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Mill of the Week: Isko

Turkish denim mill Isko first put themselves on the map in 2008 with the jegging—a fabrication whose influence extended outside of the denim world and into popular culture. The Isko innovation would lead to a change across the industry as consumers increasingly embraced stretch in denim to the point where it took over the market.

In 2012, Isko launched Jogg jeans in partnership with Diesel, which was the first brand to use the new, knit-like denim product, and together they popularized the jogger style in the denim industry.

Isko, founded in 1989, has since grown into one of the leaders in denim production, with a capacity of 250 million meters every year in a 300,000-square-meter factory.

Isko’s latest development is Arquas, a collection dedicated to the intersection of fashion and performance. The line brings functional qualities including antibacterial, thermoregulatory, waterproof, UV-protected, reflective and smell reduction to performance denim.

With the release of Arquas, Isko’s focus has shifted slightly as the mill moves forward with performance fabrics but also continues to work on its core line. Britt Berg, marketing specialist at Isko, emphasized that it is not just Isko that is changing its direction, but the whole denim world. “The market has changed in that its focus is different. We’re kind of moving together in that way,” she said.

As brands have come to recognize Isko’s innovative, high-quality products, the mill is beginning to position itself as a more consumer-focused ingredient brand like Gore-Tex or Vibram.

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Berg said, “Consumers are becoming more savvy about where stuff is coming from, and they want to know where it’s made, and who’s making it and the quality behind it.”

As Isko becomes more consumer-facing, the mill’s marketing strategy has shifted. Isko did not attend the last Denim Premiere Vision in Barcelona, but instead chose to meet with the brands they work with in Isko’s showrooms for more intimate presentations. The mill is looking to support its brand partners at consumer shows like Coterie and Project. “Our strategy is to gain proximity to clients, that’s why we have invested and are investing in retail fairs,” Berg said. Isko’s goal is not to supersede the brands it works with, but instead to lend some extra value to the brands with whom the mill collaborates.

One of Isko’s most faithful brand partners is J Brand, who is releasing an “Above Deck” collection in collaboration with Isko for Spring 2016. The collection includes a bralette, tank top and bikini bottom made with Isko Blue Skin fabric, a stretch shaping denim J Brand Head Designer Mary Bruno said is unprecedented in the market. Bruno said of Isko, “They are always willing to invest the time and energy into developing an idea or product over and over and over until they get it right. They are great at listening to our needs and turning that opportunity into product.”

J Brand Cropped

As the mill becomes closer to a brand in its own right and continues to strive for innovation, there is the question of whether Isko is meeting market trends or creating them. Kutay Saritosun, Isko senior marketing executive, said, “We bring the new innovation and technology.” He added, “On the other hand, of course you are looking at the trends.”

Isko’s creative team starts looking at trends eight months before the release of the line to predict elements like colors and fabrics. Isko caters directly to high fashion trends; the mill had been seeing a lot of neoprene on the runways, so they mimicked that with Scuba denim, a thick and compact fabrication. Saritosun commented that no brand is going to have that fabric as a core, but it is important for Isko to create products like this to stay relevant to the trends.

For A/W 2017-18, Saritosun is seeing a shift away from hyper stretch toward comfort stretch and 100 percent cotton fabrics. He said that this reflects influence from European brands like Nudie Jeans and consumers who are looking for a more sustainable product.

This shift also reflects fashion trends, which have highlighted silhouettes from the ’70s and ’80s, like high-waisted styles or boyfriend jeans, which don’t require the same type of high stretch.