Denim Market Slowly Swinging Back to Blue

At Kingpins in L.A., indigo gets a longer look after several seasons of multi-colored merchandising.

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LOS ANGELES — The denim market is turning back to its indigo blue roots as it continues to explore new possibilities for color and pattern.

This story first appeared in the August 15, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The trends for fall 2013 presented at the recent Kingpins denim show ranged from the novel prints and bright colors that are currently boosting the jeans market to more traditional indigo dyes and vintage washes. These were often updated with distressed and destroyed treatments and finished using more sustainable methods than in the past.

The shift back to blue comes after several years of emphasis on — and consumer acceptance of — color. It remains a pivotal part of the jeans market for back-to-school and holiday, but designers and stores are beginning to explore other ideas.

Few options were left untested among the textiles and treatments shown at the two-day show, which ended Aug. 1 at Cooper Design Space here.

“There’s never been a broader palette that you can bring to market that the consumer is interested in,” said Agave Denim founder Jeff Shafer, listing trends varying from jacquard and coatings to authentic denim that’s been destroyed. “Everything is on the table.”

As the pendulum swings back from novelty manifested in prints and pop colors, blue jeans — often torn, patched and bleached for a gritty effect — began catching the attention of retailers and designers.

“All the vintage is coming back very strong,” said Adriano Goldschmied, the denim industry veteran who scouted fabrics for Citizens of Humanity and GoldSign. “After several seasons of color, people are going back to very authentic finishes.”

Ryan Lupton, product development manager at Denimatrix, a vertical manufacturer in Guatemala, affirmed that trend. “We have a lot of people looking for that true, classic American look,” he said, noting that Denimatrix can manufacture and wash vintage styles distressed with holes and patches for $15 to $20 a pair.

Denim-Tech, a laundry in Vernon, Calif., highlighted its so-called “air wash” that uses ozone and other techniques with minimal water to discolor and lighten denim. Combining the eco-friendly angle with the trend for denim destruction is a selling point for air wash, which costs between $6 and $30 a garment, depending on the extent of the treatment. “More and more people are showing interest,” said Denim-Tech president Shin Suzuki.

Arvind Denim Lab, the U.S. arm of India’s Arvind Mills, adapted prints and color to blue indigo. In addition to a nonstretch indigo cotton and linen herringbone that’s been washed down and sells for $6 to $7 a yard, it offered indigo and black plaid dotted with colored neps for $5 to $6 a yard.

“Denim is always authentic,” said Michelle Branch, director of denim design and marketing at Arvind Denim Lab. “The fashion cycle we’re in is just that — a cycle.”

Going back to basic blue helped a number of mills attract attendees, which included Civilianaire’s Barry Perlman and Gene Montesano, Mik Serfontaine, Christopher Enuke and designers from J Brand and AG Adriano Goldschmied.

Hong Kong’s Seaphone Denim did well with a superstretch fabric in a medium blue wash that is priced at $3.30 a yard. Central Fabrics, also from Hong Kong, displayed rigid denim that’s been distressed in a blue-gray cast ($3.50 a yard). Kipas Fabrics, a Turkish mill and full package provider that exhibited for the first time at the expo, showed rich blue rigid denim that had both the warp and weft yarns dyed in indigo at $5.50 a yard. Blue Farm, which designs its fabrics in Italy but produces them in Taiwan and China, said the trend is for pure indigo with a red cast. Bossa Denim & Sportswear, another Turkish company, said that while denim that has been dyed, bleached and washed to achieve different shades of blue was popular, it also offered a fabric that integrated blue indigo on the exterior with an interior color casting available in blue, yellow, red, green or a custom hue; both products cost $5.50 a yard.

“Colored denim is still doing well,” said Angelica Mariscal, a sales representative for Bossa Denim & Sportswear. “We’re seeing more activity on the blue indigo side.”

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