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Denim PV Battles the Euro Blues

Innovation, much of it with a green theme, helped to combat the recent drop in continental consumption.

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PARIS — Anxiety over Europe’s tough economy was mitigated by excitement about innovation shown at Denim by Première Vision, held here May 22 and 23.

The trade show at La Halle Freyssinet provided a strong platform for advances on the environmental front involving new fiber developments and finishes. Buyers said they were particularly interested in new stretch fabrics for men, sophisticated leather looks, digital printing and traditional weaves interpreted in denim with laser-treated technologies.

These were being displayed amid trying times for the denim market. For the first time in a decade, denim product imports to the European Union were down, by 7.3 percent, in 2012, according to a study published by Cercle Euro-Méditerranéen des Dirigeants du Textile et de l’Habillement, based on Eurostat data. Last year, 455 million pieces from abroad valued at 3.5 billion euros, or $4.5 billion at average exchange, were purchased in the 27 EU member countries. The value decline was 2.6 percent.

“The bad economy is impacting consumption,” Denim by Première Vision director Chantal Malingrey-Perrin said. “Denim has resisted until now, and brands that come to the show tend to be less impacted because they are on the selective end. Denim is not finished; it has always been a wardrobe staple.”

Meanwhile, buyers praised mills for pushing innovation.

“Modal-infused denim is brilliant and a great evolution of cupro, a fiber that comes from cotton linter, and rayon blends building softness into denim. It should be easier to work with also,” said Matthew Saam, who was at the show exploring new directions in denim after leaving his post as men’s design director of J Brand. “Spain’s [Textil] Santanderina produced light shirt weights with refined Modal blends that wash beautifully, especially in an extracted bleach wash.

“Turkey’s Berto and the U.S.’s Blue Farm showed a range of staggering newness around surface textures,” he added. “There is nothing else like these in terms of newness in the men’s market, from what I could see.”

Première Vision’s fashion director Pascaline Wilhelm said new technologies involving laser allow denim to reinterpret traditional motifs, such as Prince of Wales checks or houndstooth prints.

After launching its material made from recycled beer bottles and food trays, which Levi Strauss & Co.’s Levi’s brand is using in its Waste<Less denim line, U.S.-based Cone Denim highlighted its new product made of reprocessed green soda bottles.

“It is made with 7 Up, Mountain Dew — whatever green plastic bottles,” said Kara Nicholas, Cone Denim’s vice president of new product and marketing. “It features a green shine and a nice hand feel.”

Cone also presented denim made under its new marketing and development agreement with Crailar Technologies Inc. Production of Crailar’s flax fibers greatly reduces the use of water and pesticides.

Blogger Johnny Pinto of The Denim Guy praised Spanish textile supplier Tavex and Turkey’s ISKO for their men’s looks. “So often in the past, stretch for men still looked too feminine,” he said. “Men like rougher stretch.” Tavex’s Fitness Denim range targets men in fabric weights of 11.75 and 12 ounces, while ISKO bills its Xmen’s as “truly rugged and masculine.”

Cotton Incorporated trend analyst Abbey Cook said, “We are moving away from floral and geometric prints to more interesting 3-D prints like origami. We have seen the importance of photorealistic printing on the runway.”

As for other catwalk influences, Cook cited Kenzo’s “bold graphic looks” and bright colors inspired by the Eighties and Nineties. “We follow Acne, which did a rose-gold metallic finish with basic silhouettes,” she said. “That was really important.” She also lauded Isabel Marant’s Aztec patterns.

Another trend Cook observed was patchwork “done in a bespoke manner — very clean for a nice, crisp look.”

Tiia Richardson, senior manager, production and denim development for Marc by Marc Jacobs, praised a new generation of coatings, such as the ones at Italy’s Industria Tessile del Vomano, “where leather looks more authentic; it feels more waxy, instead of sitting on top of the fabric.”

Richardson also highlighted railroad-striped indigo. “I like that it is not just woven into the fabrics,” she said. “They are doing it as laser-treated. People now take all authentic weaves [like knitwear fabrics] and make them more novel.”

She noticed suppliers have employed a variety of hues. “You buy one fabric and make it in different colors. It is very good for business,” she said, noting that the preponderance of solid nonindigo colors has passed its peak. “Solid, rich color is finished. Now it is more color over print, color with laser or taking indigo and washing it down and putting color on it.”

King-Yu Yiu, a designer at Vivienne Westwood, noted, “For men’s in particular, the Japanese textile companies like Kuroki and Nihon Menpu are always very interesting to see in terms of fabric finishing and techniques. We are still developing at the moment. It’s all up in the air. That is why we come here to get inspired.”

François Girbaud agreed that Denim by Première Vision was well positioned in the fashion season, coinciding with the beginning of brands’ buying schedules for fall 2014. Girbaud identified Hudson Jeans designer Ben Taverniti as “truly one to watch.”

One resource missing from the show was Tessitura de Robecchetto Candiani. The Italian firm opted to celebrate its 75th anniversary with a retrospective exhibition on the boat La Baleine Blanche moored in Paris. The company launched its “Rivetto d’oro” golden rivet to certify garments are made of premium Italian denim fabric. It’s described as a tool to communicate their “added value” for the end consumer.

There was a steep rise in the number of attendees at the trade show’s May session. The visitor count was up 20.6 percent versus May 2012 to 3,108, with attendance from the Netherlands up 27 percent, from the U.K. up 26.5 percent and from the U.S. up 5 percent. U.S. buyers, the targets of a promotional push by the fair, included representatives from Abercrombie & Fitch Co., Seven For All Mankind and Hudson Jeans. Attendance from Spain was down 11 percent, according to show organizers.

For designers such as Saam, the trip to the show also gave an opportunity to observe local fashion. “I’m seeing more surface textures and graphic men’s wear linear prints in Europe than the States,” he said. “[There is] more utility styling and lower hanging rises with narrower bottom openings. Men are dressing in much more layered looks and skinnier silhouettes.”

The next Paris edition of Denim by Première Vision will be held in November, not long after Denim by Première Vision Asia in Shanghai, which runs Oct. 22 and 23. Exact dates are expected to be disclosed shortly.

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