Iconic fashion brand Ralph Lauren is all set to allow its customers to dye their own clothes in its flagship stores by next year.
In collaboration with materials science leader Dow to create a sustainable new cotton dyeing system for the whole industry.
Ralph Lauren believes in-store dyeing could also be a better way of inspiring customers to come back into its shops following COVID-19 lockdowns.
Chemical leader Dow – a major player in textile dyes – has been working with Ralph Lauren on new processes for cotton dyeing that reduce use of chemicals, water and energy intensity.
“Ralph Lauren obviously is a big user of cotton and to dye textiles, it takes a lot of chemicals and a lot of water and you generate a lot of waste and mainly you do that because you’re trying to use heat and pressure to put that dye into the fabric,” Dow CEO Jim Fitterling said to media.
For example, trillions of liters of water are used for fabric dyeing, which is equal to 20% of the world’s wastewater.
That is one of the reasons Dow developed what it calls ECOFAST Pure, announced earlier this year, which to dye cotton needs up to 90% less chemicals, 50% less energy and 50% less water.
But the sustainability project could also have major implications for what is called experiential retail — the effort by retailers to give consumers new reasons to come into stores as e-commerce’s footprint, already large, only grows as a result of the pandemic.
Ralph Lauren’s Color on Demand project uses the Dow technology to color cotton at any point in manufacturing, and result in shorter lead times for making color decisions.
Halide Alagöz, Chief Product and Sustainability Officer at Ralph Lauren, said in an announcement about the effort earlier this year that the retailer will be able to “meet personalized consumer demands faster than ever before.”
And while he didn’t say it, that means potentially coloring a shirt in the store.
A Ralph Lauren spokeswoman said, “We look forward to sharing more about this in due course.”