Appeared In
Special Issue
WWDStyle issue 02/15/2011

LOS ANGELES — Soft, drapy fabrics, blends that minimize the use of cotton and eco-friendly treatments topped the list of denim trends for next spring at the recent Kingpins show.

This story first appeared in the February 15, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Held Jan. 25 and 26 at a studio in downtown Los Angeles, the semiannual trade expo featured 24 textile mills, fiber makers and garment manufacturers from the U.S., Japan, Thailand, China, Pakistan, Guatemala, Brazil and Taiwan. Attendees included designers from jeans labels such as Big Star, 7 Diamonds and Ever, and Citizens of Humanity’s Adriano Goldschmied and Barry Perlman and Gene Montesano, the founders of Lucky Brand, who started a new American-made workwear-inspired label called Civilianaire after leaving Lucky.

Jeff Shafer, founder of Ridgefield, Wash.-based Agave Denim, liked Itochu’s twill made of cotton and banana fiber costing $8 a yard. Since the price of Supima cotton that Shafer buys from Japan has increased at least 30 percent, Shafer said novel fabrics like the banana fiber twill are “no longer obscenely expensive.” Besides, he added, “people are looking for new ideas.”

Other new ideas at Kingpins included Super Design Denim’s polyester and cotton fabric that is printed on the warp to mimic elaborate washes and prints, such as acid wash, snakeskin and zebra stripes. Priced $6 to $9 a yard and weighing 6 to 14 ounces, the printed cloth is promoted as an eco-friendly alternative to chemical-heavy treatments.

“We can print on the fabric with any design, any logo, any color,” said Gene Park, director of South Korea’s Super Design Denim, which was started two years ago and made its debut at Kingpins.

Full Blossom Co., another first-time exhibitor, offered fabrics and package deals for the design and manufacturing of jeans under the guidance of Isao Okutsu, a Japanese denim designer who previously worked with Edwin Jeans. Full Blossom said designers gravitated toward drapy blends that integrate cotton, Modal and Lycra spandex or Modal, nylon and Lycra.

Prosperity, a textile mill from China, also saw high interest for cotton blended with Tencel or polyester called Sorona. Japan’s Kurabo Denim offered a supple fabric called ProModal, a result of extruding Tencel and Modal.

To cater to designers’ demands for soft fabrics, textile providers experimented with a variety of methods and treatments. Japan’s Itochu used longer fibers, a low twist and liquid ammonia as a finish on the fabric. Central Fabrics from Hong Kong patented a technology called Estex that twists the yarn in a way to achieve more saturated color and a softer hand. Billed as a less-expensive alternative to Supima cotton, Estex costs less than 5 cents a yard, although it can be used only on fabric that is rigid or has one-way stretch.

Price is “still a topic of discussion,” said Heather Maldonado, sales representative for Central Fabrics. Yet, looking forward to next spring’s collections, “Softness is very key,” she said.

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