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Green the new clean

By Tiffany Tan (China Daily)

09:18, May 30, 2012

More fashion companies are producing sustainable apparel. Tiffany Tan explores the different ways.

Every month, Li Lianfeng's textile mill in Guangzhou produces more than 7,000 meters of denim, which goes to jean companies as far away as Denmark, Australia and the United States. But only 5 percent of his mill's output uses natural indigo dye rather than synthetics.

"Still not many people know about it, so there also aren't many jean manufacturers that order it," says Li, 50, owner of Zhaofeng Textile and Apparel.

The company ventured into natural dye in 2007, upon the request of a Hong Kong client.

The colorant, extracted from the indigo plant, is apparently so eco-friendly that a man is shown on Li's blog licking the deep blue dye off his finger.

So why aren't Li's clients converting to natural dye? Cost is the underlying reason: The plant-dyed denim is four to five times more expensive than ordinary denim because indigo dye is harder to produce. And chemicals are still needed to help the plant dye penetrate cloth fibers.

"I'm doing business and my goal is to make a profit," Li says, "but my bigger hope is that while contributing to society's sustainable growth, I can also make money to nurture my business and employees."

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