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Environmentally Friendly Fiber Company 'Greenwear'

Embracing Nature and Coexistence, Greenwear Paves the Path with Natural Dyeing as an Alternative to Environmentally Polluting Chemical Dyes


※This article has been translated from Korean using AI.
Clothing made from fabric dyed with Greenwear's natural dyeing technique, HUNA DYEING.

Korea endured harsh colonial rule and the Korean War, leaving the nation in ruins and its people suffering from hunger.


It is hard to discuss the remarkable growth of the industrial sector, particularly the textile industry, which was often referred to as the "Miracle of the Han River," without mentioning the rapid growth that occurred in a short period. During that time, the government focused on export-led economic growth, and by 1970, textiles accounted for over 40% of total exports, sustaining the national economy. However, over time, the textile industry faced challenges, losing competitiveness due to restructuring of national key industries and the emergence of low-cost labor in developing countries.


Currently, the Korean textile industry is mostly composed of small-scale enterprises, with over 90% having less than ten employees. Additionally, concerns about environmental pollution from textile processes have added to the industry's difficulties.


Amidst this context, a dyeing company located in Yangju, Gyeonggi Province, initially chose a different path by adopting a "partial" approach to using chemical dyes. They decided to embark on the challenging journey of employing natural dyeing techniques to reduce their impact on the environment.


Inspired by the environmentally-friendly nature of natural dyes, they developed a sustainable dyeing technology using natural materials, overcoming the limitations in terms of quality and production. This environmentally friendly fiber company, Greenwear, stands out for treading the path less taken and rejecting conventional methods.


Interior of the Greenwear factory located in Yangju General Industrial Complex.


# Striving to Erase the Stigma of Environmental Pollution: Exploring Eco-Friendly Alternatives


Among the various processes in the textile industry, the excessive heat energy used contributes to carbon dioxide emissions, the leading cause of global warming. Additionally, chemical dyeing with synthetic dyes results in the highest ecotoxicity wastewater among all industrial sectors, accounting for 20% of global wastewater. Consequently, the textile industry has been associated with the label of destroying the environment and posing a threat to nature and wildlife.


In line with the global trend of valuing environmental conservation, the government has increased regulations for environmental protection. Large textile companies have introduced various eco-friendly processes, such as upcycling and eco-friendly yarns, focusing on the material aspect. However, small enterprises, like Greenwear, find it difficult to comply with environmental regulations and shoulder the increasing costs of developing eco-friendly technologies.


Established in 2020, Greenwear, a specialized start-up in natural dyeing, is keenly interested in developing technologies that promote coexistence between humans and nature. They gathered experts from various fields, including textiles, fabrics, chemistry, and production, to develop the 'HUNA DYEING' technique, which is tailored to natural materials.


Their technology significantly reduces carbon dioxide emissions, wastewater concentration, residual chemicals, and water usage. The Greenwear natural dyed fabrics have a wastewater concentration approximately one-fifth that of chemically dyed fabrics.


Garments made from fabric dyed with Greenwear's natural dyeing technique, HUNA DYEING.

# Realizing the Need for Natural Dyeing


Greenwear's founder, Heo Hyun-beom, grew up in a rural village without electricity. He fondly remembers swimming and playing in the nearby stream with friends during hot summers. However, when he returned to his hometown after living in Seoul for a long time, he was shocked to find the stream heavily polluted, filled with trash resembling mountains. Witnessing the degradation of nature, he became deeply concerned about environmental issues.


Suffering from sensitive skin, he received a gift of clothing dyed using natural dyes and found that wearing plant-dyed clothes provided a soothing experience. This experience sparked his interest in dyeing processes.


Heo spent two years studying natural dyeing before retiring from his previous job. He found that most companies attempting natural dyeing had previously engaged in chemical dyeing. These companies continued to use technologies developed during the prime time of the textile industry when excellent talents spearheaded technological advancements. However, as the business grew, these talents left the industry, and active research became challenging.


Although Heo started his business with confidence, the challenges of pursuing an unconventional path were not easy to overcome. In difficult times, he reminded himself of his goal to create an environment where people could work with satisfaction and receive fair compensation for their efforts.


Natural dyeing process.

# Dreaming of a Sustainable Industry, Greenwear Persists with Natural Dyeing


Historically, natural dyeing involved using natural materials such as flowers, fruits, and trees to impart colors and express individuality in clothing. However, the industrial revolution led to the adoption of synthetic dyes based on petroleum chemistry, which offered high quality and productivity but caused environmental pollution. Some synthetic dyes remained in clothes, causing skin irritation and allergies.


Greenwear recognized the need for natural dyeing in sustainable textile industries. They identified eco-friendliness as their advantage over chemical dyeing, as their process causes less skin irritation and discharges less harmful wastewater.


However, other companies attempting natural dyeing faced challenges such as low-quality results, difficulty in mass production, and limited materials suitable for dyeing. Moreover, due to the complexity of the natural dyeing process, most companies abandoned their research without significant achievements.


Overcoming these technical limitations, Greenwear developed high-quality natural dyed fabrics. They succeeded in natural dyeing even on materials like polyethylene, which was difficult to dye naturally.


Fabric made using Greenwear's natural dyeing technique.

# Building Global Competitiveness with Environmental Emphasis


Since starting the business, Heo realized the need to strengthen the competitiveness of their natural dyeing technology, which took immense effort to develop.


Furthermore, with environmental awareness growing worldwide, efforts to reduce environmental pollution and address climate change have intensified. In response, various eco-friendly policies, such as carbon emission reduction, have been implemented. In line with this trend, Greenwear plans to obtain eco-friendly certification for their natural dyeing fabrics, as the trend of environmental-related export regulations is on the rise.


To support their efforts in technology development, Greenwear utilized the Gyeonggi Province Specialized Enterprise Support and the 'Textile and Fashion Industry Environmental Certification Support' program. This program aims to support the eco-friendly certification process for local textile companies and enhance their global competitiveness.


Greenwear's natural dyed fabrics acquired the eco-friendly certification (OEKO-TEX® STANDARD 100). This certification, issued by the German-based global textile certification authority OEKO-TEX®, is one of the most rigorous and authoritative eco-friendly certifications. It certifies that textile products do not contain harmful substances and are safe for human use and environmentally friendly.


With this certification, Greenwear solidified its position as a competitive eco-friendly fiber start-up. Their fabrics have minimal impact on the environment and human health, providing evidence of their eco-friendliness to both domestic and international buyers.


Although natural dyeing faces challenges in terms of color and material selection, making mass production difficult, Greenwear refuses to back down. They aspire to lead the sustainable future as a frontrunner in the eco-friendly fiber and fashion industry. They also plan to acquire additional international certifications to enhance global trust in their products and technology.


As Greenwear expands into domestic and international markets, their commitment to promoting the value of eco-friendly fabrics to global customers makes their future endeavors highly anticipated.



Written by Lee Eun-chae, chae@kihoilbo.co.kr, Photo courtesy of Greenwear.
※This article has been translated from Korean using AI.

Original Article: Kiho Ilbo - The Morning Opening Newspaper (http://www.kihoilbo.co.kr/news/articleView.html?idxno=1041084)



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