The Machiyara Group was established in the late 1970’s and is a prominent group of companies located within Karachi in Pakistan. Denim Clothing Company (DCC) is part of the textile arm of the Group, which is a fully vertical setup with its own fabric and spinning mill, Hantex. In the wake of the turbulent times over the last few months, I was interested to hear how business was doing, how they have pivoted or re-evaluated the business during Covid and how they view sustainability in light of the new world we find ourselves in. I conversed with Mr. Munaf Hussain who is Director of Machiyara Group to find out.

When was DCC established? 

Denim Clothing Company was established over a decade ago, in 2005. We have four factory units and employ about 8500 people in our workforce.

The Machiyara Group have a spinning & denim manufacturing facility called Hantex in its group of companies. Can you tell me how this gives you an advantage?  

Having our own spinning factory obviously gives us a vertical advantage – we can tailor our production turnaround times to suit our customers’ needs. Indirectly however, the cool thing with having your own setup from raw material to finish is that we can really think ‘globally’ – i.e. strategize ourselves from where the product is sourced, what new R&D technology we can literally weave into the fabric and hence the finished product. Therefore, what we offer as a product can be verified all the way to its source in terms of its content; and especially, when we talk about sustainability, the resources we utilize during production from start to finish.

The spinning company, Hantex

Being one of the market leaders in denim manufacturing, is there pressure to always stay ahead of the curve? 

Our aim at DCC has always been to deliver quality. Whether that be in terms of a fantastically finished product, or exploring sustainable methods to reduce our consumption footprint. It’s not a pressure from outside, rather a conscious effort from within to be our best that drives us as a company.

Sustainability is such a buzz-word in our industry right now, yet its so hard to quantify what makes a product sustainable. Can you tell us some of the positive things your company has been doing in regard to sustainability?

All our present and future developments are visualized with sustainability front and center. We have placed immense efforts and taken some major steps across the value processing chain. In terms of operations, our latest feat is securing a Leed Gold Certification for our production facility, and the approval for using the Made in Green label by Oeko-Tex, something which we have actively worked toward and are very proud of having achieved.

We take great importance in utilizing Recycled Content Fabrics, as well as Organic Fabrics along with Sustainable Dyeing methods to ensure our commitment to a circular economy. We have also ventured into exploring other sustainable natural fibre sources. Tencel is another fiber where we are really focusing our development efforts since it bears anti-microbial properties, something which is very relevant to the world today.

Our Waste Water Treatment Plant was installed right at the establishment of the factory, and from there on we have continued to maintain and update the plant according to latest health and safety advisories. In terms of tangible achievements, DCC has enabled 50% recycling of all water used within the production process. Additionally, to reaffirm the reduction of contamination and dangerous chemical usage, we have minimized our consumption of stones in the laundry process. 

The waste water treatment plant

Our garment washing treatments consistently employ the latest sustainable methods, low impact washes via a state of the art Jeanologia E-flow, EIM and Laser systems, PP Less washes, anti-microbial treatment. Our laundry setup is ZHDC complaint, and strictly follows guidelines with respect to chemicals which are harmful towards the environment.

Our aim is to move steadily towards a Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) system and doing our part in reducing the textile industries’ carbon footprint. In this respect we continuously implement and improve the EMS system to improve our working processes. Our future plan includes the installation of an Ozone Bleaching System, which is being finalized through our research and development team.

Ok, so it sounds like you have been pretty committed! And it’s great to hear that you are continuing to strive and research better practices. Have you noticed a positive interest from your customers regarding more sustainable fabric, wash and manufacturing? 

We continuously try to push the limits towards sustainability and try to offer versatile eco-efficient solutions to our customers. Over the past decade, our customers have significantly and consistently shifted toward offering sustainable products within their ranges. We are proud to have partnered with them in executing quite a few of these product lines for them. Some of the more notable high street names and programs we have worked with for are:

  •       Conscious Program with H&M (Recycled / PCW Fabrics, Sustainable / Low-Impact washing (Specially with elimination of PP and Stones)
  •       Reborn Program with H&M – Upcycling of previously used garments
  •       Primark Sustainable Cotton Programme. (PSCP)
  •       Inditex JoinLife Programme – Care for fibre and Care for Water (Sustainable fabrics and sustainable washing)
  •       Recycled Cotton – C&A
  •       Mango – GOTS and Low Impact washes
  •       Celio – GOTS
One of their laser machines in operation

What certifications are you most proud of? And what’s your opinion of certifications? Are they enough?

Every new certification that we achieve is an accomplishment. Very recently, we have received the Leeds Gold and Made in Green Label certifications, both of which signify concrete steps we are taking towards ensuring sustainability and zero waste in our production line. We continue to build on these daily.

Certifications are really important as they give manufacturers a blue print and goal to achieve. Of course, there is always work to be done beyond just receiving a stamp or being verified. The organizational culture needs to be oriented toward these achievements, so that the certification is not just a badge. And again, the certification gives you the initiative so that you can take everything a step further and find ways to be better.

