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PARIS — Denim mills are pushing the frontiers of innovation, from balance-enhancing jeanswear to eco-friendly trims.

This story first appeared in the January 7, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

With the absence of a major style trend to drive the denim market, mills and suppliers are placing their emphasis on offering brands and retailers special fabrics and garments. Among the novelties entering the market, many of which were on display at last month’s Denim by Première Vision show here, are lower-impact sundries, improved color and stretch products and technical fabrics.

Spanish textile Giant Tavex believes its latest denim development will help improve a person’s muscle tone, equilibrium and general sense of well-being. The company, which bills itself as the world’s leading premium denim producer, has launched a line of technical fabrics under the name Denim Therapy that it claims can do just that.

“We want to bring technology to everyday life, representing a balance of fashion and science,” said David Bardin, the firm’s director of marketing in Europe. “We talk a lot about fashion, not so much [technical properties]. Maybe in two, three, five years there will be more technical developments in denim.”

The fabrics have a Gold Reflect Line bioceramic complex, typically used in technical garments such as motorcycle helmets, that is made from a combination of 30 metallic oxides. The complex is said to absorb heat from the sun, the body and surrounding objects that it converts into infrared rays that are diffused into the garment wearer’s body. This is said to cause blood vessels to dilate, creating a sense of warmth and well-being, eliminate toxins, improve oxygen supply and improve body energy. The denim is priced at 9 euros per meter, about $14 at current exchange, around twice the price of an average weave.

“We’ve had a lot of interest from brands,” said Bardin. “If the fast-fashion brands take hold of this, it’s going to really take off.”

The bulk of research and development has been centered on environmental innovation, and those efforts have touched on virtually all levels of the supply chain.

Dorlet, a French firm specializing in metal accessories, has developed a new range of rivets, snaps and ready-to-dye, sew-on buttons made from pressed organic cotton, as well as prototypes of jeans hangtags in organic cotton.

“We had interest from some major brands and plan to develop some rougher, more natural versions of the tags,” said design manager Frederic Forestier.

Dow Fiber Solutions has introduced a garment dye collection by Jeanologia using DOW XLA four-way stretch technology. A Dow spokesman said during the rope-dyeing process fabric mills can control the “liveliness” of DOW XLA Re:Flex4 more easily than other stretch technologies, allowing for efficient production lots and quality color consistency. Mills can achieve four-way stretch with the addition of only 4 to 6 percent DOW XLA fiber content to retain an authentic cotton look and feel, he said.

Denim Valley, a subsidiary of Spanish textiles giant Tejidos Royo, is introducing its EDOS sustainable “hybridenim” fabric line, made from organic cotton blended with fine Tencel fiber that originates from eucalyptus wood cellulose fibers. Properties are said to include skin moisture control, easy care and body thermoregulation.

“The denim business is highly polluting,” said Michael Kininmonth, project manager of apparel business development for Lenzing Fibers, which collaborated on the line. “Cotton alone has enough stories against it to fill an encyclopedia. Then there’s the pollution generated by laundries. This is an effort to bring best practice in denim, from fiber to garment finishing, that is authentic to a denim market.”

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