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Sustainable Fiber and Dye Alternatives Gain Momentum at Kingpins Amsterdam

The denim supply chain is re-writing the definition of what it means to be denim.

With sustainability being the way forward for most suppliers, exhibitors at Kingpins Amsterdam last week presented their Spring/Summer 2021 investments in denim’s future, prioritizing alternative fibers, smart blends and biodegradable components.

More mills highlighted their use of hemp. While buzz for hemp garments grows in the U.S. following the 2018 Farm Bill that legalized the commercial production of hemp, most mills like Artistic Denim Mill (ADM), Arvind and Naveena are sourcing the alternative fiber in Asia and Europe due to cost.

Arvind presented Hemp Exotica, a range of hemp blended denim touted for its durability, anti-microbial, UV and abrasion-resistant properties. The fiber also acts as a natural insulation and offers strong color retention.

Hemp was a small piece of ADM’s collection, which emphasized recycled materials and alternative organic chemicals. The mill is using a liquid black without sulfate, reducing its impact on the environment by 60 percent.

Kaltex, which presented a focused group of 37 SKUs, also highlighted areas where it is using Repreve polyester, post-consumer waste, scraps from its own factory, and recycled ring-dyed yarn for efficient laser finishing. The mill’s Stacked grouping combines these eco concepts to tell a complete sustainable story.

For its Modern Retro collection, Cone Denim is pumping up the amount of Tencel and Tencel x Refibra going into fabrics, and post-consumer black polyester. Meanwhile, the mill’s new collaboration with apparel manufacturer Crystal International builds on Cone’s Sustainblue Collection of fabrics featuring responsible cotton, recycled content and environmentally friendly processing.

The Crystal x Cone collaboration includes a range of rigid and stretch denims made with recycled post-consumer waste cotton, Repreve, and Cone’s Distilled Indigo eco-friendly dyes.

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Crystal x Cone Cone

Candiani bowed ReSolve, the third member of its “Re” Family fabrics. ReSolve fabrics are made with organic cotton and a customized Roica V550 degradable stretch yarn developed exclusively for Candiani by Roica’s parent company, Asahi Kasei.

The fabric range introduces V Sizing, a vegetal sizing compound used in the dyeing process, to Candiani’s menu of sustainable alternatives. The 100 percent biodegradable and non-toxic compound replaces hazardous chemicals like PVA to ensure a micro-plastics free dye process. V Sizing serves as a vegan alternative to Kitotex, a chemical technology made from food waste.

ReSolve closes out Candiani’s “Re” Family that began with ReGen—a fabric made with 50 percent Refibra fibers and 50 percent recycled fibers and the winner of the 2019 ITMA Sustainable Innovation Award—and ReLast, a stretch fabric made with organic cotton and Roica’s first recycled elastomer.

Artistic Milliners led with BioVision, a new range of fabrics that follow the new Ellen MacArthur Foundation Jeans Redesign guidelines. The fabrics, dyed with the mill’s proprietary Crystal Clear technology, are made with a roster of sustainable components including biodegradable Roica polyester, organic cotton and Lenzing products (up to 70 percent in some fabrics).

In an effort to achieve zero waste design, Artistic Milliners continued with Circular Blue, a fabric range made with 80 percent industrial waste cotton and 20 percent pre-consumer waste cotton. The fabrics, which have a distinct and fashionable mélange look, require no additional dye.

With a robust effort from mills to introduce recycled and biodegradable fibers into Spring/Summer ’21 fabrics, other segments of the supply chain examined how to build circularity into their processes.

Tonello debuted Wake, the first 100 percent eco-sustainable dyeing system that uses only organic and compostable raw materials. The process uses plant and vegetable waste such as flowers, berries and roots, which are dried and infused with no chemical additives. Benefits of Wake include shorter processing times, a decrease in CO2 emissions, biodegradable solid waste and safer and healthier dyes and processes.

Purple denim
Tonello’s Wake Courtesy

Wake can be used for ready-to-dye garments or to achieve overdyed effects. To start, Tonello marketing executive Alberto Lucchin said the garment finishing technology company is using seven of the “most controllable” types of natural dye sources it has found, like logwood, madder root and reseda summit, or reseda luteola, to achieve a palette that spans sunny yellow and lilac to rust and pale pink.

However, the possibilities are endless. Tonello presented the capabilities of Wake with a timely Woodstock-inspired collection of garments to commemorate the festival’s 50th anniversary, layering the dyeing process with other sustainable processes like laser to create tie-dye effects and peace-sign designs. The system can be installed on any Tonello dyeing or washing machine and can be used together with other All-In-One System technologies by the Italian company.

Artistic Milliners also experimented with natural colors. Along with using Archroma’s EarthColors, the fully vertical company integrated its own natural dye solution derived from plant- and food-based sources. The 100 percent natural dye process uses softners from organic sources, too.

Trims supplier YKK pushed forward with its sustainable material program. The product range includes Natulon, YKK’s environmentally friendly product for zipper tape produced from recycled PET materials and manufactured using less energy, tape made with Lenzing’s Tencel Lyocell fibers, and organic cotton tape.

The company also presented screw tack buttons that can be easily separated from fabric during recycling processes, and snap and button items, which use less water, electricity, thermal energy and process chemicals.

Recycled materials were the base of Turkteks Etiket’s range of eco labels. The trims supplier showcased back patch labels dyed with water-based inks made from leftover waste from its own production, Jacron, recycled leather and jute.

cork patch
Cork patch by Medike Landes

For trims supplier Medike Landes, sustainability is the future. The company presented a roster of sustainable material alternatives, such as cork, recycled leather and Jacron, and a range of faux leathers made from fruit waste.

With Apple Skin, Medike Landes gives the cores and skins of apples a second life. The waste is mechanically ground into a powder that is mixed with PU and color pigments and then applied to backing materials like cotton, polyester or viscose. Apple Skin, which is 100 percent vegan, reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 25 percent and can be embossed with different grains and made in different thicknesses.

Meanwhile, Medike Landes’ pineapple-based material, Piñatex, gives farming communities in the Philippines a second turnover. Famers collect pineapple leaves, which are then processed to extract fibers that are processed into non-woven substrate. The substrate is combined with a biodegradable thermoplastic polymer and 10 percent PU, which protects the material during home laundering. The material is 90 percent compostable.