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Kingpins Mills Come Together, While Making Strides Toward Greater Sustainability

Industry trends toward fiber and fabric collaborations, new generations of stretch and recycled materials, and taking sustainability to new levels were front and center at Kingpins New York at Basketball City.

Lenzing Fibers introduced a partnership with DL1961 that uses Lenzing’s Refibra branded lyocell fibers to create a new denim blend for DL1961 jeans that utilizes renewable wood sources and employs a supplementary proportion of recycled cotton scraps to create a garment that is sustainable, innovative, but still retains the premium quality, feel and fit, said Tricia Carey, director of global business development for denim at Lenzing.

With sharing the same value on sustainability, DL1961 is one the first partners of Lenzing to use Refibra fibers in its denim collection launching for Pre-Fall 2018. DL1961 has been using Lenzing’s Tencel lyocell fibers in its denim since 2012 and has achieved great success in both the industry and with customers as a result.

“Denim apparel has a high impact on the environment and consumers are seeking alternatives with the environment in mind. Lenzing is offering a viable solution with Refibra branded lyocell fibers to provide innovation with reduced environmental impact,” said Carey. “We are pleased to partner with such a premiere denim brand, DL1961 to bring Refibra fibers to denim consumers. Denim is not just about fit and style, it is also about sustainability.”

Cone Denim was introducing its new S Gene stretch denim with Repreve among other innovations at Kingpins.

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Kara Nicholas, vice president of product design and marketing for Cone Denim, noted that 2017 is the 10th anniversary of the S Gene performance denim, adding significance to the collaborative introduction.

S Gene with Repreve combines the advanced stretch technology of S Gene with the superior sustainability and performance of Repreve recycled polyester fiber, offering the most advanced sustainable dual-core stretch denim on the market.

“This newest addition to Cone’s Sustainblue collection of fabrics maintains the authentic look and feel of traditional denim while offering advanced stretch, recovery and durability in an eco-friendly fabric that is increasingly more important to consumers today,” Nicholas said, demonstrating the denim’s characteristics on prototype jeans.

S Gene with Repreve denim utilizes as many as three post-consumer plastic bottles in one pair of jeans. They are designed to offer the next level of sustainable superior stretch to the market and open a wide range of opportunities to denim brands to offer and promote the advanced performance of both S Gene technologies and Unifi Inc.’s Repreve recycled fibers, giving both brands expanded market reach, Nicholas said.

Cone Denim offers the Sustainblue environmentally friendly fabric collection comprised of denim constructions using recycled cotton, recycled polyester and other sustainable yarns.

Nicholas noted that S Gene yarn with dual core technology is designed to provide superior stretch and recovery. To create these yarns, Cone starts with two core components – spandex and continuous filament that optimizes stretch and maximizes recovery. The dual-core yarn is wrapped in a spun covering to provide soft cotton hand and natural appearance with added stretch performance.

“Collaborations are really important for the supply chain. They create products with more varied attributes,” Nicholas said.

Cone just developed an S Gene style with Thread International, which uses discarded bottles materials to make its Ground to Good fabric.

Lenzing, Cone and Repreve have also teamed up for True Tone Cone Denim. The collection features Cone’s Future Black+ made with Lenzing Modal Black and Repeve recycled polyester fibers, culminating in a 50 percent to 60 percent lower environmental impact than conventional dyed fabric, fewer chemical energy use and 64 percent less water use in the dye process.

Carey and Nicholas were both featuring the grouping at their booths, which just underwent an independent wash test that showed no loss of color after 20 washes.

Looking to take Lycra deeper into the sustainable fabrics arena, Jean Hegedus, Invista’s global segment director for denim, said the Lycra brand is previewing a new T400 that’s sustainable. T400 is two different polymers and in this case, one of them is made from recycled material, and the other is partially made from plant-based materials.

“So at least 65 percent of the fiber is made from either a recycled or renewable source,” Hegedus said. “The performance is basically the same, so it can be used on its own or in Dual FX, and we’re getting some good reaction. A lot of brands and retailers today are looking to tell a sustainable story, and they have on the companion fibers they have lots of options, between BCI cotton, organic cotton or Tencel, but the stretch component was always difficult to make sustainable.”

In the bi-stretch area, a new technology that’s made with a double warp that essentially buries the Lycra and gives an authentic look and limits the shrinkage, Hegedus noted. Also under Xfit is a Lycra fiber that can be heats set at a lower temperature so it also shrinks less.

Jack Matthews, director of sales and marketing for Artistic Denim Mills, said, “There’s a strong upcycle for denim in all areas of distribution for us.”

He said this is led by styling built around performance and fit, and general newness in fabrics.

“Denim was negatively affected by the athleisure trend until the market took a cue from it and brought in elements related to comfort,” Mathews said.

Sourcing denim today “is all about speed,” he noted, with Artistic Mills, which has vertical factories in Karachi, Pakistan, producing fabrics and finished goods. By upgrading operations and taking positions on piece goods, Artistic has been able to reduce the cycle from design conception to final shipment to 120 days.

More companies are also utilizing air freight as part of their overall sourcing plan to being goods to market faster, he noted, which brings savings in the long run by having on-trend merchandise in stores and selling more at full price.

Naveena Denim Mills has taking its innovation to new heights with the development of Dendrite, a new lightweight synthetic fiber with strong tensile strength and is quick drying so it saves on water usage, explained Scott Gress, president of denim marketing for the Pakistani mill.

Naveena is also doing a nylon blended with Dyneema fiber that combines softness with strength in a novelty group.