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Collaborations Bolster Innovations Across the Denim Supply Chain

Mills, fiber producers and garment-finishing specialists came together digitally on Tuesday for Kingpins 24 Flash, a two-day event dedicated to the latest innovations, products and collaborations in the global denim market.

Cone Denim bowed a collection based on timeless design called The Very Best of Times. Made in partnership with design consultant Miles Johnson and sustainable finishing technology firm Tonello, the garments tout a roster of responsible components, spanning organic and recycled cotton and hemp, to natural indigo and softening techniques.

“The Very Best of Times brought together a group of longtime friends with a shared love and passion for denim authenticity and sustainability,” said Pierette Scavuzzo, Cone Denim’s director of product design.  “It was a project from the heart, intended to lift up and inspire, based on the collaborative experience and trust within the team.

For the collection, Tonello was able to recreate heritage-inspired washes using no harmful chemicals, a minimum amount of water and no stones. The company’s OBleach technique created authentic light wash-downs without the use of bleach, while its Wake dye technique, a natural dye system that uses only vegetable waste and organic raw materials, achieved a palette of earthy colors.

Amsterdam-based AMK Atelier was responsible for the pattern work and details of the collection. Stylistically, the 12-piece collection was inspired by the resurgence of authentic denim and workwear and offers unisex silhouettes such as unstructured boxy jackets and 5-pocket jeans with adjustable waists.

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“Since the start of my career I’ve had the good fortune of working with Cone Denim and there I got to develop some of my favorite denims of all times,” Johnson said. “We have always talked passionately from the heart about what makes denim so special. It is always such a pleasure to get to work with likeminded old friends that you’ve really enjoyed working with over the years. There is a natural and authentic way of working where, because of the trust, we were able to get on with the task easily and all do our own thing to contribute.”

The global denim supply chain came together Tuesday for Kingpins 24 Flash to share their latest sustainable innovations and products.
Cone’s The Very Best of Times Courtesy

Tonello also partnered with chemical specialist Rudolf Hub 1922 to showcase the synergies behind their two new technologies aimed at improving laser effects on denim.

Tonello presented The Laser, a range of four laser machines and new software designed to reinvent the finishing process and return higher precision, speed, flexibility and repeatability. Rudolf Hub 1922 presented Laser Smoother, an all-in-one formula applied to garments before laser burning to help remove the gray/brown patina produced by the burning of cotton. It also creates a “micro-unevenness” that mimics the look of manual scraping.

Combined, the efficient technologies result in fabrics with enhanced characteristics and natural-looking effects.

The heightened demand for comfortable, vintage-looking jeans led Naveena Denim Mills to develop Wraptech 2.0, a collection of high-elasticity fabrics that blend the power stretch of Lycra fiber and recovery properties of Lycra T400 fiber with the appearance of rigid fabric.

Wraptech 2.0 is based on a tri-core yarn that provides fabrics with low growth and lower compression than typical stretch denim. The helical crimp shape of the Lycra T400 fiber gives fabrics durable stretch and superior shape retention, meaning garments maintain shape longer between washes. One fabric can be used for a wide range of silhouettes, while one jean made with it can fit several sizes.

Additionally, brands can request sustainable inputs such as Lycra T400 EcoMade technology, which is made from a combination of recycled materials such as PET bottles, as well as renewable plant-based materials, or up to 20 percent post-industrial waste cotton to bring a sustainable story to the market.

Lycra provided updated sustainability certifications for Lycra Anti-Slip fiber, a patent-pending fiber that helps prevent ripples at the seams. It was developed as a solution for applications in single-core spandex fabrics that require durable stretch and good recovery power, helping jeans maintain their fit, shape and appearance wash after wash and wear after wear.

The global denim supply chain came together Tuesday for Kingpins 24 Flash to share their latest sustainable innovations and products.
Jeans made with Lycra Anti-Slip fiber Courtesy

The fiber achieved a Gold Level Material Health certification from the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute. The certification focuses on two key components: safety and transparency.

