This morning we visited the Mizuda Group, an international company that focuses on finishing, printing, and dyeing. The company was established in 1993, and it began as a dyeing house. In 1998, they expanded and purchased two additional printing and dyeing mills, as well as a weaving mill for cotton production. They produce many varieties of cotton, including twills, canvas, sateen, and corduroy. In 2004, they consolidated all of their businesses into one location, and they now do weaving, spinning, dyeing, printing, coating, and finishing. The Mizuda Group has also expanded outside of the textile industry into Financial Services, Real Estate, Pharmaceuticals, Steel, and Green Energy, but textiles still remains as their main focus.
The Mizuda Group is a textile supplier for many American, European, and Japanese brands, including J. Crew, Tommy Hilfiger, Uniqlo, Zara, and Muji. The majority of their fabrics are cotton blends, and their monthly output is 6 million yards of fabric!
They are also very focused on running an eco-friendly business. They donate to eco-focused causes and use organic cotton. Additionally, they recognize the implications of water waste, a large byproduct of the textile industry. Currently, they treat and recycle 35% of their waste water, and their goal is to have zero water waste by the end of the year. They hope to be the pioneers of zero water waste in the textile industry so they can show other companies that it is possible!
The relationship between textile companies, clothing brands, and garment production factories can be a little complicated, so here is the example we talked through in our discussion with Mizuda today:
Mizuda does fabric trend forecasting at their Italy office and works closely with WGSN (a fashion forecasting service). They will develop their own textiles each season, and then they will present their collections to the brands they work with all around the world. A brand, for example Uniqlo, has a team of designers, who will review textile samples from Mizuda and other textile producers. If the Uniqlo designers like a Mizuda fabric, they'll order some samples of it, which they will then send to their factory, the Chenfeng Group, to be sampled. Once the samples are approved, Uniqlo will place an order with Mizuda for the fabric, and they will send it to Chenfeng to be produced! If Uniqlo were looking to produce a particular kind of textile, they could also approach Mizuda directly, and Mizuda could work with the designers to create the desired textile! Having good relationships with factories and suppliers is very important in the fashion industry.
We toured their dyeing factory, where we saw fabrics being prepared for dyeing, in the process of being dyed, and being finishing! Some of the preparation techniques done by Mizuda include desizing, singeing, scouring, bleaching, mercerizing, napping, and heat setting.
We have already seen a lot of preparing and finishing processes at the factories we've already visited, so we were most interested in better understanding the dyeing process. In this factory they do batch dyeing, continuous dyeing, and jet dyeing.
First, we were shown the process of continuous dyeing, which is often used for cotton. In this process, the fabric is rolled and loaded on to a machine. It is dipped into a vat of dye, and then it is heat set and washed so that the color holds. This process is called continuous because the fabric is continuously moving as it is dyed.' This method of dyeing produces about 70 meters of dyed fabric each minute.
Mizuda also uses jet dyeing methods, mostly for polyester and blend fabrics. They have air jet and water jet dyeing machines, which each have their advantages and disadvantages. In air jet dyeing, the dye is sprayed on the fabric to color it. Air jet dyeing is a good choice for larger orders because it works faster than water jet. It also wastes less water, but it uses much more energy. In water jet dyeing, fabric is loaded into a giant tube, which fills with dye to color the fabric and then fills with water to wash the fabric. The process of water jet dyeing takes about 6-8 hours, and while it requires less energy than air jet dyeing, it uses much more water.
Mizuda also walked us through their printing process. They use the rotary printing technique. In this process, a designer will create a pattern, which is then separated by color and different screens are created to reflect different parts of the pattern. Each screen is then wrapped around a barrel, which has a circumference of 64 millimeters. Dye is applied to the barrels, and as they spin along the fabric, the pattern is set! While this process seems simple enough, it has a lot of restrictions and complications for pattern designers. The 64 millimeter barrel circumference limits how big a pattern can be. There is also a maximum of only 12 colors per design, and the finished designs often appear very flat. Each barrel can only fit a single screen, so the more complicated the design is, the more expensive it is to print.
We talked a little bit about digital printing, which Mizuda does not currently do but they agree that this technique has great future potential. While it's more expensive than rotary printing now, it's environmental and design benefits outweigh most cons! We'll get more into digital printing later in this post...
