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Into the blue: Kingpins Transformers NY launches denim innovations

By Jackie Mallon

Jun 11, 2019

The indigo intelligentsia gathered yesterday to delve deep into the blue for the annual Kingpins Transformers New York summit, the prequel to the Kingpins 2-day trade show which will focus on the topic of Sustainable Development and Heritage within the denim market.

Experts from brands such as G-Star and Wrangler mixed with manufacturers, fabricants, chemical engineers and technology experts all conscious that their sector has been top of the conversation around apparel and the global environmental crisis. But they came armed with optimism and solutions, as did the founder of Kingpins Show and Kingpins Transformers, Andrew Olah, who says, “Kingpins is committed to pushing the denim industry toward a better future.”

“There are those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who don’t know what’s happening,” says Fernando Moncayo Castillo, Co-Founder of ASIAM Business Group, and supply chain monitor Inspectorio. The Kingpins stage is certainly populated with the first group, the audience perhaps full of the second, but both groups are ready to be transformers.

Indigo no-gos and good news

Indigo is the king of denim and has been around for 6000 years, but it is an imperfect ruler. Images of dyes bleeding into rivers and an inundation of data on its chemical composition and toxic byproducts have put the denim industry on high alert.

Adriana Galijasevic who leads sustainability efforts for G-Star, a pioneer of responsible production with its Raw aesthetic, early 3D engineered ergonomic denim innovations, circular design, and transparent supply chain data that is celebrating its 30th birthday this year, says, “We are always trying to move and explore further our holistic approach because we believe it is our responsibility to lead within the denim market.” The first denim brand to use dyes made from upcycled plant waste G-Star have pledged that all their polyesters will be recycled by 2020. In February they launched their “most sustainable jean ever” utilizing the world’s first hydrosulphate—free indigo technology boasting cradle-to-cradle certification and in October will launch the first gold certified stretch denim.

It is sad that after 25 years more than 50 percent of global denim production still runs on powder indigo. We cannot afford to wait another half a century to adopt alternatives

Adriana Galijasevic, Denim and Sustainability Expert, G-Star

Roian Atwood, Director of Sustainability for Wrangler describes their development of foam dye, called Indigood, as “a cappuccino of dyestuff using no water, just air, and the machinery is a football field long,” the results of which were brought to market for the first time this month. Foam dyed denim not only reduces water use by 100 percent, but energy and waste by 60 percent each.

With the knowledge that it takes 2000 gallons of water to make one pair of jeans, Ebru Debbag, Executive Director of Soorty, unveils what she describes as “the world’s first waterless garment dyeing technology” and likens the ubiquity of the impossible burger in the food industry to what’s ahead for denim in the apparel industry. Soon we will be dressed in the impossible jean.

15 percent of fabric intended for clothing ends up on the cutting room floor of which 85 percent goes to landfills, a statistic which prompted Andrea Venier of Officina+39 located in Biella, the Italian home of luxury wool and cashmere, to innovate and patent their technology called Recycrom, through which 1 kg of textile waste can be recycled into 1 kg of dyed fabric.

Stretch denim’s imagination

According to textile engineer Miguel Sanchez, we will be able to eliminate polyester and spandex from jeans with memory fit denim, so perhaps expect to see consumers shaking their butt at the sun as the fabric adapts with heat to the form of the wearer.

We are reminded that biodegradable should not be confused with compostable. The latter is where our industry needs to be in order to respond to societal needs. So while plastic has become a dirty word, bioplastics are our heroes as the industry aims to do away with metal zippers, rivets and buttons in favor of bioplastic hardware. Wooden buttons and magnets are also solutions, and an extension of our upcycling mentality means we will remove buttons from our old jeans to attach them to new ones.

For those who want to geek out on the science of farming, Atwood describes how legacy brand Wrangler which was originally built for cowboys has been analyzing the grazing of cattle to understand crop technology that could be applied to cotton. If the herd crosses the plain, eats that grass, then moves on so the grass has the opportunity to rest for 27 days, it ultimately replenishes itself with better results. Atwood believes complex rotation systems could transform our agricultural practices and significantly impact the denim market.

Kingpins New York’s F/W 2020 trade show, runs June 12/13 at Pier 36 in New York City

Fashion editor Jackie Mallon is also an educator and author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.

Photos FashionUnited