Skip to main content

Sustainable Dyes, Softness and Manila Hemp: New Trends in Denim Emerge at Sourcing at Magic

The importance of fashion and sustainability was on display at Denim District, Sourcing at Magic’s new zone for all-things denim. The UBM show, taking place in Las Vegas Aug 12-15, offered a visual presentation of emerging trends, innovations and upcycled concepts in the denim universe.

With sustainability top of mind for mills and garment manufacturers, Japan-based textile manufacturer Toyoshima presented Food Textile, a technology that extracts natural dyes from food residues. Blueberry and cabbage make red and yellow shades; coffee and black tea are used to make brown colors.

Italy-based Officina +39 took a different approach to sustainable dyestuff. The chemical company presented Recycrom, a patent pending range of dyestuff made using recycled clothing, fibrous material and textile scraps. Officina +39 has developed a system to reprocess the scraps and transform the textile fiber into colored powder, which can be used to dye new garments. Recycom is available in many colors using 100 percent recycled textile materials.

Synthetic stones have been serving as a sustainable alternative to pumice stones, as they can achieve the same visual effect. Uptick in synthetic stones has ramped up, and Graham Anderton of Aztex Trading in Mexico said the faux stones eliminates harmful dust from the air and requires less water in the wash process.

Upcycling was another apparent trend on the show floor, as companies are increasingly keen to embrace used and unwanted garments in order to promote sustainability.

Related Story

Highlighting what can be done with old denim, Antiyou artist Michelle Ganani demonstrated how she transforms used jean jackets into new wearable art by painting designs of imagery including Frida Kahlo-and swirls of blue that mimic agate crystal on them.

jean jacket
Antiyou Angela Velasquez

Mills also presented ideas like upcycled denim bralettes—complete with front zippers—and jumpsuits that mixed denim scraps with other fabrics like corduroy. Leather-like coatings were promoted for both their fashion qualities and as a way to reduce the use of animal products in garments.

The environment served as inspiration for both denim innovation and fashion. In a trend display created by Aztex, the jean producer showcased an array of ocean-inspired shades of blue, vivid green and cloudy sky effects achieved by companies like Officina +39 and Spanish firm Tintes Egara. Similarly, muddy coatings represented soil and the Earth.

A desire to get back to nature was even evident in glitzier trends like crystals.

Tanjui Sobti, the creative director of Guangzhou Yi Xiang Trading Co., said buyers have been seeking spiritual motifs in denim. Designs like crystal-embellished angel wings on a jean jacket, he said, tap into the increasing interest in “mindfulness.”

Jean jacket
Guangzhou Yi Xiang Trading Co. Angela Velasquez

From a fashion perspective, Sobti said ’90s bling is poised to make an appearance in U.S. brand collections, and the trend has already been thriving in the U.K. for the past 18 months. The interest is only expected to grow, particularly with Los Angeles-based brands.

Jewelry-like crystal trims, crystal covered lace, paint splattering, lacing and novelty details like insets of leopard print mesh on jean jackets, are attracting interest, too.

While stretch constructions still make up the majority of collections, exhibitors said softness is becoming more and more sought after by brands.

Answering that call, Feiying Garments offered a robust collection of Tencel shirting, and a representative for the company said customers are drawn to the silky hand feel and the vivid colors the fiber helps create.

colorful shirts
Feiying Garments Angela Velasquez

In line with that, NCL Denim manager of global merchandising Clair Shih said customers are seeking jeans that have the comfort and laid back feeling of sweatpants.

However, there’s still a customer that favors traditional looks. Toyoshima presented a new concept called Japanese Paper Denim that utilizes Manila hemp. The fabric has a light weight, paper-like appearance but with the durability Japanese denim is known for.

The process, which the company said can only be achieved in Japan, entails collecting Manila hemp that is grown for two to three years, extracting the fibers from the hemp and “cooking” the fibers into pulp by using a steam kettle.

The paper making process includes combing the fibers, pressing and drying them and then rolling them up. The company then cuts the paper into very thin yarn by a micro-slitter machine and winds it into a spiral. In the spinning, the slit yarn is either twisted together with other slit yarn or with other yarns.