At the latest edition of Kingpins New York, the selection for fall 2020 was predominately classic. But classic, for denim, includes destroyed looks, atypical colors, and an occasional splatter of paint — what it doesn’t include is sparkling crystal embellishments, print and pattern jeans, or anything out of the ordinary.
And that means the season’s offerings are rooted in technique and tradition, with many denim brands showing off uncommon methods for destruction, dyeing, and of course, sustainability. Tricia Carey, director of global business development at Lenzing, told WWD, “At Kingpins New York, more of the mills had capsule collections with PFD (prepared for dye) and Tencel fibers, displaying an array of colors. Most commented that sales were strong, so expect that 2020 will be full of color. I was also impressed with the number of new direct-to-consumer companies that visited Kingpins last week. It is always interesting to hear their brand ethos, ranging from authentic denim with selvage to sustainable lifestyle to performance denim. New ideas continue to emerge.”
And for an industry determined to pivot toward sustainability swiftly and authentically, denim brands’ eagerness to embrace greener practices and meet lofty environmental goals should come as no surprise. Carey continued, “I had several customers ask me, ‘What is your most sustainable denim?” which is a loaded question because it really depends on how ‘sustainable’ is defined. My view of sustainability is holistic, starting with fibers like Tencel or Refibra technology through to garment finishing.”
International brands at the show reported similar trends and requests, such as Raymond ICO, a vertically integrated denim company based in India. Katie Tague, vice president, East Coast for denim development/sales at Raymond UCO, and educator with KT Selvedge, told WWD, “More than ever before, and especially at Kingpins across the world, sustainability is the name of the game. Sustainability is a really big idea though, so to break it down as a trend, there’s a number of different aspects you can look at it: Less water consumption and effluent treatment, post-consumer waste and alternative fibers/cottonizing, are a few of the main initiatives.”
Tague added, “Using fibers like Repreve, Reliance, I:Co, or alternatives such as Tencel, linen, or hemp help to put sustainability in the content of the fabrics themselves. It’s amazing to see it now as a trend supported by the industry.” And Tague noted that less water/foam type dyeing is another growing trend, also seen in Raymond’s newest collection as Eco Hue, dyed using only 2 percent water throughout the process.
But denim’s versatility is what makes it a “magical” material, according to Nitesh Dhingra, general manager at Raymond UCO. “Denim is fashionable, yet [also] a simple, everyday product. Combining Eighties vintage looks with softness was a key theme of Raymond UCO’s fall 2020 collection,” he explained, which was a theme seen throughout many of the destroyed denim and acid wash looks at the show. Dhingra agreed that sustainability was on the tip of everyone’s tongue at Kingpins, explaining that “Sustainability, in other words, offering solutions by utilizing best sustaining practices on inputs like fiber, color, water and processes that are inherent to magical blue jeans, was the key trend at the show.” Other textile firms at Kingpins New York, such as Deyao Textile based in China, noted that denim brands are requesting sustainable denims with a particular interest in Better Cotton Initiative-certified cottons and recycled materials the likes of Repreve.
And as denim brands take an active role in embracing sustainability from a more comprehensive perspective, businesses in the fashion industry and beyond are using the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs) as a benchmark for becoming sustainable. Carey added, “Brands are setting goals around water, land, circularity, chemicals, energy and labor, so [defining sustainability] is really a complex question. We are on a track to lower environmental impacts — there is still so much to learn together.”
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