“For each product, we had to disclose our ingredients, our suppliers, and they in turn had to disclose their ingredients,” said Jean Hegedus, director of sustainable business development. “So, our customers can be sure the ingredients used in these fibers are safe for both humans and the environment. We’ve also committed to continuous improvement in the sustainability profile of these products by pursuing greener chemistries.”

The Anti-Slip fiber is one of 25 products that Lycra said it has submitted to the institute for certification since 2019 at the request of clients.

Tricia Carey, director of global business development for denim at Lenzing, offered a closer look at garments made with the fiber company’s new Tencel Modal fibers with Indigo technology, a process that incorporates indigo pigment directly into Tencel-branded modal fibers using a one-step, spun-dyeing process.

The technology delivers color fastness and wash effects relative to conventional indigo dyeing, while using substantially fewer resources. Among the benefits of adding indigo into the fiber, Carey said, is a 99 percent savings for water, 80 percent savings for chemicals and 99 percent savings for energy in comparison to traditional rope-dyed indigo yarn.

In addition, a specially commissioned indigo pigment from dyestuff manufacturer DyStar ensures that Tencel Modal with Indigo technology can be certified with Standard 100 by Oeko-Tex, guaranteeing ultra-low levels of aniline.

The global denim supply chain came together Tuesday for Kingpins 24 Flash to share their latest sustainable innovations and products.
Tencel Modal fibers with Indigo technology Courtesy

Lenzing worked with Cone, Candiani and Adriano Goldschmied to develop prototype garments using Indigo technology. The company, however, is now opening the innovation to the market for further development. “Just thinking about indigo applications differently will lead us to think of new markets for denim,” Carey said.

Beximco group director and CEO Syed Naved Husain announced Beximco 2, a new 450,000-square-foot facility located on the Beximco Industrial Park that will produce 6 million yards of denim per month. The facility, which will be fully functional in June, will boast the “world’s largest washing plant under one roof” and utilize a salt-free, waterless dye system, he said.

Additionally, the company will begin to upcycle post-consumer and post-production cotton waste back into fiber form, which it plans to sell to fellow Bangladeshi companies. “We see a future with recycled cotton versus organic cotton,” Husain added.

Sedef Uncu Aki, the director of Orta, shared how it is creating a local circular economy with Gamma, a recycling center in Turkey.

The mill is supplying Gamma with its hazardous-free waste fiber, most of which is from Orta’s spinning production, to be processed back into recycled fibers. Orta will use the recycled fibers in its own production. “We will be able to repurpose approximately 3,000 tons of waste that we generate in a year,” she said.

And by partnering with a domestic recycling center, the mill is able to reduce any extraneous carbon emissions. “That’s also important because the carbon emissions in recycling usually comes from transportation,” she said.

Collaborations are behind several new concepts by Naveena Denim, which announced a new partnership with denim consultant Salli Deighton and an upcoming collection developed with U.K.-based studio Endrime, which will bow in April.

Naveena is also continuing its relationship DSM Protective Materials, the producer of Dyneema, a fiber that is 15-times stronger than steel, albeit with a more sustainable slant. Rashid Iqbal, Naveena Denim executive director, said the mill signed a manufacturing partner agreement with DSM, which gives Naveena exclusivity to develop fabrics with new Dyneema fiber made by a new bio-based process.

“We are in this unique position because we are the only ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene fiber produced in the world that is backward integrated,” said Peto Verdaasdonk, DSM’s application development specialist, meaning the company can work with its raw material suppliers and can arrange that they replace oil-based materials with renewable feedstock. This, he added, further enhances the carbon footprint of DSM’s product, and brings sustainability to the denim world.

By adding a small percentage—less than 10 percent—of Dyneema to fabrics, Iqbal said the mill can improve abrasion resistance by 100 percent, when compared with 100 percent cotton denim fabrics.