No part of garment manufacturing has been left untouched by the effects of the pandemic, including trims suppliers. Once a sector reliant on leather and harsh chemicals and programmed to follow fashion’s quick pace for new novelties, leading trims manufacturers are finding a common ground that calls for better products and processes.
Companies have been working toward a leaner and more efficient, responsible and digital model for years, but the unprecedented events of 2020 helped accelerate positive change. “The biggest change that the pandemic has bought for us is an increased interest in sustainability from our brand partners,” said Brian La Plante, YKK (USA) Inc. sustainability lead. “They are speeding up their adoption of our sustainable trim items and requesting new, more advanced developments which lower environmental impacts even further.”
The pandemic, said Gloria Crivellaro, Ribbontex export sales manager, revealed how trim companies contributed to fashion’s waste problem. “It showed that there is no need to have many items and products,” she said. “What is important is to have the right products—ones that are comfortable and durable.”
Trims are increasingly in tune with societal shifts. Ideas about cultural diversity and genderless design have a significant influence on Cadica Group’s collection, said Carlo Parisatto, the company’s chief marketing officer. Cadica has already begun to present concepts designed around seasonless garments, identity, circularity and “less is better,” to the point where sustainability is no longer concentrated in a dedicated collection as it was the year prior.
“The pandemic changed our views and shifted the focus to the importance of the essentials, [including] fewer but more durable items, best quality materials and versatile fashion garments. That means reducing the extras to save our planet,” Parisatto said.
The value of trims as a branding opportunity remains high, however. Along with buttons, rivets and snaps, Dorlet CEO Thibault Greuzat said clients are requesting metal accents such as a metal plate or another type of “special marker” that can signify the brand of the jeans.
Beyond traditional branding, jeans companies are also increasingly seeking ways to educate their consumers on how to care for their garments. In fact, the right trim has the potential to be a gateway to a whole new way of viewing aftercare.
The ability to communicate with consumers about conscious wash care, repair and how to give a garment a second life can all be done through trims, said Amy Lee, Avery Dennison senior trends and insights manager. Avery Dennison achieves this through Atma.io, a platform that assigns a unique ID to garments that can provide end-to-end transparency by tracking, storing and managing all the processes associated with the garment.
“This shift has been accelerated by the pandemic, and is really defining the future of branding,” she said.
Material sustainability is a key topic that many brands are working to address. “While the bulk of their focus is specifically on the sustainability of denim fabric, brands further along in their sustainability journey are working on reducing the impacts of their trims,” La Plante said. “They are looking for more sustainable textile options for their zipper tapes, such as recycled material or natural fibers like organic cotton.”
One of YKK’s solutions is Natulon 3Y zippers, a classic metal denim zipper with a recycled polyester tape. The use of the recycled yarn offers a 51 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions over a yarn made from virgin polyester. An organic cotton tape offers customers a non-petroleum textile option. For customers looking to reduce their water consumption, YKK also offers Eco-Dye, a waterless dye solution which uses supercritical carbon dioxide instead of water to dye zipper tapes.
Demand for labels that are made from cellulose-based jacron, chrome-free leather and 100 percent hemp is ramping up, said Liana Ciprut, Turteks Etiket partner and head of creative and marketing. Turteks Etiket is also experimenting with leather and dye alternatives sourced from organic materials, including patches made from olive waste, cactus leaves and corn-based PU. Coffee waste, meanwhile, serves as a popular dye solution to give materials an antique appearance. Closer to its wheelhouse, the company uses scraps of denim fabric from its clients to upcycle back into new labels and patches.
Recycled materials are the way forward for Dorlet, which introduced Global Recycled Standard (GRS) materials to its last collection. The materials will be the “heart” of its next collection, Greuzat said.
The finishing of metal components is another area of concern. Customers are asking for low impact non-electroplating options, La Plante said, like YKK’s environmentally friendly metal finishes and AcroPlating, a sustainable finishing technology that conserves water and electricity and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
While standards help companies identify sustainable materials, Greuzat said the trims sector lacks a solution to measure the impact of metal trims—information that clients want to pass on to the end consumer in their marketing. “All [companies] are trying their best to reduce the consumption of water, electricity and chemical use,” he said. “At the moment, there is no universal standard to determine the environmental impact of the metal trims.”
Indeed, Avery Dennison has seen how certifications have grown in importance. Data about greenhouse gas emissions, water and chemical usage are some of the key priorities for the company and its clients.
“It is no longer enough to make sustainability claims that cannot be backed up with facts and evidence,” Lee said. “Businesses globally are waking up to the cost of inaction, which ranges from missed revenue opportunities, to legislation fines, to low credibility and becoming irrelevant to consumers. In terms of environmental footprint, greenhouse gas emissions, water and chemical usage are some of the key priorities for us and for our partners.”
The company’s commitment to sustainability and its 2025 and 2030 sustainability goals enables the team to “think bigger and reach higher, applying our collaborative spirit, passion for innovation and technical expertise to transform our planet,” she added.