Have you found a need to design denim fabrics that don’t rely on Cotton, and do you see a shift or movement happening towards other sustainable yarns, like TENCEL or Hemp?  

Definitely. There is a great shift toward finding methods that are less destructive towards the environment, and means of producing fabrics which employ sustainable farming techniques as well as alternatives to cotton and/or to manmade eco-efficient alternatives. Currently we are producing ranges using a variety of such materials, eg. Corn Fiber, Green Mint Fiber, Sorona By Dupont, Home Spun Slub, Silverbac – Antibacterial Fibre as well as Hemp.

We have launched a cotton-less sustainable fabric series comprised of a majority of Tencel and Lyocell. Beside these we also offer rayon, viscose and linen content in our fabric which makes it fairly biodegradable. 

All of these ranges that we are producing will be our focus during the upcoming virtual shows we intend to participate in. We had the Denims and Jeans virtual show on the 22-23 July, where these products are part of the ranges we are showing.

Some of the Jeanologia machines they run

How important is transparency in your company, in regards to customers asking where your RAW materials come from? Now that we are all travelling less, how can customers be reassured that their products are being made in the right way at the right factories? What measures can be put in place considering this might be the way we work for some time? 

 Transparency is not only a priority but also a requirement by the majority of the customers we deal with. We heavily rely on third party verification/certification for our supply chain in addition to using customer nominated suppliers. Our own denim mill, Hantex, is also a nominated supplier for many of the brands who are customers for our garments.

One great thing about lesser travel is also a greater reliance on digital tech, and this can work wonders toward ensuring transparency. We are already employing QR codes on fabric tags to show details of the garment, and this can be taken much further via implementing blockchain technology. We would welcome the implementation of a globally accessible database. Having a system like this would really save us and our customers the hassle of having to repeatedly do checks and verifications, as the information would be available in real time for anyone to view.

How has DCC been affected by Covid-19? 

As with nearly every business globally, the effects of the pandemic are there- we have had to deal with the economic slowdown and restructure the way we do business completely, all in an extremely short span of time. Our production forecasts have had to be reimagined in line with the erratic demand due to lockdowns. Stringent safety measures have been implemented throughout our factories to ensure safe and hygienic working conditions for our employees, as we adapt ourselves to the new normal.

With travel restricted to many countries, we have had to increasingly rely on video conferencing, e-catalogues, virtual presentations. On a positive note, the intense reinvention process has led to a more sustainable business model – where our international offices have been strengthened to work as quite literally, outposts of the company. They are our miniature design houses where we have started to stock all our latest collections in order to provide quicker service to customers who require physical samples, or discuss detailed changes.

Covid-19 has also affected a number of manufacturing companies in Pakistan. We hear stories of companies cancelling orders and factories letting go of their workers. Can you tell us some of the positive actions your company has been making with regards to this? What are your thoughts on going forward as an industry?

While the business slowdown right in the aftermath was not very positive, DCC has been greatly supported by the brands we work with, many of whom promised a staggered delivery for orders in production and even quicker payment on orders already in transit. Due to this, we were able to retain our employee numbers in full, pay their wages and also provide them with the bonuses due at the end of Ramadan. From our end we have made sure that our employees do not have to worry about their future and continue to work towards guaranteeing their livelihood.

The pandemic as you know, is here to stay a while. There is worry about second waves, lockdowns, demand drops, etc. We need to make sure that as an industry we move toward a lesser season-dependency, i.e. fashion that does not have to change drastically every four months. As the pandemic hit right in the beginning of the Spring season, it literally made us skip an entire season and brought us straight into Fall. Having designs and materials that last through different seasons will definitely go a long way in ensuring production losses can be sustained and recovered even when demand drops suddenly.

The staff at their manufacturing facility in Pakistan

Has there been more of a shift towards sustainability and social responsibility from your clients post-Covid? Do you see a trickle-down effect of shifting values as a result of the pandemic?

Sustainability has literally become a cornerstone for any good production facility within the denim industry. Over the past few years there have been a lot of efforts placed toward lessening our carbon footprint, water usage, minimizing chemical usage and commit towards circularity in the industry. As a factory supplying most major retailers, we have definitely mirrored our customers’ ethos and tried to inculcate these into our organizational culture. 

More recently, the pandemic has really given us all that much needed pause – to think and really look inward at our processes and our values. Employee wellbeing actually came to the forefront during this time, as we had to implement new health and safety measures in real-time.

Are there any other concepts the Machiyara Group are exploring in the future?

At the moment our commitment is towards making our factories as close to being as responsible and completely compliant towards circularity as possible. Over the next few years we have quite a few technological innovations in the pipeline; we were finalizing plans to install an Ozone Bleaching system as the pandemic hit, and we had to put a little bit of a brake there, but we are hoping to resume that progress as soon as we can.