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Mills Put Performance and Sustainability First at Kingpins Amsterdam

Market demand for sustainability and performance-driven products is leading fabric, fiber and dyeing innovations into new and exciting directions, as seen last week at Kingpins Amsterdam.

Whether it’s a sign that the jeans wear industry is on the upswing, or mills have come to terms with consumers’ preference for comfort, there was less banter compared to previous show seasons about the negative affects of active wear’s popularity. However, bi-stretch denim was a hot topic for brands seeking stories about 360-degree flexibility.

Managing director Omer Ahmed said Artistic Milliners worked with customers for four years to perfect its new bi-stretch line called Counter Balance. The collection is derived from the idea that fabric should move with the body in harmony rather than build resistance. The highly engineered constructions offer better growth and recovery, while providing the wearer mobility and comfort for all body-hugging fits at all sizes.

Though Atlantic Mill’s roots are in selvedge, bi-stretch products with the look of vintage denim are key for the mill as brands look to diversify their collections. “You’ll never see stretch properties, but you will feel it. The fabrics don’t flaunt it,” Amrin Sachathep, Atlantic Mills director, said about the mill’s bi-stretch technologies.

Fabrics in Calik’s Circular Elastech Technology concept are designed to feel like second skin. The bi-stretch fabrics, which are powered by Lycra dualFX technology in both weft and warp, offers a flawless look without bagging out or fit issues. The shrinkage value is controlled in both directions, eliminating size variances during the manufacturing and laundering stages of production.

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Invista has made strides to make stretch technologies perform better, be more comfortable and become a sustainable ingredient in denim. The company’s latest innovation, Lycra T400 with EcoMade technology, maintains the stretch, recovery and retention characteristics of Lycra T400 fiber but with a sustainable twist.

Lycra T400 with EcoMade is comprised of 68 percent sustainable fibers. Jean Hegedus, global director of Invista’s denim business, explained that 50 percent of the fiber is made from recycled PET and 18 percent made from plant-based materials. Hegedus added that the fiber fits in nicely with brands that have 2020 sustainability goals to meet and lives up to the performance standards of its popular predecessor.

Water conservation continues to be a key motivator for mills to invest in new sustainable technologies.

Orta, which is celebrating its 65th anniversary in 2018, is already planning for its centennial by looking for ways it can give back. Rather than focusing on the company’s footprint and what it takes from the environment, the mill introduced a “handprint” mission that seeks ways it can give to the planet and create change for the better.

That mission begins with a new CSR report and life cycle assessment of its fabrics made available to buyers and designers at the show. Each fabric had a hangtag with a QR code for attendees to scan that pulled up stats about how much water, land and energy was used in its development.

“It’s something we decided to do even if brands don’t ask for it,” Gulfem Santo, Orta marketing team leader, said. “We believe it’s important to provide more information to communicate to the end user.”

Bangladesh-based Denim Expert Limited bowed a water-saving collection at Kingpins Amsterdam. The two-prong approach to water conservation include efficient washing machines and reconsidered finishing process that require fewer steps.

“For example, our factory can combine the desize and enzyme steps into one bath cycle, whereas traditionally we would use three bath cycles. Similarly, we have developed about 12 different techniques in which we can combine bath cycle and save water,” Mostafiz Uddin, Denim Expert Ltd. managing director, said.

Spanish mill Tejidos Royo introduced Dry Indigo, a zero-water foam dyeing process that was more than a decade in the making. Additionally, the sustainable indigo dye requires a more compact machine than conventional indigo dyeing machinery. The mill holds the worldwide exclusive for the technology until October 2019.

Canatiba launched a series of new dyeing techniques with less environmental impact than traditional processes. Eco Wash Mileneo Denim consumes 90 percent less water, while Eco Wash rids the process of harsh chemicals and uses less water. Prosperity also experimented with cleaner dyeing techniques, including a new eco-friendly liquid indigo and organic reducing agent.

Artistic Fabric & Garment Industries (AFGI) takes a holistic approach when it comes to green initiatives. The Pakistan-based mill has the first GRS-approved in-house sorting and shredding facility for recycling post-consumer waste in the country, and later this year the company plans to inaugurate its state of the art LEED platinum garment factory.

“The company has made significant strides in the last few years with its environmentally friendly practices,” Hasan Javed, AFGI executive director, said.

At Kingpins Amsterdam, AFGI rolled out a new water-saving dyeing process called Double Zero Technology. While the denim industry is making strides to make waste-water as clean and clear as possible, AFGI set out to eliminate it entirely. “With our latest Double Zero Technology, which combines zero waste-water dyeing with zero waste-water finishing, we have achieved something that is truly groundbreaking, which will push the denim industry into a new era of sustainability,” Javed added.

By using the minimum water required to allow dyes to penetrate the fabric, all of the dyeing and fabric finishing water is evaporated, meaning zero water being discharged and no effluents. The technology allows the mill to save water traditionally used in indigo dyeing and mercerize finishing.

Double Zero has some limitations—Javad said it couldn’t be used for black sulfur dye or PFDs—but it can be applied to virtually every type of indigo product. The mill’s efforts are now focused on helping clients adopt the sustainable technology. “The real question is why are we not using this,” Henry Wong, AFGI director, product development and marketing North America, quipped.

Mills are also looking at what they can reuse from their own production. For Fall/Winter 19-20 Canatiba launched a fabric range made with recycled cotton recovered from its own production.

Likewise, Berto introduced Pianeta, a fabric made with 35 percent cotton and 65 percent cotton yarn re-generated from its own production waste.

Berto marketing director Francesca Polato explained that when the indigo dyeing process has stopped, extra dyed yarn remains on either end of the line. This unavoidable waste is transformed into a new yarn, ultimately allowing the mill to slash its water consumption. The fabric is also treated with a new finishing process that requires 85 percent less water than the standard process and reduces CO2 emissions.

Global Denim also teased a new collection of closed loop denim slated to launch in Fall 2018. The fabric is made with recycled fabrics from its own facilities. The mill is testing fabrics made with up to 70 percent recycled fibers.