Sandblasted denim was recently banned by major luxury brands, including Versace. Levi Strauss and H&M were some of the first high-street brands to stop this practice. Now Target is following suit by doing away with this trend.
Sandblasting is the process of giving denim a weathered look by blasting sand onto jeans using high-pressure machines. The sand particulates contaminate the air that workers breathe and when inhaled can lead to an incurable lung disease called silicosis. Research suggests that even safety equipment cannot completely prevent sand particulates. This means that only a total ban on the practice is an effective prevention.
Clean Clothes Campaign is one of the leading campaign organizations that has been working with the denim industry to change this practice and several have responded positively. Target aims to phase-out sandblasted products by the end of 2012. Target worked closely with Levi Strauss & Co. and studied their research to find suitable alternatives to sandblasted denim.
According to David Love, SVP & Chief Supply Chain Officer of Levi Strauss & Co: “Factories that do not rigorously enforce proper health and safety standards for sandblasting put unsuspecting workers at risk. This is a serious industry concern. The best way we can help ensure no worker – in any garment factory – faces this risk is to move to end sandblasting. We hope Target’s decision will encourage other companies to follow.”
Target has found that methods such as hand sanding can achieve the same look without compromising on the safety of factory workers. Another technology was also advocated by the Biotechnology Journal which used the principle of surface activation, which involves washing the denim fabric soon after it is dyed to achieve a similar look.
The onus to completely stop this practice is not just on apparel manufacturers but also retailers and down-the-line suppliers. Without methods to control this practice especially in countries like China, Bangladesh, and Turkey it will continue to exist. Consumers as well play an integral role in ensuring that this practice does not continue by either opting for a more ethically sandblasted pair or opting for a non-distressed pair.
Denim manufacture itself is rather resource intensive, the process of sandblasting only adds to the resources needed. If this fashion statement comes with a steep social cost as well, it needs to be stringently avoided.
Image Credit: Guada, Wikimedia Commons