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Inside Advantage: Fiber Companies Ramp Up Efforts to Expand Denim’s Capabilities

While denim is certainly a staple wardrobe choice that crosses generations, fiber and fabric firms aren’t taking any chances it will fall out of favor. Instead, they are stepping up the innovation quotient and expanding denim’s capabilities and appeal.

Using fresh technologies beyond traditional stretch, denim can now cross over from casual wear and workwear to athleisure and activewear, while generally adding comfort, texture and performance characteristics to the fabric and finished product.

Jean Hegedus, Invista global segment director for denim, said one of the hottest things right now in stretch is bi-stretch. “We’ve been working with a number of mill partners to develop new ways of executing bi-stretch that makes a better product for the consumer and a lot easier for the mill to handle,” she said.

Hegedus explained that’s because traditionally mills have used bi-stretch as a replacement for Lycra by putting it in the warp and the weft. Now with Dual FX technology, several mills are replacing Lycra with Dual FX in the warp and weft. “The advantage is it gives you better stability, it’s easier to work with and had less warp shrinkage,” she said.

Turkish mill Calik has come out with a denim line called Circular 100 that uses Dual FX in both directions, giving a softer hand and lighter weight.

“High waist denim is very much in vogue right now, but one of the difficulties is when people sit down, it isn’t always comfortable,” Hegedus added. “Having the extra stretch in the warp direction helps make that a much more comfortable proposition.”

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Pakistan-based mill U.S. Denim has created a collection using bi-stretch Dual FX selvedge denim, which leads to a “modern take on vintage,” Hegedus remarked.

Invista also has a new fabric weaving technology it developed to make bi-stretch “double beam” fabric. It uses two parallel warps—one of cotton indigo yarn and other Lycra-covered yarn that gets buried on the inside of the product. The result is low growth, easy to control warp shrinkage and can be used with a variety of fibers to create specialized fabrics. It requires a double-beam weaving setup and Invista is working with China’s Advance Denim on the first offerings.

In other denim specialized materials, Invista’s Coolmax is gaining popularity as a summer jean, while Tough Max continues to grow, especially in children’s wear.

Also at Invista, Cindy McNaull, global Cordura brand and marketing director, said she’s calling the company’s next step in denim, “Cordura Authentic Alchemie 2.0.” Former Nike innovation director Linda Keppinger has been brought in to help put together some emerging macro consumer trends in the sector. “We’re then taking these trends and personifying them through the world of Cordura denim,” McNaull said.

This is being done with Cordura’s global mill partners—Arvind, Artistic Milliner, Cone Denim, Advance Denim and Kipas—which helped Cordura put together a three-part trend pack called, “Imagination Without Limitation.”

The first group, “Make it for Me,” is built around the notion of self-expression, authenticity and customized looks. Styles include garment wash denim or fabric with a special finish, lightweight but with strength. “Show Me You Care” echoes ecological consumer’s concerns and awareness of natural resources. It involves a partnership with Lenzing’s Tencel lyocell fiber and some testing being done with Lenzing’s recycled Refibra fiber. “Faster and Farther” is all about innovation and people being able to do more with their denim.

“It’s really an extension of our Cordura Durability line that we’re calling Cordura Durability Plus,” McNaull said. “Its performance fabric that’s built to last–keep me warm, keep my dry, keep me cool, with freedom of movement and abrasion resistance.”

Tricia Carey, director of business development for denim at Lenzing Fibers, said she’s taking a multifaceted approach to expanding the fiber company’s reach in the sector. It primarily involves going deeper into the Tencel brand’s reach into denim, while also making inroads with Lenzing’s modal fiber.

In the area of knit denim, Tencel is teaming with Santoni Knits for a collection of seamless knits. “Denim is a versatile partner to pair with anything and is a must-have in every season,” said Carey. “In an age where new innovations and interpretations drive the denim category, there is always something that emerges as a new way forward and Den/im 2.0 is presenting itself as that new evolution.”

Each knitted garment in the collection incorporates fiber combinations and knitted structures to create a cross-over concept. Traditional sportswear, made with the cut-and-sew concept from one material and one fabric structure, has a limited ability to provide sufficient local wear comfort. But the seamless functional features can incorporate superior moisture wicking by incorporating Tencel in a two-layer construction, while inclusion of high performance yarns provide superior temperature regulation, Carey noted.

The collection is done in collaboration with garment finishing firm Tonello and the Spanish mill Unitin.

At Kingpins Amsterdam, Lenzing will feature denim using its new Refibra recycled denim line, collaborated with eight denim mills and designer Adriano Goldschmied.

Meanwhile, Lenzing’s Modal Black line will introduce Modal Black Plus, using solution-dyed Modal Black fiber and Cone Denim’s Repreve Black dope-dyed fabric. The processes allow for a strong sustainability offering that saves water and energy and uses natural and recycled synthetic materials.

Hyosung’s answer to specialized denim is Creora Fit2, a four-way stretch denim fabric with Creora Eco-soft in the warp and Creora spandex in the fill direction. Sponge-like in touch with strong drapability, this new generation fiber allows for denim to be smoother and able to be sculpted.

Additional iterations use high tenacity yarns to deliver a robust finish to denim, while personal well-being is enhanced by moisture management and antibacterial synthetic yarns or through performance finishing.

Another trend group features Creora in a dry, textured feel through the use of yarn structures that includes blends of wool and linen. A sustainability aspect is brought out with Creora Eco-soft blended with recycled nylon or recycled polyester or recycled cotton denim yarns.

Denim is among the markets that nylon manufacture and marketer Nilit is targeting with its new Sensil premium nylon 6.6 brand for apparel. Nilit presented Sensil at the Keyhouse/Bluezone trade show in September, focusing on how naturally it blends with cotton to create modern denim styles that are fashionable while also having the performance capabilities to keep up with consumers’ busy lifestyles.

Sensil performance products gives fabric designers many options to infuse denim with valuable attributes that consumers require in contemporary jeans wear. The company’s performance yarns are enhanced to provide additional attributes that consumers desire in today’s advanced denim products. Sensil Breeze imbues denim with a cooling effect for enhanced comfort.
Sensil Body Fresh protects against the odors microbes can cause, which means busy consumers don’t have to take time to wash their jeans as often. Sensil Heat warms on cool days, while Sensil Aquarius stays dry on warm days, and Sensil Innergy helps energize cells and reduce the appearance of cellulite.

“Consumers are raising their expectations for denim just as they are for everything else that they buy,” said Pierluigi Berardi, Nilit’s global marketing director. “Cutting edge jeans wear requires cutting edge fiber technology like Sensil premium Nylon 6.6 performance yarns. Together with our supply chain partners, Sensil creates fabrics that are the smart choice for denim brands that want to effectively respond to these shifting consumer attitudes about clothing and shopping.”