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New Partnerships and Cotton Alternatives Trend at Kingpins New York

Dec 23, 2023

Kingpins New York is usually a stage for global mills and other players in the denim supply chain to present new concepts and ideas, but the trade show had news of its own to share on opening day.

Andrew Olah, founder and CEO of Kingpins Show, announced the trade event was joining forces with Messe Frankfurt, the organizational behemoth that stages almost 50 textile trade shows in 11 countries every year. Having the Messe as a shareholder was something of a dream come true after almost two decades, Olah said in a statement.

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The show floor was filled with new collections as well. The versatility of comfort stretch was everywhere at Kingpins, where recycled post-consumer cotton and post-industrial cotton waste held sway in the blends, alongside fibers like hemp, linen and Tencel.

Arvind Mathur, CEO of India-based Raymond UCO Denim, presented cotton, polyester and elastane blended fabrics that were remarkable for their comfort stretch. The fabrics fit the body well and are flexible enough to be worn for day-long comfort, he added.

Mathur attributed the desire for stretch and higher comfort to the popularity of leisurewear, especially after Covid.

Lycra is well placed to capitalize on the comfort stretch trend in denim with its Lycra Adaptiv technology. The high-performance product stretches and recovers easily with no bagging and sagging at critical places like knees. According to Ebru Ozaydin, Lycra’s strategic marketing director for denim, ready-to-wear and wovens, the technology is a good solution for women of all sizes because it has a wider fit window, meaning it comfortably fits a range of body types.

“It fits with the inclusivity trend,” Ozaydin noted. “Everyone’s needs are covered.” She added that it makes garments more sustainable because they last longer. “Durability is in the DNA of denim,” she said. “And durability is the key to sustainability.”

Less was more, as in less consumption of water, chemicals and energy to make fabrics. Exhibitors at Kingpins were quick to tout their Earth-friendly bona fides, putting new initiatives at the fore as marketing tools.

Lenzing bowed a resource-efficient approach to dyeing its Tencel lyocell and Tencel with Refibra technology yarns. The yarn pre-treatment allows brands to achieve the same washed-down effects of traditional dyeing in denim with just one round of dyeing, thus reducing water, energy and chemical usage.

Along with 100 percent Tencel fabrics with a matte finish, the fiber producer also touted its zero-cotton collaboration with Advance Denim and Officina39. Lenzing’s business development manager for North America, Hayato Nishi, noted how interest is growing for recycled cotton blended with Tencel or recycled polyester as the industry focuses on circular solutions.

Mexico-based Kaltex used the show as a platform to announce a partnership with Denver-based ReCircled, making it the first fully vertical and transparent circular denim operation in the Western Hemisphere. The textile-to-texile process will provide brands and retailers the ability to create circular denim with a turnkey system handled from beginning to end by ReCircled and Kaltex.

Twin Dragon Marketing Inc. (TDMI), at Kingpins New York for the first time since a major rebranding last year, was on hand reinforcing its “less cotton” stance in all the ranges it showed.

The U.S.-based company, which manufactures in Mexico, China, Vietnam and Taiwan, presented its Cotton-Less collection—a fabric line with made with high percentages of lyocell and recyclable materials to decrease the use of cotton. The Zero Cotton collection uses only lyocell and lyocell recycled poly blends known for their cooling hand and superior wicking properties. TDMI’s Smart Soft line boasts added comfort and versatility, while the marquee range, Atmos Denim, is made of 100 percent recycled materials and sustainable fibers, including lyocell.

“It is highly temperature regulating, so it is airy in summer and cozy in winter,” said Ellen Huang, TDMI merchandising director. “It retains a good hand and feel due to the hollow fiber.”

Sabur Qureshi, senior marketing manager for Artistic Fabric Mills (AFM), said its own recycling plant and a partnership with the World Wide Fund for Nature to grow organic cotton in Pakistan are fueling the company’s sustainability efforts.

The denim manufacturer highlighted its Smooth Sensations collection, a line of fabrics with an extremely soft hand. Bi-stretch was also touted as a selling point, with sustainable laser-friendly washes.

Mills are prioritizing developing fabrics that are compatible with sustainable washing and finishing. Artistic Milliners, the vertically integrated manufacturer from Pakistan, showed Flash Fade, a capsule collection which uses one chemical to flash fade 100 percent cotton denim. According to mill executive Taimoor Hussain, the concept is part of a move to eliminate stone, bleach and PP from the finishing stage.

Hussain added that the company utilizes Garmon’s Smart Foam, a process that uses foam as a carrier instead of water in the garment finishing process, thus cutting down dramatically on water use.

Denim fashion at Kingpins went beyond aggressive rips and distressing. Rather, mills leaned into the softer look and feel to go with soft, stretchy fabric.

To emphasis the laser-friendliness of fabrics, TDMI etched floral patterns on its key constructions, while Cone Denim’s Interconnected collection of fabrics made with post-industrial recycled cotton were decorated with a loose swirl pattern.

Kaltex showed a soft denim quilted jacket, boxy and oversized in keeping with the comfort trend. Artistic Denim Mills (ADM) showed quilted embroidery in a puzzle-like motif, made of all-cotton denim as was the batting. The Pakistani mill also showed an imaginative faux fur item made from denim. AFM showed a coat that looked as though it had been picked with needle to create an imperfect textured surface.

Despite mills’ artful approach to texture, the grunge looks that trended at the last show in January seemed to be fading from center stage, replaced by more natural colors inspired by workwear stalwarts Carhartt and Dickies. Colorful washes, green casts and even bold coatings like a metallic copper shown by Artistic Milliners from Pakistan enlivened collections. Gray and black gained prominence—a counterpoint to fresh and sophisticated ecru.

Nostalgia is a major story in denim for Indian mill Arvind. “We are pulling from the archives and innovating,” said Ritika Sachan, business leader for Arvind denim tops and denim bottoms. The updated fabrics were softer and better for comfortable shapes like workwear jackets, cargo pants and baggier, more comfortable jeans—silhouettes that are gaining popularity.

Arvind showed white and ecru fabrics as well as some treated with a rota spray sulphur dye in a range of colors. Another group comprised earthy colorways like pale green and brown. The shirting range featured dobby options and double-faced check fabrics. These were made with bleach-less CleanKore technology that uses very little water and lends itself to an effective washdown where the indigo blues in plaids fade but other colors like red stay vibrant.

At Cone Denim, fabrics with a marbled look were receding to the back of the trend scene, according to Sarah Posluszny, product design manager. “At a certain point it just maxes out and things start to get boring,” she said.

Instead, the mill, which produces fabrics in China and Mexico, focused on a new burgundy overdye on black denim called Black Cherry and a basket weave fabric that was something of a play on workwear, Posluszny said.

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