The denim industry is home to many legacy brands, but few endure decades—or centuries—without evolving their message and products. Chicago-based apparel component supplier QST has done just that this year, its 135th year in business, by curating a collection of components developed to better serve the ever-changing denim market.
QST is in more than 60 countries for sourcing, selling and manufacturing components for the apparel and denim markets, including pocketing, interlining, embroidery backings and more. It’s a far cry from how the family-run company cut its teeth in the industry by selling textiles to tailors in Chicago by horse and cart in the 1880s. Yet, QST global marketing manager Gina Hoersten says the company has always maintained its commitment to innovative product, quality and customer service.
“Before launching the new Denim Collection, we did our homework to see where the industry is going and what trends were out there that we could improve, be it distressed denim, stretch denim, embroidery or coatings,” Hoersten said. “We wanted to make sure we complemented these trends with components that enhance the final product.”
The collection is based on four traits of a fully-functional jean—comfort, flexibility, strength and reinforcement—and it includes time- and cost-efficient technologies made specifically for key jeans wear items.
Innovations from the active wear category continue to influence and push denim brands to deliver more bang for buck.
“We’re upping our game in performance,” Hoersten said. “Performance in denim is on a whole new level.” QST’s Wick-Tech Pocketing is a non-absorbant pocketing that allows for a dry, comfortable wearing experience, while Wick-Tech Ultrafuse for waistbands draws moisture away from the body. The high-tech polyester material allows moisture to easily evaporate.
To match where its customers are going with soft denim, QST introduced Soft Touch Pocketing and Soft Touch Ultrafuse. The pocketing has a brushed hand feel that mimics the comfort and ease of vintage jeans, while Soft Touch Ultrafuse softens waistbands without sacrificing the drape and body of the movement.
Ultrafuse EZ is used as an anti-fraying agent for destroyed and vintage denim. Hoerstan said the application, which can be applied by hand or steam iron, adds both durability and softness to frayed and distressed areas. For belt loops, QST’s Anti-Fray Q-Loop eliminates the need for labor intensive details like hand trimming loose threads, while improving the appearance of belt loops. The resin film melts into fibers, stabilizing yarns and preventing fraying.
For slim and stretch denim, the company’s efforts focused on products that moved with the body and garment. “We make it our job to show customers that garments can be functioning better,” Hoerstan said.
The company’s Stretch Tech Pocketing stretches with shell fabric to prevent puckering. The lightweight and flexible pocket retains shape, provides consistent recovery and can be made with extended pocket panels for a “tummy control” smooth front. Stretch Tech Ultrafuse improves the stretch and recovery of waistbands and won’t peel away from the denim after wear and tear.
QST introduced the Denim Collection last month at Kingpins Amsterdam, where it brought its Q Loop Processor typically used to fuse denim belt loops to make custom options. At Kingpins Hong Kong May 16-17, the company will present its new Eco Collection designed to lessen its own carbon footprint, while enhancing the sustainable stories Hoersten said more denim brands wish to tell.
“Brands are constantly challenging us and making us look at how we can be better and bring more eco to the table,” she said.
The Eco Collection contains recycled polyester pocketing, BCI and organic cotton options and QST’s new Waterless Finishing Program for pocketing. The new finishing process reduces water consumption by 100 percent and reduces natural gas output by 80 percent.
QST’s new collections are supported by a re-haul of its branding, including a new website that serves as a showcase for the company’s new innovations. “In this day and age, the best way for a brand to put their best foot forward is with a new website,” Hoersten said.
The user-friendly site represents how the company feels, where it intends to go and enhances the its commitment to top-notch customer service, Hoersten added. QST is known for offering its clientele technical seminars, custom trend presentations and providing free fuse testing to ensure they feel confident that QST’s products will work for their fabric needs.
“We’re not just a pocketing supplier,” Hoersten said. “We’re a one-stop shop for brands, but the customer service behind the product is how we add value.”