Denim is riding a new wave of momentum, driven by cutting-edge fabric technology and design techniques.
A total of 364 million pairs of women’s jeans were purchased in the U.S. during the March 2018 through February 2019 period, according to The NPD Group, up a solid 22 million pairs from the prior-year period. Both consumers and designers demand a lot from their denim, perhaps more so than from any other fabric. While some seek a pair that’s smooth and comfortable, rivaling the softness they might find in, say, athleisure, others are combing the racks for the most rigid pair they can uncover.
Both of these trends have historically carried their own specialized sets of challenges. Delicate jeans—marketed as a soft alternative to the ruggedness of the iconic traditional jeans—haven’t traditionally been heralded for their staying power, leaving wearers dissatisfied when the fabric frays and falls apart.
Raw denim, meanwhile, carries the frustrating trait of “crocking,” the unsightly transfer of dye to a tucked-in white shirt or even a couch cushion. Given that many raw denim designers prefer not to wash the jeans until consumers have developed their own unique wear patterns, raw denim is often subject to shrinkage when it finally is washed. While denimheads may be well versed in these particular challenges, less-informed consumers often receive an unhappy surprise at the results, which can lead to retail returns.
To respond to these demands, Artistic Fabric & Garment Industries (AFGI) is bringing new fabric technologies to both ends of the spectrum—and the ones in-between. The company, which is known for converting discarded jeans into new fibers and its resource-saving technologies like Zero Bleach Tech and Double Zero, is introducing new SuperSoft, EverRaw and M-Power denim technology.
For Gen Z wearers, denim softness is all but non-negotiable. Ninety-four percent of Gen Z consumers described lightweight jeans as more comfortable than heavier weight options, according to research from Cotton Incorporated. This drops down to 76 percent for millennials and baby boomers, and 71 percent for Gen X-ers.
Conventionally, this softness was best achieved after the fabric had been washed multiple times. To ensure the denim stays soft after countless washings—without losing its performance properties—AFGI’s Super Soft Denim has built the hand feel into the fibers and yarns of the fabric. While industrial washing may contribute to the initial soft feeling of the jeans, the fabric processes of Super Soft Denim ensure they stay that way.
For every designer who wants his or her jeans to fade and mold to a body’s wear pattern, there’s another who covets the crisp, stiff (dark!) experience that only raw denim can provide. Unfortunately, it often leaves unwanted hallmarks of its existence in the form of blue streaks on white couches.
AFGI’s EverRaw denim provides the distinctive characteristics of traditional raw denim and incorporates new dyeing technology that eliminates crocking. EverRaw fabrics, whether comfort stretch or non-stretch, also have warp and weft shrinkage control, so jeans retain their size even during home laundering. In order to share these details with consumers, many brands are choosing to relay the benefit via hangtags, such as the one shown above.
Denim’s capacity for taking on distinctive wear patterns is what sets it apart from all other fabrics. Whether it’s whiskers, creases or knee fading, designers have been drawn to its ability to take on its own individual patterns that are as unique as fingerprints.
However, in order to apply these elements, designers have historically used hand sanding and chemicals—processes that can be labor intensive and ecologically unfriendly. While the use of laser technology to distress denim has been gaining steam, the fabric hasn’t classically been designed with this technology in mind.
AFGI’s M-Power denim collection is designed to empower the marking of denim with laser, with every component—from concept to finished fiber—having been considered. The fibers are all cellulose and lack any trace of exposed synthetics, so they won’t melt and lose strength under the heat of a laser beam. The dyeing processes, meanwhile, are adjusted for the perfect pH, speed and concentration to provide a rich depth of color while retaining enough undyed fibers to create visible wear patterns.
Click to learn more about AFGI’s denim technologies.