Our natural indigo x natural indigo fabric (Ni x Ni) is made entirely in Arvind's factory in India. Arvind are one of the world's largest fabric producers, making everything from shirting weights to experimental and premium denim fabrics. We were privileged enough to be in the company of the heads of denim design and technical implementation, Rajesh and Alpesh, when we visited India and they treated us like royalty. Many mills around the world produce incredible fabrics as proof of concept, but very few ever actually make it onto your legs. The truth of the matter is it's extremely expensive to pioneer, or take a punt on something out of the ordinary, so brands generally shy away. The average jeans consumer wouldn't know why natural indigo is such a treat - which is a bit of a shame.
STORY mfg. began in earnest when we decided to buy and sell jeans using these amazing fabrics, and this was the first we really fell in love with. We visited the factory to find out exactly how it's made, and now we can share the full narrative.
Cotton is brought in from picking and sorting outside the factory. It comes in these enormous cubes which smell gorgeous (somewhere between talcum powder and new carpets).
They feel very soft to touch but are actually very dense.
They're then taken to this machine (bottom left) which chews and rips the chunks apart. It's fed the cotton on a conveyor belt and the pulled apart material gets sucked vertically into a wide pipe which feeds into another machine in the next room (bottom right).
It's loosely spun into thick strands (imagine holding a loose ponytail) which is fed out of the machine in a circular motion. The arm tracks in a circle into a large cylinder until each is full (there's a spring at the bottom of the barrel to let the machine know when it's had enough).
One thing we can't show you is just how loud and hot it is. We initially thought it was just because we were visiting during a particularly hot hour, but it was explained to us that temperature and humidity are regulated to give the cotton optimum strength.
The barrels are then taken to enormous spinning machines which turn the loose bunches into small, tight yarns. On the left of the picture below you can see rolls of yarn which are already complete - each of these is called a 'cheese'.
Once the cheeses are ready, they're put onto these metal pillars and threaded all the way to the end where a roll is waiting to be wound. Each of these 'corridors' creates one roll, and you can see the incredible amount of yarn that needs to be lined up.
Below you can see the end of the line, where all of the cheeses feed into. A roll at the end turns and the yarns pull from left to right like a typewriter onto the roll.
Below is a finished roll, ready to be threaded through an even larger machine to be dyed.
It then takes many many rolls to be threaded onto these even larger rolls for the rope dyeing.
Rope dying is the process of passing yarns through these enormous rollers which dip them in and out of dye baths.
Arvind have both the largest and smallest industrial rope dyeing machines in the world, and our denim is far too niche to go anywhere near the largest. Instead, it's put through what Rajesh lovingly named the "baby rope machine".
Below you can see some yarn coming out of its first dip (still green as it hasn't oxidised yet), and on the right the same yarn after a few more dips (almost deep blue-black now).
The yarns are then rolled into colours, ready to be loomed into our fabric. It's actually pretty amazing and so beautiful to see a continuous ribbon of green slowly darken to rich indigo.
It makes you wonder just how amazing it must have been for those innovative first few who discovered the wonder dye of the indigo plant.