A “completely booked out” Bluezone with approximately 90 exhibitors took place last week in Munich, giving visitors from brands like C&A, Marc O’Polo, Selected and United Colors of Benetton the opportunity to view the latest by denim mills, trims suppliers, laundries and more.
Visitors also had access to over 30 hours of trend lectures, discussions and presentations at the two-day denim show and its three-day sister event, Munich Fabric Start.
More than 14,000 visitors from 58 countries attended the shows. However, attendance was approximately 20 percent below the level of the comparative show three years ago in January 2020. Due to the current economic situation in the market as well as limited travel activities—particularly by Asian visitors—this wasn’t unexpected, the show said.
“Despite the current difficult economic market environment, the mood at Munich Fabric Start and Bluezone was one of curiosity and optimism. Business processes are [being] critically questioned, but the companies have answers through new product innovations, exciting new designs or through more efficient and more transparent processes,” said Frank Junker, Munich Fabric Start partner and creative director. “As a trade show, we provide the platform for this and bring the right people together in one place.”
Sebastian Klinder, Munich Fabric Start managing director, added that interest in new developments in digitalization and sustainability was especially high at the show.
From the show floor
Being a good blending partner, Lenzing touted the benefits of zero cotton blends and zero virgin cotton blends made with 50 percent Tencel and 50 percent recycled denim at the show. Tuncay Kilickan, head of global business – denim at Lenzing, said the fabrics are light sensitive, making them compatible with laser finishing technologies.
Brazilian mill Vichuna brought its range of fabrics made with up to 30 percent pre-consumer recycled cotton blended with fibers like Tencel and hemp. On a yearly basis, the mill says it recovers and recycles 7,000 tons of cotton. The fabrics achieve their light blue color through only the recycled yarns. Skipping the dye stage allows for up to 95 percent water savings.
Vichuna also highlighted its soft touch fabrics made with Lycra Adaptiv and its usage of ABR certified cotton (Responsible Brazilian Cotton). ABR certification of each production unit involves compliance with 178 items, ranging from workers’ health, safety, and well-being to the protection of springs and the preservation of biomes and of the soil. The annual, individual audits are carried out by third party certifying bodies.
In addition to highlighting fabric blends made with Tencel, BCI and Repreve, NZ Tex from Bangladesh highlighted its popular line of linen denim. The spinning mill sources the flax fiber from Belgium and France. It’s also experimenting with jute.
Isko presented an expanded range of Ctrl+Z fabrics, the Turkish mill’s closed loop solution. The fabrics are made from a pure blend of recycled cotton and polyester, which is then combined with regenerated cellulosic fibers.
All of Isko’s fabric franchises can be made in the Ctrl+Z way and maintain the same level of quality and performance, meaning sustainability doesn’t have to be the main reason why a client selects a fabric. It’s a bonus at no extra cost.
Alongside more Isko Luxury by PG concepts, Isko presented a range of fabrics dyed with all-natural mineral colors. The earthy hues tap into demand for color without any harmful chemicals.
Officina39 is in the business of color. The chemical company bowed Smart Black, a solution to obtain light colors from black textiles without the use of caustic soda.
Developed by Officina39’s R&D team, Smart Black’s application involves only one step of maximum 30 minutes instead of the traditional three-step process. This helps reduce water consumption by 60 percent. It has a processing temperature of 50 degrees compared to the 70-80 degrees in standard processing, meaning it also requires less energy.
Smart Black can be applied on stretch garments with elastomer, and it prevents zip, press stud and button stains.
Brother brought its GTX600 direct to garment printer to Bluezone to highlight the possibilities of industrial printed denim. The technology company partnered with Ereks—Blue Matters to provide garments for show attendees to customize and print.
Folker Stachetzki, Brother’s head of marketing, said the printers—one for mass production and two smaller models—use GOTS and Oeko-Tex certified inks that are also vegan. The smaller models, he added, are ideal for design companies to trial designs before sending them into production, thus reducing waste and sampling.
Garments with prints in their interior—like traditional jean jackets accented on the inside with tropical palm prints—were part of Swift Denim’s colorful collection.
