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Economic challenges and environmental imperatives are opening up new business opportunities in the denim market.
Coping with severe turmoil in Europe’s economy, especially in southern Europe, industry professionals who gathered last month at the Denim by Première Vision fair held at La Halle Freyssinet in Paris were enthused about advances on the clean-dyeing front and their potential for retail selling. They remain focused on color, with earthy hues taking center stage for late 2013 and early 2014, and see promising signs for high-tech stretch fabrics.
“When bad times are coming, in some ways, it is good, because it drives innovation,” industry veteran Adriano Goldschmied said.
Goldschmied, who is now a partner in Citizens of Humanity and founded the GoldSign label, lauded Italian weaver Candiani for coming up with an efficient and cleaner indigo dyeing system that uses lasers and ozone to minimize water consumption. “That is just an example of positive things happening in denim,” he said.
Gianluigi Candiani, president of Tessitura de Robecchetto Candiani SpA, forecasts the company will generate slight growth in 2012, to 125 million euros, or $155.2 million at current exchange, and up to 140 million euros, or $173.8 million, in 2013. He noted that lower prices in cotton have also helped.
Alternative dyeing techniques are a key focus for weavers. Cone Denim has made a substantial investment: a new patented machine, using rain water and fewer fixing agents that can dye 120 garments in 40 minutes. It reuses the same water, without having to clean the equipment between uses.
Eventually, the technology could branch out to retail, a Cone Denim executive said. “We could design a smaller, one-unit machine for retail. Customers could come to the store and have their jeans dyed in less than an hour, ” he explained. “I don’t think we are there yet because most customers want other characteristics to their denim like scraping, and that would not be possible in retail, but that is a possibility in the future.”
Denis Gusatto, denim product development manager at Calvin Klein Jeans, praised the sustainable dyeing technology but said, because of high prices, it would likely have to be relegated to a capsule collection.
In classic denim, a new interest in authenticity is boosting the category. “The authentic indigo shades are coming back,” said Balint Bognar, designer for John Varvatos. “I am interested in more authentic characters, earthy tones — the bronzes, the taupes, the khakis, the grays.”
Merchandisers pointed to growing interest in heavier weight fabrics, even for women, and selvages. Designer Nicolas Andreas Taralis praised a new raw fabric from Japan’s Kuroki Co. Ltd. “It is difficult to work with” because it’s extremely thick, he said, “but astonishing. That’s what I am looking for.”
Kuroki said it was hampered by the weaker euro but will manage to generate 5 to 10 percent growth globally, including in Europe, in 2012.
New developments in the stretch area will continue to fuel women’s denim sales, specialists said. Tavex staged live demonstrations with a ballet dancer to show the elasticity and resistance of its new Triblend fabric, a tri-blend yarn structure that combines Lycra, Lycra T400 and cotton fibers.
Turkish denim giant ISKO’s innovations include Reform, which it claims modifies the curves, “making you look one size smaller.”
“Skinny jeans continue to be very important, especially for women,” Goldschmied said. But he added that GoldSign’s recently launched Jenny model is getting a lot of attention.
“There are classic American jeans made in a feminine and sexy way, high-waisted, rolled up, not very close to the body. Sexy does not mean it has to be close to the body,” he said while displaying a picture of Marilyn Monroe in a pair of jeans. “It is not the only way.”
Other key trends include denim fabrics with a warm, woolly feel and jeans made specifically for cyclists. Cordura’s booth featured jeans by the brand Swrve that included a reflective strip inside the right leg that is exposed when the wearer turns up the chain-side leg.
Organizers reported the exhibition had a 10 percent increase in visitors to 2,578, including a 23.4 percent rise in those from the U.S. and 41.6 percent increase from those from Brazil. Among European countries, attendance from Spain was up 62 percent, from Germany up 53.6 percent, from Italy up 32.6 percent, from the U.K. up 30 percent and from The Netherlands up 24 percent.
Denim by Première Vision is set to organize the first edition of Denim by Première Vision Asia, in Shanghai Oct. 23 and 24. “There is a premium market in China,” Première Vision chief executive officer Philippe Pasquet said. He is expecting about 40 exhibitors, compared with 83 at the Paris show in May.