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Sustainability Stays Key Issue for Makers at Kingpins NY

Technology might have taken top billing at last week’s Kingpins New York shows, but sustainability was a supporting star, and the state of U.S. retailing and Made in America were also key topics.

Many companies feel sound ecological choices are what consumers and brands want today, though they also need to be able to save on costs with more efficient manufacturing methods and the use of more recycled materials.

Lenzing feels sustainability is driving the industry,” Tricia Carey, Lenzing’s director of business development, said.

That’s why the company has produced the Sustainable Denim Wardrobe to showcase its Tencel lyocell and Lenzing Modal fiber variants across a number of garment categories, including wovens and knits, casual and formal, women’s, men’s and unisex. The collection continues the fiber giant’s policy of not knowingly using laundry processes other than those that minimize the use of water and chemistry. So it’s teamed up with Jeanologia, which specializes in this area.

“The idea behind this wardrobe was to focus around a well-curated selection of essential, high-quality denim items and add-in the concept of sustainability,” Carey said.

Lenzing is also combining its commitment to closed-loop manufacturing and the Made in America movement with its investment in a new fiber plant with production capacity of 90,000 tons to begin operations in the first quarter of 2019.

For Cone Denim, it’s about taking its S Gene technology to a new level with S Gene Plus.

“S Gene Plus involves an ecological component that uses recycled polyester from Thread International,” said Kara Nicholas, vice president of product development and marketing at Cone Denim. Thread International’s denim is made from 19 percent post-consumer plastic bottles collected in Haiti and 81 percent U.S.-grown cotton.

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Kaltex America, another exhibitor at the Kingpins show, had design director Alvyda Kupinas on hand discussing the vertical manufacturer’s use of the Repreve recycled polyester yarn, Better Cotton Initiative cotton and Tencel, which is made in a closed-loop production process to create denim “in an ecological way.”

Sustainability is also a key component to US Denim’s collection.

Among its offerings in the area are FluffWear, created from fibers that naturally accumulate during the weaving process, and are spun and woven for optimal soft hand performance, plus PlanetHero, a range of new denim fabrics and process that let designers and buyers choose sustainable options.

While the denim sector is being driven by product development at the fabric and production level that has allowed it to achieve new access in the active and athleisure markets, the troubles of U.S. retailing present new challenges. It’s also curtailed some of the momentum from Made in America.

Dale McCollum, vice president of merchandising for denim fabrics at Mount Vernon, based in Trion, Georgia, said, “With what’s going on with all the retail bankruptcies and the lack of consumer spending, we’re just trying to hold our own.”

Although, the sector’s plight didn’t stop Frontier Spinning Mills from announcing last week its plans to invest $6 million to add new, state-of-the-art fiber preparation and open-end spinning equipment at its plant in Elmore County, Alabama. The expansion project will add 18 jobs to the Alabama plant’s workforce of 120.