The Tunisian company showed jeans overdyed after washing to create a “soft punk” look, Tencel and recycled cotton blends, fabrics with a Levi’s look from the ’80s and contrasting fabrics on the interior of waistbands to inspire brands with new ways of merchandising denim with tops and non-denim pieces.
Bossa is turning to agriculture to reduce its usage of dyestuff.
At Bluezone, Jordan Nodarse, a design consultant for Bossa, said the Turkish mill is investigating the future of color cotton starting with a brown to make brown denim, noting that other colors like green and pink can also be achieved.
“Obviously the biggest one that we’re really trying to achieve is blue,” he added.
It took about three years to build up the seeds which are provided by a Turkish supplier. Nodarse said Bossa worked with farmers “probably about five kilometers from the factory and mill” and ultimately guaranteed them a price it would pay for the cotton to get them to try something new.
“It is not easy to get farmers to try something, they’ll tell you that much,” he said.
“Supporting them in this project was great and the interest in this project has been good,” Nodarse said. “And the resource savings on water and dyeing chemicals has been huge. So, you’re going to see a lot more of this coming from Bossa.”
Blended fibers as part of denim’s sustainable future were a hot topic at Bluezone panels and seminars.
During a panel about the advancement of preferred fibers, Helen Smits, Recover Fibers chief sustainability officer, described how the company offers blends with organic cotton, conventional cotton and polyester. She added that there is still a strong base of customers that want a cotton hand feel and that it can’t be replicated with a manmade cellulosic fiber.
“We do create blends that cannot be 100 percent recycled but ideally we have 100 percent recycled product that can also be 100 percent cellulosic based. That’s still missing,” she said.
Moderator Lauren Greenwood, the product director of Pentatonic, a circular consultancy, pointed out how the denim industry can be shortsighted by focusing on only products made entirely from organic or regenerative fibers.
“Wouldn’t it be better if we utilize the different features of all these different materials—even getting 20 percent recycled content in all garments rather than a selection that are 100 percent recycled,” she said. “I think the mass effect of this would be transformative.”
In a separate panel, Nodarse echoed the sentiment by encouraging the supply chain to combine chemical recycled fibers with regenerative cotton that’s helping absorb carbon from the atmosphere and for designers to lend their voice in developing these solutions.
“Blending those two things together, this is really where designers can help and kind of create a standard,” he said. “The information is there. Fiber suppliers and fabric suppliers are coming up with their ideas, but designers can really figure out what means the most to them. They can come up with more creative ideas.”
Anne Oudard, a denim consultant, said brands and designers are choosier with fibers. “Before brands would only focus on fabrics and I think now they also want to communicate about the kind of fibers they’re using,” she said. “[Designers] select fabrics for the fibers that are inside them.”
In a separate panel, Tricia Carey, Renewcell chief commercial officer, noted the number of innovators coming into the fiber space that can utilize the company’s Circulose brand of pulp made from 100 percent recycled textiles.
The 10-year-old company recently opened its first production facility in Sweden that produces 60,000 tons of pulp which it sells to fiber producers that make viscose, modal, lyocell and other fibers. Renewcell’s goal is to reach 360,000 tons of pulp by 2030.
“This is the continuation of being really sharp on one niche that’s able to close the loop and building it out at a fast pace with the quality,” she said.
Carey described the next five years as an interesting time for fibers and estimates that the end of this decade will be the true indicator of who’s really achieving their circular goals. “Because I believe it’s a race to space, and it’s all around what needs to be accomplished for circularity. With all these factors of policy coming in and innovation, financing them also has to happen.”
Though circularity is often looked from a fiber point of view, Florian Stretz, Saitex Fabrics general manager, said mills can take responsibility for other aspects of closing the loop.
“As we are striving to become a circular economy, [mills should also try] to create fabrics that are easy for the garment factory, meaning less cutting waste and less use of water in the laundry by making easy to bleach fabrics or by creating fabrics that are easy to laser,” he said. “There’s a lot of talk about fibers, but there is also a lot that can be done during the manufacturing process to reduce the impact.”