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Iconic White Oak Denim Selvage Looms to Get Second Life in US Production Deal

In a move that should bring joy to denim aficionados and a potential boost to U.S. jeans manufacturing, Cone Denim has entered into an agreement to bring its American Draper X3 selvage looms from the iconic White Oak plant back into production.

The agreement provides for the sale of the X3 looms to local investor Will Dellinger, who plans to start them up to produce denim fabric in North Carolina.

“It is exciting to see a path forward for these iconic looms that allows them to remain in North Carolina and continue the legacy of American denim,” Cone Denim president Steve Maggard, said. “The denim community has been so supportive of Cone Denim and the heritage of the White Oak plant, which will forever be a part of Cone Denim.”

The U.S. denim market lost an iconic symbol when Cone Denim said it was ceasing operations and closing down the White Oak mill at the end of 2017 after 110 years of continuous production. This followed on the heels of DNA Textile Group in Columbus, Ga., announcing it was exiting the denim business, leaving a dearth of mills left in the U.S.

“It is very exciting that part of American denim history will be restored to production capacity and continue to have domestic selvage denim,” Tricia Carey, director of global business development for denim at Lenzing, said. “I hope this is a start of more domestic denim industry revival.”

Vidalia Denim has already announced plans for a new mill in Vidalia, La., and has partnered with Lubrizol Corp. to provide stretch fibers for its denim.

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Maggard noted on Tuesday that Cone Denim will not be involved in the operation of the looms, though the company is pleased they have found a new home.

“Will Dellinger understands the heritage and history of these looms and we appreciate his commitment to putting them back in production here in North Carolina,” Maggard said.

The American Draper X3 looms were produced by the Draper Corporation, based in Hopedale, Mass. The Draper automatic looms were a significant factor in the movement of the cotton textile industry to the South from New England. The X3 looms being sold to Dellinger date as far back as the 1940s. Some were original to the White Oak plant, while others were reclaimed from outside sources and restored for use at the plant.

“The looms are an integral part of American textile history and I am excited by the possibilities of continuing their legacy,” Dellinger said. “North Carolina is rich in textile resources and expertise, and I look forward to collaborating with others as we fully explore the potential of the looms and develop plans for their future start up.”

Cone Denim will also donate one of the looms to the Greensboro History Museum. This allows the loom to remain in the Greensboro community, available to the public, in support of the city’s denim heritage. Greensboro is the headquarters for Cone Denim, a unit of Elevate Textiles, and the company continues to look for opportunities to preserve and share the Cone heritage within the local community.

Cone Denim is a unit of Elevate Textiles, formerly International Textile Group, with manufacturing facilities in Mexico and China and a global network of sales, product and merchandising professionals, based in Greensboro.