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On Trend: Performance Denim Adds a New Layer to Athleisure’s Appeal

The merging of denim and activewear has resulted in a tour de force of creativity and innovation——not only in appearance but also in material performance. The demand for performance denim was evident at the latest edition of Denim by Première Vision, where under the theme “Gangs of Denim,” over 100 mills and exhibitors revealed their Spring/Summer 2016 collection to more than 4,000 international attendees at the Barcelona show held Nov. 19-20, 2014.

With indigo knit, comfort and stretch commonplace in denim collections, mills are re-examining denim’s breathability, endurance, moisture management and antimicrobial capabilities. Functionality, said Première Vision fashion director Pascaline Wilhelm, is “part of the cool new look.”

Wilhelm said functionality in denim is represented in the “blending of workwear, citywear and sport.”

For example, Bossa’s Silverplus technology brings the antimicrobial effects of silver to denim. The silver ions prevent odor formation. Jersey cotton knits and neoprene are married with Tencel super-power stretch, providing superior recovery, à la yogawear, to streetwear. Mills’ renewed attention to performance also extends to motosports. Armalith and Orta x Spidi both introduced abrasion-resistant fabrications for motorcyclists.

Just as the outdoor and activewear markets have helped raise consumer awareness of fabric innovations, performance features and all the other bells and whistles wearers may or may never use, Wilhelm said the savvy denim customer wants more than just a pair of good-fitting jeans.

She pointed out, “It’s a revolution. We’re probably not going to climb to the top of Mount Everest, but we still want an anorak that could endure that type of activity, even if we are just driving around in our cars.”

And like the footwear industry, which has had to re-adjust its seasonal production to accommodate unpredictable weather conditions, Wilhelm sees a future for denim where weather plays a more important role. She noted, “You’re already seeing it this season, especially in menswear.”

For example, Invista and Lenzing have been working on the development and promotion of their new Coolmax/Tencel innovation. The innovative denim concept provides wearers with cool dry comfort, softness and sustainability all in one fabric. Blue Farm, Gap and Cone Denim, are just some of earlier adopters of the material.

Wilhelm added, “We literally expect performance in everything we buy.”