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Elizia Volkmann

Expert Opinion

23rd October 2017, Chandigargh, India

Creating a circular knit-cycle

India’s Winsome Yarns and its sister company Winsome Knitwear have been innovating and investing in sustainability for 25 years – and they’re now getting even leaner and greener. Elizia Volkmann talks to Managing Director Manish Bagrodia.

For the past 25 years Managing Director Manish Bagrodia has been driving through innovations and sustainability initiatives within Winsome Knitwear and Winsome Yarns, and having travelled the world many times over, he has been able to create a workable vision for the company. Speaking to Knitting Industry recently he said: “Our vision is to soon convert our entire production into sustainable knitwear.”

India’s Winsome Yarns and its sister company Winsome Knitwear have been investing in sustainability for 25 years. © Winsome Yarns

Winsome is a substantial operation, based in Chandigargh in North West India, which has a capacity of around 4,000 pieces per day, although currently it is producing 3,000 pieces per day - a total of 90,000 pieces per month for foreign brands such as German brand Tchibo, France’s Orchestra and Indian domestic brands like Lifestyle, Max, Reliance Trends and Octave.

To meet orders they have five full time programmers, run their knitting machines 24/7 with 172 Shima Seiki flat-bed knitting machines with gauges 7, 10, 12 and 14. In addition, Bagrodia says: “We have about 120 linking machines from LPM, India, [and] we have 12 pressing machines from Ramsons, one from Mentatsti.” He says that “the typical lead time is about 4 weeks.”

Winsome is a substantial operation, based in Chandigargh in North West India. © Winsome Yarns

Winsome’s sustainability project began back in 2016. Manish Bagrodia explains: “During the last few years there has been a lot of awareness and discussions about the environmental impact of fashion. Textiles is a very large consumer of natural resources like fresh water. We at Winsome, have recognised this aspect of fashion and textile industry, and being part of the industry have embarked on a journey with a mission to provide the fashion world with highly environmental friendly textiles.”

Winsome’s main route is to increase their production using recycled materials.

“Our vision is to develop knitwear which is made using recycled materials, with no or much less water used for processing, no dyeing, and using renewable energy wherever possible.”

In the Indian market, historic fibres are making a return such as jute and hemp, and the newer innovation Banana silk, but Bagrodia decided that this is not the right route for his knitting company. Bagrodia explained that: “Their use is very limited in special textile applications. Recycled fibres are made using post-industrial or post-consumer waste and the fibres are suitable for apparel and most of textile use. Also, it is a way of preventing waste going into landfills.”

Winsome’s sustainability project began back in 2016. © Winsome Yarns

Recycling textiles and yarns is not a new thing in India. Bagrodia said: “India has been making recycled textiles for maybe 10-15 years. However, use is mostly in the unorganised small scale sector for unbranded products.” He adds that cotton recycled fabric “could be to the range of about 2-3% of the fabric production. Our sister company, Winsome Yarns is spinning from fibres reclaimed from both pre and post-consumer sources.”

Winsome are using recycled polyester from PET waste bottles and Bagrodia says that: “the collection and use of this is more organised,” and predicts that “the use of such fibres could be to the extent of about 15-20% of the total fibre consumption.”

In their drive towards making the business more sustainable Winsome is addressing the issue of energy consumption. Bagrodia said: “along with using recycled raw materials, we are trying to increase use of renewable energy sources such as hydro, solar, agri-waste for steam generation.” For other companies exploring recycling he says: “The process of spinning recycled fibres and conventional fibres is the same. Accordingly, the energy consumed in the form of electricity is also same.”

Winsome are using recycled polyester from PET waste bottles. © Winsome Yarns

Recycling is certainly no easy task Bagrodia says: “The main challenge is in the procurement and collection of the waste materials.” He believes that the secret to making recycling textiles work as a commercial venture is good organisation in the collection, making the material sourcing more reliable and therefore more attractive to brands.

Recycling from textiles presents other problems. “Most importantly there is the issue of segregation into different colours, because of the inherent nature of the industry, the waste comes in small lots of different colours. Also within the same colour category, there are different tones. This aspect makes it more complex to maintain colour consistency.”

Similarly, the quality of waste is all mixed and requires human manual segregation. This is a cumbersome process. Also, after the opening the fibre quality varies from lot to lot. This requires proper management prior to spinning. The yarn quality is somewhat inferior to the similar yarns made from using virgin fibres. However, this aspect is trade off vis a vis using virgin fibres.

Winsome has a capacity of around 4,000 pieces per day. © Winsome Yarns

Surprisingly though, he says: “There is not a significant difference in the energy usage in spinning these yarns compared to spinning yarns using virgin fibres.” Their current daily production is 50 tonnes of yarn per day. “Out of this, recycled yarn is a very small quantity of about 1 ton per day,” Bagrodia says.

Looking to the longer term, Bagrodia says: “We are very hopeful of being successful in our sustainability and recycling strategy. We have been quite successful in developing new knitwear products using recycled materials.” Bagrodia says this has been warmly received by customers.

“They are showing keen interest in sourcing these products from us. We are going to continue working on developing more and more yarns and other textile products such as home textiles, furnishings, all kinds of apparel use such as denims, other knit and woven fabrics using recycled and sustainable textile materials and processes.”

Winsome is producing a total of 90,000 pieces per month for foreign brands such as German brand Tchibo, France’s Orchestra and Indian domestic brands. © Winsome Yarns

At several trade shows visited by Knitting Industry this year, producers voiced a common opinion that it was up to the producers to force the market and not wait for consumer demand. Bagrodia believes that the market will change and predicts that, “markets will start using a parallel collection of textile and clothing made out of recycled materials. There will be customers who are very conscious about the environmental aspects of lifestyle and fashion. They will be the people who will drive this segment of clothing.”

However, he acknowledges that there will need to be a shift in perception and expectations in the market. “There will be certain limitations in respect to design and quality. However, the philosophy will give a strong push to the entire value chain involved with recycled textiles and clothing. The brands and retailers will be forced to keep some of the collections which are made from recycled materials,” he concludes.

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