Orta’s Sustainability Formula Blends Biology, Design and Technology
Istanbul textile manufacturer Orta Anadolu is on a mission toward greater sustainable denim manufacturing, inviting industry leaders to hear about how the company is contributing to a more ecologically sound denim supply chain.
On hand at the June 27 meeting at the Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles were representatives from Los Angeles denim makers Current/Elliott and Citizens of Humanity as well as a number of consultants, city-government officials and industry leaders.
The intimate gathering was organized on the heels of a June 21 stop in New York at The Museum of Modern Art, where the company awarded its Biodesign Challenge prize to a team of ambitious Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University students who created a washing-machine filter that captures micro-plastics, eventually allowing enzymes to consume the collected waste.
“The next generation includes using biology, design and technology under the umbrella of sustainability to create the new denim eco-system,” explained Orta’s global director of sales and marketing, Sedef Uncu Aki. “For so long we’ve discussed the scarcity of natural resources. We are now in an era to discuss abundance and scalable solutions. We can change the narrative from scarcity to abundance.”
During its first sustainability seminar covering “Sustainable Actions From Design to End Use,” the mill sought to educate its Los Angeles brand partners regarding greener denim throughout the product lifecycle. Stepping outside the larger format of trade shows and forums, the company wanted to connect with brands on a more personal level.
“We will shape other series according to how this first seminar goes,” said Orta’s sustainability specialist, Sebla Onder. “We believe in the power of collaboration, and, for sustainability to work, everyone in the entire value chain must work together.”
As part of its push to promote an eco-friendlier industry, Orta is not only talking about using technology to facilitate connections along the supply chain, but the company is also implementing changes to remain transparent. Using a Lifecycle Assessment QR code printed on its labels, Orta leads its brand partners through its denim sourcing, affording greater insight into how its textiles are produced.
“For the last two collections, we’ve put a QR code on every article,” said Uncu Aki. “It’s nice, because you can quantify, and when you quantify you can develop objectives and have goals to reduce impact.”
With the help of the Better Cotton Initiative, Orta was able to show how the company has been contributing toward the sustainable shift, before sustainability was stylish. A member of BCI since 2011, Orta introduced Carlos Silva, the USA program officer for Geneva-headquartered BCI. Silva explained how working with cotton farmers to promote responsible cotton cultivation creates a more sustainable start for the denim supply chain.
“All [BCI] members should have a common goal, which is to help improve farming practices, lower farming costs, and increase productivity and better profitability for farmers,” he said. “Orta has been a longstanding member of BCI that has used our system.”
Event attendees, who have worked in many different areas of denim production, welcomed the opportunity to learn more about improving their businesses.
“We’re working more with sustainable products, so I am here to become more knowledgeable,” said Annabelle Lee, associate designer of denim forVernon, Calif.’s Current/Elliott. “There are many different elements involved, such as encouraging consumers. It’s not just vendors and farmers—it’s a full circle of awareness that needs to happen.”
Utilizing more-sustainable raw materials at the beginning of the supply chain and less harmful processes during production is a major concern for many denim textile manufacturers and jeans brands that want to be responsible.
Discussing how denim mills are promoting more sustainable manufacturing practices by cleaning up traditionally dirty industry practices, Amanda Cattermole—a sustainability and chemical management consultant who worked for many years with Levi Strauss & Co., made the connection between cleaner practices and conserving resources.
“From a mill-processing perspective, we’re seeing them create ways to reduce water use, and they’re also looking at things like foam dying and pre-reduced indigo,” she said. “If you’re using less water, you’re using less energy. We’re seeing a big push toward energy reduction and much safer reduction agents being used.”
Noting the upcycling programs of brands such as Guess, Levi’s, Nike, H&M, Patagonia and Eileen Fisher, Cattermole also explained how brands are able to bypass the need for creating new goods by promoting a circular economy that relies on giving new life to products in their post-consumer states.
Attendees noted that greater attention needs to focus on using scrap material and dead stock and recycling old products once consumers no longer need them.
“We look for fabrics we bought a long time ago that were in our inventory to patch into the jean instead of going out and purchasing new material,” said Dana Kelly, a fabric manager at Huntington Park, Calif.–based Citizens of Humanity. “If we can use post-consumer goods, break them down and repurpose into fabrics, we could give them new life—a denim rebirth.”