Although denim and textile collections are being inspired by a fusion of heritage and multicultural sentiments, a common thread also includes a focus on using utilitarian, hi-tech fabrics.

At the Kingpins show last week in New York, “manipulated heritage” and blue-collar designs emerged as prevailing trends in the form of contemporary railroad styles and destroyed denim textiles for fall 2018 collections. These “working-class aesthetics,” which are cheekily described as “antifashion,” are in response to a young consumer base that yearns for a romanticized past, according to vendors and attendees at the show.

Described as a “post-norm core” movement, denim designs are leaning toward these retro, elemental looks in opposition to discriminating high-fashion styles. For 2017, inclusivity is the name of the game. “Jaded and prone to code-switching among genres and subcultures, today’s youth pick and choose from skate, soccer, punk and indie references without loyalty to authenticity or lifestyle,” said Amy Leverton, owner of Denim Dudes.

Uniform dressing takes its form in stark indigo blue denim trimmed with white piping and “contemporary railroad” looks, contrasted by stripes and strong white-top stitching. As a result, consumers can anticipate a return to exaggerated silhouettes, offbeat proportions, manipulated seam detailing and reengineered classic jeans-wear items, according to Leverton’s trend forecast.

Cone Denim, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, also centered its textile collection on legacy design. The brand’s product development, manufacturing and innovation operates from its denim flagship the White Oak plant, in Greensboro, N.C., since 1905. Its “Selvage” line, which to this day is still woven on an American Draper X3 fly shuttle loom from the Forties, adds dimension to its denim due to the machine’s rhythm on the plant’s original wood floors from the turn of the century. The Selvage line is named for its “self-edge” denim, which prevents the edge of the textile from unraveling.

“Retro OE” from the Selvage line. Photo courtesy of White Oak. 

Multicultural influences are also noted in denim designs as a reaction to the current political climate. Pulling inspiration from Africa, Asia and Latin America, designs are fueled by a resurgence of embellishments and mixed patterns.

In line with this trend, Freedom Denim, based in Shanghai, added colorful flourishes to its denim collection around waistbands and pockets. The firm distributes to the VF Corp., which supplies denim to Rock & Republic, Lee, Riders by Lee, Wrangler and Abercrombie and Fitch, among many others. “It’s definitely a very nostalgic story,” Leverton said. “It’s a reaction to the upheaval going on at the moment,” she added.

In contrast, bonded surfaces and a slight shimmer in select fabrics characterize ultra-tech, or “technic denim.” Cone Denim’s “Climate” line implements moisture wicking, and cooling to allow for body temperature regulation and optical comfort. The brand’s “3-D” incubator identifies new fibers and raw materials to engineer advanced textile designs.

The focus on technology and textile innovation aligns with a broader narrative in the denim market that is being driven by some major players. Earlier this year, for example, Google and Levi’s collaborated to create a “smart” jacket, made of a special denim material that enables consumers to adjust the music on a smartphone via the textile’s conductive yarns.

The technology involves a “fabric touch interface” that is sewn into the jacket’s left wrist, and a USB tag that is fastened to the cuff. The jacket will be available for purchase in Levi’s fall 2017 collection.

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