We next went to their print library, where they have hundreds of printed fabrics that they've designed and produced on display. Designers can come here and purchase these fabrics, or they can use them for inspiration to customize and create their own patterns. Most brands use these fabrics as inspiration before customizing them to create unique designs for themselves.
We spent the afternoon at MeiXin, a company that specializes in the manufacturing and production of dyed and printed fabrics. They are leaders in digital printing and fabric design development, and most of their clients are in the domestic and European markets.
This was our first time visiting a digital printing facility, and it seems that digital printing will be the future of design printing in the textile industry. Prior to 2000, most printing in China was done by the flat or rotary methods. As digital printing became more popular among European production companies, China began to adopt this method in the mid-2000s. MeiXin began digital printing in 2005, which makes them one of the first Chinese companies to invest in this technology.
Digital printing has major advantages when compared to rotary and flat printing. It produces zero waste, which makes it significantly better for the environment. Additionally, there are aesthetic benefits too. Patterns can be printed in any size with unlimited amounts of colors, so there are no design restrictions. Knowing this, it is no surprise that producers and designers across the world are embracing digital printing!
MeiXin stepped up their printing capabilities in 2013, when they imported a Konica Minolta digital printing machine from Japan. This machine is relatively advanced, and it has 9 basic color cartridges, which can be combined to produce more colors. In a day, this machine can produce 600 meters of printed fabric. They added another digital print machine to their collection in 2015. This machine is known for its high speed and advanced color capabilities. It has 81 color cartridges, making it an extremely advanced piece of machinery, and in a day it can produce about 6000 meters of printed fabric!
One thing preventing some printing factories from switching to digital is the speed; some rotary printers can still move faster than MeiXin's newest piece of equipment. The costs of digital printing machines and the costs of the ink are also much more expensive than rotary or flat printing devices, which creates a barrier as well. As digital printers become faster and more accessible, they are likely to take over the printing industry.
Each month, MeiXin produces 300,000 meters of printed fabric. They mostly print on cotton, silk, linen, and blended fabrics, and most of their customers are middle to high end Chinese mainland fashion companies.
Our visit to MeiXin was particularly special because the Jiao family is very friendly with this firm. They made us stunning digitally printed silk scarves for our trip, which read "Cornell FSAD China Trip 2017." We wore the scarves today, each in our own unique way (as fashion majors do) to show our appreciation to MeiXin!
We also wore our scarves earlier in the trip! Aren't they so cute?
We were given a tour of their main printing facility, where they house their digital printers. We got to see all their machines, from the original four-cartridge printer to their newest 81-cartridge printer!
An inside look at this digital printing machine.
Their nine-cartridge printer is hooked up to massive ink containers. These cost approximately $588 a gallon, which explains why digital printing is such a large investment!
They still use their original four-cartridge printers for smaller projects because, as they explained, it reminds them of their humble beginnings and how far they've advanced technologically since they started digital printing. Here's an example of a four-cartridge print job. You can see that it is not as complicated and lacks depth compared to many more advanced digital prints that are popular today.
We also got to see MeiXin's fabric show room, where they show clients all the possible color and pattern combinations they can achieve with digital printing!
This evening, we moved to a new city and went to a shopping mall to celebrate Jess' 21st birthday! We had a wonderful sushi and hibachi dinner, and we got to sing Happy Birthday and enjoy some cake! Afterwards, we explored the mall, which is surprisingly quite similar to an American shopping mall and includes many familiar stores (for example, Nike and Adidas, as well as KFC and Pizza Hut!) At this mall they also had two arcades, a karaoke club, and a massive Spongebob-themed ball pit! It was quite a sight!!!
Unfortunately, today is my last day in China! While the rest of the group will be here until June 7th, I will be flying home tomorrow afternoon because my internship begins this Monday. I have loved every single second of my time in China, and I've been so inspired by the culture of this incredible country! I'll get more into my thank-yous and final thoughts in my upcoming reflection post, but for now I'd like to thank all of you for following along as I embarked on this journey and for sending me your feedback!! Through my stories and photos, I tried to convey each experience of this trip in the most detailed way I could, and I hope you found the content thought-provoking and inspiring!