DL1961 Premium Denim expects its exclusive arrangement for jeans, using Lenzing AG’s ProModal beech-eucalyptus fibers, to yield substantial benefits to the environment over the years.

This story first appeared in the December 19, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

To start, however, they’re hoping to sell lots of comfortable jeans with a great fit.

ProModal is Lenzing’s name for the 60-40 blend of two of its proprietary stable fibers — Modal, derived from beech trees, and Tencel, made from eucalyptus. The combination is powerful, merging Modal’s softness, shape retention and ability to blend easily with cotton with the 20-year-old Tencel’s functional assets — moisture and temperature control, strength and antibacterial characteristics.

With exclusive rights in much of the world assigned to DL1961’s Karachi, Pakistan-based parent company, vertical manufacturer ADM, for spring the company’s denim brand will introduce the product in jeans, for which the denim will be 73 percent ProModal and 27 percent Lycra, and in colored denim, with a 55-27-18 ProModal-Lycra-cotton breakdown.

The ProModal program will take its place beside the company’s X-Fit four-way stretch program, in which cotton and Invista’s Lycra are blended, in its continuing effort to establish itself as a supplier of great-looking, great-fitting jeans for women. It will be available in many of the company’s best-selling models, including the Amanda and the Angel, and select maternity styles. In addition to indigo, the jeans will be available in six colors for spring. A boot-cut interpretation will be available for fall.

“We made a very conscious decision at ADM to use DL1961 as the vehicle to introduce ProModal in bottoms,” said Sarah Ahmed, director of marketing and brand promotion for DL1961. “Lenzing and ADM have tested this fabric extensively and really believe it’s better than what’s currently available in the market.”

The sustainability of ProModal’s components notwithstanding, the brand is sticking to its regular retail price range — $168 to $178.

DL1961 was founded in 2008 and has distribution in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, with Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and American Rag among its U.S. accounts. Sales, at $6 million in 2010, jumped to $10 million last year and will hit $25 million this year.

The test-run on the ProModal product revealed it to be 50 percent more absorbent and, in trials of skin abrasion, about four times softer than cotton. In combination with Lycra, shape retention scored 99 percent. Without specific numbers in front of her, Ahmed also boasted of the fabric’s color retention.

Meanwhile, ProModal’s arrival in the jeans market might have occurred earlier if not for the economic slowdown. Lenzing introduced the fiber brand in 2008 and enjoyed some initial success with it before progress was interrupted by the economic downturn.

“We launched ProModal at what turned out to be a difficult time economically,” said Tricia Carey, USA merchandising manager for the textile fiber business unit at Lenzing. “Still, we thought we had a very good recipe with the 60-40 blend, the softness of Modal and the function of Tencel, and the market did take to it well, especially in knits.”

Bedsheets and other home products also won a strong following as the impact of the recession lessened. Denim makes sense for the fiber, Carey noted, because of the jeans market’s strong attachment to not only fit and softness but also its strong commitment to sustainability.

“It does seem like a natural,” she said.

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