the use of Earth's resources.
Those who work for this "rebellious" company, whether in marketing, R+D or IT, are called “jeanologists” and are noted for their "passion for what they do. They all have a clear mission to transform the sector and keep their objective clear of creating a positive change for humanity and the world.
The dynamic of Jeanology is to work with the common value of "People and Planet before Profit." By focusing on developing machinery for a universal garment, they have a wide reach and are creating an example of positive change in the textile industry.
About the author
Rachel Raineri is a textile engineer and lover of expression. She believes there is no person who cannot show you a new perspective and delights in finding uncommon connections throughout and within life. In fact, human connection is her favorite reason for being alive! She is passionate about sustainability and has experience in integrated wearables and language teaching. After graduating from the N.C. State Wilson College of Textiles in 2018, she has spent the last two years in Valencia, Spain. Lately, Raineri is in absolute raptures over mycelium, the incredible network root system of mushrooms. To learn more you can read her articles on her webpage https://www.rachelraineri.com/.