Denim Know-How: Denim finishes with a reduced impact

Encouraged by the growing appetite among consumers for more virtuous products, exhibitors specialized in denim at Première Vision are continuing to develop responsible innovations and the entire production chain is affected.

After having analysed solutions for the dyeing process, the Denim Première Vision fashion team is offering you an overview of what is available in terms of low-impact denim finishes through a selection of denims accessible right now on the Marketplace.

Just like the various environmentally-friendly dyes, eco-responsible finishes meet very specific aesthetic criteria and can produce a wide palette of creative appearances.

Denim finishes with a reduced environnemental impact

Laser treatment

Laser treatment uses heat to replace the chemical products typically used in the washing of denim. This technique partially burns the colour pigments. The indigo runs in certain areas creating aesthetic results that can be planned in advance. As it uses no chemical products, this technique considerably reduces the number of washing stages. Water consumption drops from an average of 70 litres to the equivalent of a glass of water for a standard procedure.

In addition to this favourable environmental impact, there is also a positive social impact. It removes the need for manual processes such as sanding, which is used to remove indigo pigment in order to artificially create a “used” look. To achieve this result, sand is blasted under high pressure at the fabric, and this can have a negative impact on human health if it is not done in the right conditions.

Another advantage of the laser is that it does not damage fragile fibres such as stretch denim, which can be affected by the use of manual brushing or sanding. The precision of this technique is also excellent and can produce ultra-elaborate washed looks. It gives a vintage, worn finish while ensuring constant quality that is more difficult to obtain with a manual washing process. The nuances reveal all their subtlety and can create gradients, which makes them a preferred option for a used look and vintage inspirations


An ozone finish combines organic enzymes with nitrogen powder. This natural gas offers oxidising properties that can be used for washing denim. In the presence of the gas, a chemical reaction takes place and the indigo pigment becomes lighter. The shades obtained by this process can be very precisely adjusted according to the duration of the treatment, the concentration of the nitrogen or the humidity level.

This method has proved interesting for creating bleached effects. In contrast to conventional methods, it requires no chemical treatment and releases no noxious substances. It also considerably reduces water consumption.

Bio enzymes

One of the properties of bio-enzymes is that they attack various molecules within the denim. These organic proteins are capable of catalysing chemical reactions. Cellulases react to the pigments in the colour and lighten the denim at the desired location. The fruit of much laboratory research, the latest innovations substantially reduce the duration and the number of washes that have traditionally been necessary, thus saving water and energy. The most elaborate innovations eliminate the need for the pumice stage of the washing process while still producing “stone wash” looks that are identical to classic techniques.

Soft oxidants

Soft oxidants are used to replace traditional chemical products such as chlorine or potassium permanganate with alternatives that are more environmentally friendly and less harmful to humans. This is the case of hydrogen peroxide which is used in very specific cases in order to produce very light or partial washes that are more difficult to achieve with lasers or bio-enzymes.

Waterless finishes

Chemical products for finishes – softeners, anti-crease resins, colorants – traditionally penetrate into the fibres through a series of washes in baths, thus consuming vast quantities of water. Manufacturers have therefore focused their research on various solutions that seek to reduce this consumption of water thanks to so-called waterless techniques.

Nanotechnology is interesting mainly because it replaces water with air. The products penetrate directly into the fibres as they are transferred by nano-bubbles via a flow of damp air, and without the need to consume water.

Berto combines treatments using ozone, lasers and machines that allow the products to penetrate the dry fibre. AGI has put in place a waterless method using a system of evaporation, with the water being used again elsewhere in the production process.


The stone-wash method is generally used to give denim a patina. Pumice stones are placed in the drums of washing baths to randomly lighten the fabric and give it an authentic look by deteriorating the fibre. Pumice stones come from quarries and this leads to problems of primary resource availability. They also tend to crumble during the process and work their way into waste water, with harmful consequences for the environment.

Eco-stones are a more ecological alternative, notably because they are very strong and durable. Bossa works along the entire production chain to offer more environmentally-friendly denims using techniques including ozone, laser, nanobubbles and eco-stones.

In short, denim producers offer plenty of exciting prospects in terms of dyeing procedures and finishes, meaning that there is a palette of options to choose from according to the desired aesthetic result. It should be noted that manufacturers tend to combine a number of these procedures in order to improve the virtuous circle.

To learn more about sustainable sourcing, read our article on eco-responsible accessories with a focus on alternatives to traditional jacrons and metallic accessories galvanised in more eco-responsible ways.

And continue your Denim sourcing on the PV Marketplace and on our Denim Première Vision shows.

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