Recyclable by design
The recyclability of trims is also a hot topic. “Recycled and circular materials are top of the agenda for our clients, as well as mono-materials, which aids recycling through streamlining of materials,” Lee said.
Dorlet is putting the lifespan of buttons to the test with its Diabolo concept, a range of buttons that can easily be removed for recycling and reused in a new garment. “One of our main ideas is to make one button that can be used forever by the final customer,” Greuzat said. The company has also designed an easy-to-remove screw-on rivet made with raw material and no plating, making it fully recyclable on its own.
Removable and reusable trims are bound to resonate with the global roster of denim brands perusing the Ellen MacArthur’s Jeans Redesign guidelines for circularity. Though metal rivets have been a part of the classic blue jean design since their inception—originally used to reinforce points easily suspectable to wear-and-tear—they have become a point of contention in the recyclability of denim garment. Traditional metal rivets are difficult to remove for recyclers. Consequently, larger parts of the upper fabric of jeans are cut off and landfilled or incinerated.
Jeans Redesign encourages metal rivets be removed entirely from a garment design (or reduced to a minimum) and prohibits conventional electroplating, a process to coat metal that can generate hazardous wastes and effluent. To satisfy the guidelines, brands like H&M and Tommy Hilfiger have forgone the signature jean trim, relying on stitching to supply the strength and durability that a circular jean requires for a longer life.
Dorlet is in contact with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to become a Jeans Redesign member and help facilitate the removal of trims. With the right design, Greuzat said jeans can be recyclable, maintain the authentic denim look consumers associate with hardwearing jeans and use rivets to increase the life of jeans by reinforcing the strength of pockets. “Our goal is to make jeans in the most sustainable way, and we want to participate in the discussion,” he said.
In fact, trims companies may have a bigger seat at the table when industry players eventually come together to evaluate the guideline’s progress—and they’ll come prepared. Avery Dennison is “working directly with the recyclers and NGOs such as Accelerating Circularity that are enabling partnerships between trim suppliers, sorters and recyclers in a drive to find solutions that work for everyone,” Lee said.
With demand for removeable trims “on the rise,” Apholos creative director Luciana Botner Vieira said the company developed a screw brass tack button and a sewing button with a ring for brands to use instead of zippers. Cadica plans to launch a new collaboration for a circular project dedicated to denim and Turteks Etiket is “supporting and closely watching” the guidelines and is eager to be a part of related endeavors.
YKK is also working on a range of new products designed to work in circular systems, La Plante said. “To make the de-trimming process easier, we have developed a removable jean shank button that can be unscrewed for removal and is available in a wide range of our environmentally friendly finishes,” he said. “We are also working on developing a removable bullet burr using the same concept.”
Tre Jackson, YKK (USA) sales manager, added that the company is looking further into a plant-based or wood-based tape material along with the ability to use recycled brass, copper and nickel to re-melt and re-use in manufacturing. Though there are many factors that make this a “tough challenge,” it would give YKK the ability to “re-use great quality product that has performed and will not go to waste,” he said.
Timeless design is intrinsically linked to the longevity of a garment. Jeans Redesign calls it “emotional durability,” or a garment’s ability to stay relevant and desirable to consumers. Though small, trims can enhance its enduring appeal.
Traditional colors and metals are a shoo-in for seasonless designs. Raw copper and a “tin color” obtained with a stainless-steel base are Dorlet’s top two colors for the season. “We are trying to be as authentic as we can, so we are continuing to explore raw material and all the colorations that we can obtain from it,” Greuzat said.
Apholos is also taking the natural and raw material route. Botner Vieira said copper is proving to be a “big hit” because more people are knowledgeable about the metal’s antimicrobial properties.
For F/W 22-23, Jackson said YKK sees a continuation of “simpler, more timeless design.” Matte metal finishes along with “rich soothing colors that mirror the natural world” will be important. “Charcoal and gun metal finishes along with reassuring blues and pale grays, nature-based gold, browns and sage greens will be key colors and finishes,” he said.
Beyond metal hardware, intrigue in natural colors and materials traverses the trims category. Cream, white, orange, gold, blue, dark brown, cognac and brandy make up Ribbontex’s color palette for the season, allowing for “rich” and “prestigious” finishes to stand out, Crivellaro said.
Traditional-looking labels in shades of brown are key to Turteks Etiket’s vision for F/W 22-23. Natural tones of beige and off-white, matte pastels and natural greens are trending as well. The earthy colors help reinforce the company’s alternative leather stories. One color that you won’t see a lot of in the company’s collection is black, which tends to evoke an edgier and directional feeling that doesn’t align with the current mood for back-to-basics, nostalgic denim.
“Comfort is the main idea,” Ciprut said, noting that the quality led the company to develop more “classic and basic” labels instead of overdesigned concepts. “The focus is basic finishing, with simple artwork and [a wider range of] different materials.”