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Mills Tout Authentic and Sustainable Denim for S/S 18

The many ways to define sustainability and authentic denim were evident at Kingpins Amsterdam (Oct. 26-27) and Kingpins New York (Nov. 2-3), where mills, fiber producers and technology companies presented their innovations and collections for Spring/Summer 2018.

For Candiani, sustainability is not just about a yarn or organic cotton. “Our mentality is a 360-degree approach,” said Simon Giuliani, Candiani marketing manager.

The Italian mill, which brands itself as the “greenest textile company in the blue world,” is aiming to be 100 percent BCI cotton by 2020. It’s a goal that complements the mill’s portfolio of eco initiatives including Indigo Juice, which saves water in the washing process by reducing indigo baths from seven to two, and Shaper, the mill’s air finishing process inspired by the cashmere world.

At Kingpins Transformers in Amsterdam, Alberto Candiani announced the mill has claimed the only denim patent for Kitotex, which uses Chitosan (a.k.a. shrimp shells) to fix indigo onto yarn. Thus, the mill saves 50 percent of water consumption in its dyeing and finishing processes.

Orta is also turning to biology for innovation. The mill’s Indisense collection for S/S 18 incorporates seaweed, zinc and particles of jade to cool the wearer.

Spanish textile mill Royo, known for being a pioneer in recycled fashion, touted a 100 percent sustainable stretch fabric. The fabric is comprised of recycled post-consumer cotton, organic cotton, hemp and Tencel and is dyed with an indigo process that requires less water.

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“You don’t have to sacrifice fashion for organic,” said Bossa Advertising and Public Relations Manager Birim Atagan. The mill presented a line of organic selvedge with stretch, as well as a range of real indigo denim. The optics span ultra-dark indigo to lighter varieties more in tune to the spring season.

What if there was one fabric that can be stocked to use for all seasons, both genders and for a multitude of styles?

Mills like Candiani and Bossa are taking a “less is more” approach to product development with universal fabric. “One fabric, not ten,” said Giuliani.

Bossa touted its “one item for all” product line designed to help with stock control. The range of denim can be used for skinny, straight and wide cuts. “Brands can buy it and change the style depending on the trend,” Atagan said.

Meanwhile fiber companies like Cordura and Lenzing are doing their part to extend the life of garments.

Cordura teamed up with Italian wool mill Marlane to create Cordura Combat Wool, a range of wovens and twills that offer a traditional look with technical attributes. The fabric has 10 times better abrasion resistance, 1.4 times better tear resistance and offers protection against harsh winter climates compared to other 100 percent Merino wool fabrics.

Lenzing is maintaining the crisp look of black denim (even after 50 home washes) with Future Black, the company’s response to the industry-wide push for modal and color lasting denim. It’s a three-prong story that offers benefits to the aesthetic, hand feel and sustainability of black denim.

Historically, Lenzing Modal Black has been saved for knits, lingerie and “next to skin” items, while Tencel has been adopted by the denim market. Michael Kininmonth, Lenzing Denim Project Manager, says all that has changed in the last three to four years. “The denim world wants to try any fiber you have.”

Simultaneously, buzz around stay black denim has increased. Traditional warp dyed denim goes gray after washing. Kininmonth said technology has improved with reactive dyes but nothing compares to Lenzing Modal Black, which is fixed into the structure of the fabric from surface to center. In fact, Future Black garments become darker after washes because of shrinkage in fabric.

The fiber can stand on its own or blend with others. Dyed with indigo, it can S/Screate a deep, dark indigo. Twin Dragon, Calik, Orta, Kipas and Artistic Milliners have already begun to incorporate Future Black in their ’18 collections.

Compared to conventional dyeing, Kininmonth said Lenzing Modal Black uses only 20 percent of the pigment typically required with spun-dye fiber. Lenzing research has also shown that fabric made with Lenzing Modal Black fiber uses 50 percent less energy, has a reduced carbon footprint by 60 percent, and requires only half of the water typically used in production compared to conventionally dyed fabrics.

