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The Next Wave of Denim Fashion Begins at the Mill Level

Mills and fiber companies at Kingpins Amsterdam last week took it upon themselves to spark creativity on the brand side with collections spanning Fall ’19 through Winter ’20 focused on color and new textures and intended for unconventional denim styling.

Italian denim mill Berto found design inspiration in Arctic exploration, resulting in a collection that combined hearty military-inspired fabrications with a color palette of military green, ecru and penguin-inspired black and white, accented with touches of Lurex to capture the glimmer of snow.

Berto’s story came together with black and white check shirting, ripstop wovens, indigo wool, weighty ’80s-inspired salt and pepper jeans in black and indigo, and super stretch and lightweight fabrics with the appearance of rigid denim. The mill pushed brands to experiment with these materials, showcasing rigid ecru models in unexpected feminine silhouettes, lightweight denim as elegant pleated trousers and re-introduced denim with blue and gray color weft, which delivers unique wash down and abrasion effects.

The glitz and glam of the ’70s and ’80s inspired Calik’s Red Carpet collection. The PFD striped fabrics made with viscose have a high sheen that remains intact after washes and can be dyed different colors after garment manufacturing. The collection also includes velour denim that taps into the ongoing track suit trend, and denim with a fur effect achieved through yarn technology. Calik presented the novelties on their own and as hybrid styles, mashing velour tops with panels of rigid denim for a trendy look.

Influences from Latin culture, along with fashion’s embracing color, led Lenzing to introduce Blues & Hues, the latest installment in its Sustainable Denim Wardrobe. As with previous collections, the line demonstrates the “breadth of possibilities that exist for products made from Lenzing fibers” through different types of laundries.

The goal for the collection, Hale Bahar Öztürk, project manager marketing apparel, Lenzing AG, said, was to showcase Lenzing’s fibers in completely new directions. “We did the unexpected and elevated the garment style,” she said, adding that they worked through laundry challenges to find the right over dye color for a purple suit and played with sulfur and indigo dyes to achieve on-trend reverse denim effects.

Blues & Hues

Highlights in the collection include a red ’70s blazer suit with a velvety touch made with Tencel Modal, cotton, polyester and elastane; an indigo 100 percent Tencel pleated skirt; a peach 100 percent Tencel Luxe tunic and an indigo hoodie made with three removable layers.

Color remains a core part of Atlantic Mills’ business. About 30 percent of the mill’s business is in sulfur based color denim and it works with brands to create exclusives. “We’re a yarn forward mill so we can innovate quickly. Today, you have to be different from the rest,” Amrin Sachathep, Atlantic Mills director, said, adding that several brands plucked their samples straight from the show.

Mexico-based Global Denim brought back an expanded B-Touch collection, a range of peached fabric with an ultra soft hand. The mill added indigo to the popular line, which launched last season with black, gray and PFD for garment dye. “Everyone asked for indigo, but it was tricky to get it right because the process scrapes indigo off. We had to find the right balance,” Jake Fraser, Global Denim director of U.S. sales and marketing, said.

Kara Nichols, Cone Denim VP of product design and marketing, said the mill started to focus last season on different colors in the weft direction to add interesting looks to traditional denim constructions. The mill is also rolling out natural PFDs for brands to dye them their own colors. Options include a fine left hand twill that Nichols said bridges the gap between twill and denim fabrics and a natural non-stretch that Cone dyed blue. “It creates different textures and surface interest,” she described.

Fall and winter seasons call for deeper colors. Products like Future Black+ featuring Lenzing Modal branded fibers and Repreve Black recycled fibers continue to be strong for Cone. The fade-resistant black denim contains as many as 17 recycled plastic bottles. Likewise, Artistic Denim Mills director of sales and marketing Jack Mathews said the Pakistan-based mill continues to have a good run with Stay Black denim made with Lenzing Modal Black for dressy jean looks. The mill has also introduced a new black that washes down to light gray without flaring out.

Prosperity introduced Dark Tone Technology, a new finishing technique that gently penetrates the fabric to create a 3-D effect. The finish brings out dark tones and higher contrasts. It looks like a coating, but is soft and color saturated. The mill also added Phantom Black, a liquid sulfur black that creates clean vintage contrasts, and Lenzing Modal Black with Repreve for pure black looks.

Mills are embracing sharper looks as well. Brazilian denim mill Canatiba presented constructions that tap into a new niche of denim intended for tailored suiting. The sophisticated, cleaned up aesthetic counters many of the youth-oriented, ’90s themes presented in Kingpins Trends seminar by consultant Amy Leverton, but may speak to a different level of consumers.

Bypassing fashion trends in favor of unpretentious style, Artistic Milliners partnered with French design studio Monsieur-T founder Tilmann Wröbel for a capsule collection called “Made in Paris – Frenchie.” The capsule includes subtle finishes, mix-and-match shine and matte fabrications and sateen labels for a bespoke touch. Garments like women’s slim jeans, a versatile blazer and men’s low-crotch denim evoke a modern, effortless Parisian vibe.

“While brainstorming with the Artistic Milliners team on the creative elements of the project, souvenirs of my past designer time in the Paris Haute Couture crossed my mind. I couldn’t refrain from thinking about very French, crafted, almost handmade French Five Piece. A group of denim products which could suit their owners from casual Paris days, to smooth and sharp Parisian nightlife,” Wröbel said.

Frenchie was among several new fashion-driven product lines by Artistic Milliners presented at Kingpins. Managing director Omer Ahmed pointed out that the lines are extreme contrasts of one another, but provide brands newness and consumers the foundation for an exciting denim wardrobe. “Quality over quantity, with very specific ideas,” he said about the Fall/Winter 19-20 collection.

While Frenchie caters to understated tastemakers, Ahmed said the new collection Shogun “explores and embraces the textures that denim provides.” The collection is a balance of old Japanese traditions and modern technology. Each fabric has a different focus, cracking, neppy slub that will age in their own unique way.

Meanwhile, the finale of 90210—one of Artistic Milliner’s most successful lines—speaks to consumers seeking a classic 501 look with high stretch. Ahmed said he believes the mill has “finally reached the most optimized look” in this niche. The collection has been updated with the right amount of stretch that resonates with the mass consumer market, he said.

As an industry, Ahmed urged mills and designers to be inventive. “How can we keep selling the same thing?” he asked. “Some customers don’t want to take a chance, but others appreciate that we’re trying new things. We want you to have a diverse closet—denim for different occasions [to] enrich your denim experience.”

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