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Kingpins New York and Mills Look to Denim’s Future

Kingpins New York wrapped up its final edition at Skylight Clarkson Square July 21-22 on a positive note, with attendance up 16 percent from the previous show. The show will be back at an early date Nov. 3-4, and at a new larger location in Basketball City.

Kingpins Show Founder Andrew Olah said the team is “hell-bent” on improving its shows in every aspect, from space availability and seminars, to food, parties and giveaways. “We are very excited about the improvements people will see in future shows,” he said.

For Fall ’16, denim mills were looking beyond indigo. Enrico Giacometti, designer for Suryalakshmi Cotton Mills, said gray remains important for Fall ’16, with both blue or yellow and brown undertones. The mill is also exploring new types of purple and red indigo to create what Giacometti described as “sapphire.”

For Artistic Fabric Mills (AFM), Kingpins New York was an opportunity to introduce the US denim market to its Bleu de Travail—also known as Benzo blue to senior dye technicians, or Pantone 17-4015 to modern day colorists. The color, with a distinct purple cast that can wash from purple to blue to stone gray, dates back to the middle of the 20th century with roots in European utilitarian work clothes, however, it never reached the same popularity level as indigo.

Bleu de Travail could have faded into obscurity, but now Japanese and European vintage boutiques and denim connoisseurs worldwide are rediscovering the color, reported AFM Director of US Sales Henry Wong. For Fall ’16, the mill is adding new life to the color. “We’ve reimagined it for fashion and reproduction,” Wong said, noting how the color can look bright and crisp on stretch skinny jeans, or take on a vintage look on ultra-soft, ripped and repaired styles.

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Air Denim presented its indigo-free alternative for stretch and non-stretch wovens. The proprietary Air Denim process requires no indigo dyes or washing, apart from a softening wash at the end. As a result, it uses 95 percent less water, 86 percent less energy and 84 percent less greenhouse gasses.

The process allows for customization, which Carly Giammona of Air Denim said is a draw for brands that want to tap into the athleisure market. With the process, she said brands have the added benefit of short lead times and no minimums, which has helped them focus on the right trends and replenish faster.

As designers move toward product that shape the body, Giammona said contouring effects have picked up traction. The best examples are jeggings with slimming panels of contrasting color. Going forward, Giammona sees brands moving toward more hybrid products with comfort that has both denim and activewear appeal.

Tencel was a go-to for mills that wanted to increase their comfort levels. Dynamo told fashion stories with cotton and Tencel. Meanwhile Artistic Milliners (AM) offered fabrics that had Tencel blended with neoprene and Lycra Beauty. AM also showcased Tencel in rigid fabrications and boyfriend fits with a softer hand feel.

The demand for comfort has led Royo to increase its options for jogger jeans, especially for the men’s market. The mill offered a number of Tencel and Modal blends for softness. Similarly, Malwa Industries is seeing growing interest in jogger fabrications. Or as Mayank Jain, Malwa Industries vice president of marketing, put it: “Joggers are catching [designers’] fancy.”

To spice up its collection, Jain said the mill is offering twill and jogger combinations with a lot of attention paid to details. “The magic is on the inside,” Jain quipped, noting that for Fall ’16 Malwa is banking on a 3D weaving technique that can be etched down to reveal layers of indigo and red. Malwa also bowed a range of intricate jacquards inspired by Italian designs.

Malwa Industries

Arlethe Sanchez, marketing representative for Tavex, said its Runway collection of denim with a knit back, fills the need for comfort. The double faced fabric bridges extreme comfort and sophisticated styling with its ultra-soft hand feel and versatile surface. Likewise, Giacometti of Suryalakshmi Cotton Mills, said so-called “knit” denim, which is actually woven, is popular for Fall ’16. He pointed out that sweatpants-like fabrications for men and women are key. “Knit has too much shrinkage. You can’t wash knit like regular denim,” he explained.

Sharabati Denim got the faux knit denim memo, too. At the show, the mill highlighted woven denim with a knit appearance, noting that it holds up better in washes.

Stretch and recovery continued to be the topic of conversation, especially as both become more prominent in the men’s market. In the last two years, Giacometti said stretch denim has grown from being five percent of its men’s business to 50 percent. Brands are asking for up to 30 percent stretch, which is he said is driving the standard amount of stretch in women’s denim above 35 percent.

Hamit Yenici, Calik general manager, said softer hand feels for men are getting “more and more popular.” Calik’s unisex Fit Plus fabric, a two-way stretch with less stretch in the warp, offers two percent recovery. Yenici noted that regular non-stretch denim has five percent growth. The fabric resists gravity, making it less baggy in the knee and back area.

Advance Denim touted a number of ProModal stretch fabrics, including a new collection of comfort stretch for the men’s category, which adds a luxurious feel to traditional denim.

Michelle Branch, Global Denim director of sales, said the mill’s focus for fall was on stretch denim for men. Last year, its most important jean was the Orleans, a 100 percent cotton jean. Customers love it, but they came back and asked if it could be done in stretch. The result is the Lafayette, which has stretch in just the warp, mirroring how men move, Branch noted.

Women’s denim, on the other hand, is calling for more performance fabrics. AFM launched shapewear denim fabrics made with Tencel and Modal fibers for superior drape and softness. Meanwhile, Calik offered ThinUp, a jean with twice as much Lycra than its standard denim, and which Yenici said acts like Spanx. It has the appearance of a proper jean, he added, but with slimming effects.

Calik also bowed WarmUp, a jean fabrication with a wool look, but without the wool. The denim uses polyacrylic fiber and sulfur dye without bleach to create a warm, cozier and softer material. With winter’s unpredictability, Suryalakshmi presented an all-season, blended jean made with 50 percent Thermolite and 50 percent Coolmax. The jean keeps the wearer warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s warm.

Sustainability was top of mind at Kingpins New York. Lenzing teamed up with Jeanologia to bow Tencel 24: Day into Night, a line of fashion forward indigo chambray. The collection included a flowy tank, a water lily-inspired cutout dress and other garments with laser details that mimicked cross stitching. “We wanted to inspire the market to offer other wash and laser finishes with design details. We also wanted to show other silhouettes beyond the basic button-down shirt,” said Tricia Carey, director of business development, denim for Lenzing Fibers.

Tencel 24: Day into Night

The collection also showed the innovation in technology and sustainability with the Jeanologia Environmental Impact Measurement (EIM) system. Carey said the collection had a positive response from mills and brands impressed with their new ideas for the top-selling fabric.

Oxygene by Calik was another strong sustainable story. The mill has been working toward making greener product with less energy and water. Oxygene offers a bright and flat denim without resin, and it can withstand laser, ozone and traditional manual abrasion methods. The line’s EIM score is 12. Yenici said under 30 is a perfect level.

Still, it wouldn’t be a new season without new fashion. Global Denim made a throwback statement with what Branch described as “true old school jeans” in both a 15 oz. and 10.7 oz. The jeans have an orange peel look that resembles deadstock, she added.

For Fall ’16 Royo updated coatings. Highlights included one with a leather hand feel and one with a waxy finish. A representative said coatings have been steady, but something new keeps it interesting. Blue Farm played with textures, as well. It’s strong shirting collection featured ripstop, quilting, super fine Supima and brushed flannel.