Invista launched a sustainable version of its Coolmax technology at Kingpins New York called Coolmax EcoMade. The technology uses 97 percent recycled resources, including plastic bottles saved from years in a landfill.

“Research shows that increasingly consumers are looking for added benefits such as cool comfort in their jeans,” said Jean Hegedus, Invista global denim segment director. “Denim with Coolmax EcoMade technology provides both the performance benefits consumers are seeking and reduced environmental impact. So, for the consumer, it’s really a win-win proposition.”

In New York, Cotton Incorporated showcased environmentally responsible denim manufacturing options using Cone Denim with Archroma EarthColors derived from cotton plant materials and Tonello’s NoStone process.

The concept collection was developed at the Cone White Oak facility in Greensboro, NC and includes three different denim base constructions (3×1 twill, broken twill, and basket weave). Each fabrication was presented with a range of wash downs, blue-colored fill and environmentally-responsible finishing techniques such as ozone and laser etching.

“Denim remains a key category for cotton, and sustainability remains a primary focal point for the entire textile industry,” said Teresa Zugay, Cotton Incorporated account executive. “The innovations at our booth address denim traditions and the future of sustainable denim manufacturing.”

Inspectorio, part of Target’s Techstars startup accelerator, made its Kingpins debut in New York, promoting its “disruptive” machine learning-based supplier verification platform. The tech company aims to simplify transparency to supply chains through technology, historical data, geo-located inspectors, real-time monitoring of inspection execution, technical specifications visualization and managerial information based on inspection data. The platform also detects socially damaging practices that affect factory employees.

“We are dedicated to not only presenting our community with the best resources but also challenging them to improve and disrupt the status quo in the denim industry in all aspects–including environment, sustainable and social aspects,” said Andrew Olah, Kingpins Show founder. “Inspectorio is the kind of company that has the potential to impact the denim industry in a huge way, and we are proud to host them on our show floor and give them a platform to share their concept.”

Keeping It Real

Authentic and athleisure denim live harmoniously in S/S 18 collections as mills shift their focus on “authentic” looking denim with versatile performance attributes.

Berto Industria Tessile, which will celebrate its 130th anniversary in 2017, set out to capture a “real denim” feel with fabrications that were deceptively light. Textured stripes and shirting with a dry hand feel enhanced the overall look, with most bottom weights falling in the 8-ounce range. The mill showcased the fabrics with wide cut and exaggerated flare silhouettes.

Berto Industria Tessile
Berto Industria Tessile

Vintage looks with bi-stretch added a new level of comfort to Orta’s collection. Ebru Debbağ, Orta deputy general manager, said the mill developed these fabrics to be collector’s items for the next century. Meanwhile, a range of sateen denim with Tencel and bi-stretch qualities takes design cues from yoga fabrics.

Bossa added a new warp stretch to the mix. The fabric—ideal for straight and wide cuts—keeps its shape but maintains an original denim appearance that resonates in the men’s market. The mill also encouraged tomboy looks for women with its Power of Love story for S/S 18. The relaxed concept is less focused on sexy skinny fits and places an emphasis on slubs and crosshatch looks, light to medium indigo shades, gray tones, and different weft colors. Color continues in the mill’s Backyard denim story of fancy colors with a grey tint.


Calik carried its D’enovated collection into spring, promoted open salt-and-pepper looks. Fabrics look heavy weight but boast the soft hand feel that young consumers know best. The mill also debuted raw stretch that won’t shrink, crock or fade.


Global Denim offers the best of both worlds with denim with authentic character, broken twill and a touch of stretch. Fabrications such as these can work for skinny as well as a carpenter jean, noted Michelle Branch, Global Denim creative director.

The Mexico-based mill also added a super lightweight 3×1 denim to its elevated Prime line that can be used for men’s and women’s bottoms, as well as shirting. Plush, the 3×1 denim that feels like knit, gets a color update for S/S 18, this time in blue.

Branch said she sees a return to authentic Carharrt looks, PFDs and black denim. The mill is playing with rusty coatings and canvas and denim in shades of worker blue and green.

Global Denim