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Officina39 aims at making textile dyeing and denim laundering more sustainable

Sep 01, 2023

Sustainability is becoming a deeply-rooted concept in the fashion industry and almost all companies from retail to farming are gradually taking the onus onto themselves to develop a sustainable and environment-friendly ecosystem within the fashion value chain. The efforts are surely there; however, there are areas and products that still have a huge scope for improvement! One such product is dyes and chemicals that are used in garment dyeing and finishing. The companies have understood that, to stay afloat in the market, they have to offer dyes and chemicals that use less water and make lesser impact on soil, planet and garment itself.

Being one of the first companies in this space, Officina39 – a chemical manufacturing company based in Italy – is hailed as a frontrunner in providing sustainable dye and chemical solutions to the textile industry as it produces complete range of auxiliaries right from pre-treatment of a garment to finishing and covers processes such as denim laundering, textile finishing processes in dye houses and yarn manufacturing. Other than textile auxiliaries, especially for the denim industry, the company is mainly focused on product sustainability as it offers products that are said to be alternatives for Potassium Permanganate and Chlorine that are believed to be dreadful ingredients for garments.

“We are facing a bit of difficulty in terms of high raw material prices. The utility prices have gone very high globally due to Russia Ukraine war that’s pushing us to even work without any margins in some cases just to support our customers in tough times,” – Nasir Ullah.

Team Apparel Resources (AR) recently sat with Md. Nasir Ullah, Country Director (Bangladesh), Officina39 and discussed the thrust area of the company to make its products more sustainable.

Bleaching process – that involves oxidisation of chemicals – leaves a garment product with some unwanted smell within it. This happens when the process is carried out in a hurry in laundries and a proper use of neutraliser isn’t done. If a laundry or factory uses chemical oxidisation of 10 mole strength, they need a neutraliser that should come into 10 moles and neutralise it. If it is less or more, it will not neutralise well. Neutralisation standard time is minimum 10 minutes with the right atmosphere, at a certain temperature, and it is then followed by the cleaning process.

“Our innovative bleaching technology ‘Smart Bleach’ is specially designed to replace the conventional chlorine (or potassium permanganate) denim bleaching. Applying Smart Bleach with nebulised system makes it possible to bleach indigo denim, and black denim as well, with lowest water consumption and works well to eliminate bad odour in the garment. Sometimes you might have odour in garment that smells like Sulphur but a laundry cannot do anything to neutralise that odour and this can only be controlled by improvements in fabric properties,” asserted Nasir.

Recycrom™ is a patented technology of Officina39 that creates a full range of colour powders using textile fibres from used clothing and manufacturing waste. Through a sophisticated production process, fabric textile waste fibres are transformed into fine powder that can be used as pigment dye for fabrics and garments made of cotton, wool, nylon or any natural fibre and blend. According to Nasir, Recycrom™ can be applied using various methods: exhaustion dyeing, dipping, spray, screen printing and coating.

In denim, one of the main processes is stone-free enzyme wash to get a vintage look. Here stone free is a kind of mandatory part and Officina39 has developed a method of waterless enzyme that eliminates the need of water from the enzyme cycle and, at the same time, remove the stone! With this, the users remove two steps.

How does Officina39 segregate the waste to convert it into powder? Nasir says it’s a segregation based on the colours before the scraps come to machines which are located in a high-tech plant in Italy that do not extract the colours out of textile scraps. “One kilogram of fabrics will convert into one kilogram of powder approximately,” said Nasir.

The use of technology comes with a stringent quality control system. Any residuals can mix into textiles, while collecting the scraps from certified vendors and factories. The system is capable of identifying the residuals that are segregated, whereas textile scraps are sent for subsequent processes.

“Right now, this fabric-to-powder conversion process is taking place in Italy but, in future, we may expand the capacities in other countries too. We can currently convert around 300 kilograms powder per day and gradually we will increase this capacity,” averred Nasir, adding, “Our main focus is on tapping big volume brands to sign up for this project. And, once it happens, we may actually bring one such facility in Bangladesh or India because anyway we are collecting scraps from South Asian countries, so there is no point of sending the same to Italy that costs us more. A closer location will reduce the cost and lead time also.”

There is a common understanding that European products are expensive! And, being an Italy-based company, Officina39 faces a lot of price challenges. However, the company also says that there are customers who understand the cost analysis and ROI they get using Officina39 products.

“We give them an on-point analysis. If a company (laundry or textile dyeing mill) goes for low price product, they would have to use more water in the process and that incurs substantial cost. It is as simple as that. Therefore, despite we being slightly higher in prices than others, we get positive response from progressive companies. Many traditional laundry units in the country are still asking for low prices, so we have no other option than avoiding them,” explained Nasir.

Since every product is not suitable for every type of customer, Officina39’s approach is to first visit the factory, spend some time on the floor with the concerned people, and understand the problems they are facing in dyeing before suggesting or recommending any product. “With this exercise, we get to know if the problem is more of quality issue or technical issue which eases our subsequent steps,” said Nasir.

“We are operational in 21 countries. In Asia, Bangladesh is our main market, whereas India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and the entire South-Asian territory are other important markets for us. We are quite strong in South American countries like Columbia, Peru, Mexico, etc. We have our R&D centre in Italy and Europe is our stronghold since inception,” – Nasir Ullah.

Of about € 400 million textile and dye (excluding reactive dyes) business that Bangladesh has to offer, Officina39 says to have captured around € 15 million which, it believes, can be increased with all the plans that are in pipeline. In last 6-7 years, Bangladesh has invested hugely in establishing state-of-the-art textile mills and garment factories and more units have already been announced to come in next few years. This expansion poses a great opportunity to Officina39. Currently, Officina39 has over 150+ customers in Bangladesh collectively in textiles and laundry.

“We have a lot of plans to align ourselves with the expansions happening in the textile industry of Bangladesh. In washing area, we are among the top three companies which are supplying products in the country. We entered into textile dyeing business in the country only three years ago, so we could see more potential in this area to improve our share. For this, we are increasing our technical and sales team in the country, doing research to develop products as per our customers’ requirements, and trying to be more cost-competitive,” shared Nasir.

Not just textiles and washing, Officina39 is also looking to start operations in printing area – both screen printing and ‘all-over printing’ (AOP), as well as in reactive dyes. “We may come up with a positive expansion and product diversification news by 2023 first half,” informed Nasir.

Nasir Ullah.Md. Nasir Ullah, Country Director (Bangladesh), Officina39Smart Bleach technology reduces unpleasant odour from the garmentsRecycrom™ – the patented technology which aims at bringing revolution Price-consciousness is a challenge but there are customers who put quality firstNasir Ullah.Plans to increase share in Bangladesh market are on the cards