What is textile wet processing and how do we handle it?

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A glimpse behind the sustainability curtains: What is textile wet processing and how do we handle it?

Textile wet processing as a term may be new to many, but the definition of the word is actually quite simple: wet processing, simplified, includes everything that adds a liquid on the textile to attain certain qualities on the finished product. These liquids include water, dyes, chemicals, softeners used to improve textiles in terms of looks or qualities.

As one can imagine, textile wet processing is a big part of textile production and happens in all parts of the production chain: pretreatment of the fabric, dyeing or printing and finishing the product or the fabric.

Fabric pretreatment is a process that is used to remove impurities from fabric to make it dyeable or printable. For example, natural fabrics can naturally contain some impurities, or some impurities may be in touch of the fabric during the weaving or storing before processing the fabric further. 

Dyeing textiles can be achieved through dyeing of the fibers, yarns or sewn fabrics in order to end up with a product in the desired colour. Most forms of textile materials can be dyed almost at any stage. The dyes used depend on the type of the fabric or material and the specific requirements to be met. 

Printing is a process where dyes or pigments are applied to the fabric in the form of patterns. There are different ways to apply the colour (for example screen printing, digital printing, heat transfer and roller printing), but the process is usually fairly similar: a thicker, dryer paste of dye is applied and inserted on the fabric using the method chosen, and the excess is rinsed or washed away with water. 

Finishing is the last part of manufacturing and is used in order to change the natural function of a fabric and to enhance its look or feel, making the final product more attractive to the customer. Some examples for benefits after the finishing process are for wet resistance: think of a waterproof coating on an outdoor jacket for example. While being useful, these processing steps usually encompass not only wasting a lot of water, but also the use of toxic dyes and chemicals – making the fashion industry one of the biggest environmental polluters.

Here comes the tricky part: while the global population and thereby the demand of textiles increases, the fashion industry has to step forward and change its practices in order to guarantee a sustainable product chain, not only in which fabrics are used but also in which way they are handled in different parts of the production chain.

We at Lilja the Label could not be happier to be part of the conscious movement within the industry and will present our way of handling the textile wet processes at our factory in Bali, Indonesia and at our fabric manufacturer’s in the following.

When it comes to the manufacturing process of our swimwear and activewear, the wet processes our fabrics and products go through are fabric dyeing and printing. We don’t for example bleach or fade (think of jeans), add protective layers (think of technical outerwear or shoes) or pre-wash our items before sending them out to you. This makes our wet processes fairly simple as we can pay all our attention in this matter to the sustainability of the dyeing processes and the dyes used. 

All the solid coloured fabrics used for our entire swimwear and activewear collections are sourced from the Italian manufacturer Carvico, which uses ECONYL® yarn for these specific fabrics (find out more about ECONYL® here!). The fabrics we use are VITA for swimwear and slightly thicker VITA Power for activewear. The solid coloured fabrics are dyed at the fabric manufacturer’s premises in Italy, and we don’t alter them later during any phase of the production chain in Bali or here in Finland. Apart from the fabrics’ great quality and sustainable property, we chose to work with Carvico as they have signed a declaration against using harmful chemicals and have been audited by third parties. This certificate guarantees the use of safe substances, which is a priority for us at Lilja the Label. All dyes used have Oeko-Tex standards ensuring that the fabrics are free from harmful chemicals.

All the prints you see in our collections are printed at our factory in Bali. The method used is called digital printing. This is done using an inkjet technology to print colorants onto fabric, and you can think of it similar to a large printer – it sprays tiny droplets of dye or ink onto the fabric, which is inserted into the printer as a roll of blank fabric. One of the biggest advantages of digital printing is the reduction in waste compared to some other methods of printing – you can print as little or as much fabric as you need, so fabric isn’t wasted if only a small amount is needed or if a design is only tried out. The digital printing ink also does not have to be washed with water afterwards. However the con is that natural dyes do not stick with the digital printing method and chemical dyes need to be used. We are hoping to see a shift in this in the future and are hoping to find natural colourants suitable for dyeing PA fabrics!

If you are interested in finding out more about our sustainability practices, check out our sustainability page or feel free to contact us anytime if you have further questions! We are aiming to be completely transparent and are happy to answer any questions you may have.