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Kingpins: the 'casual' denim trade fair

By Vivian Hendriksz


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"In this show, the feeling of denim is real," said Barbara Gnutti, exports manager for Italian vertical denim mill ITV Denim, during the second Amsterdam edition of Kingpins. The casual denim trade event returned to the Gashouder, in the Westergasfabriek for the second time this year, bringing exhibitors and visitors from all over the world.

The bi-annual denim supply chain fair has grown since its first European edition, showcasing international denim manufacturers, cotton weavers, denim mills, and button producers. "There is a great selection of some of the most innovative denim mills from around the world here at Kingpins," points out Gnutti with a smile. Attending Kingpins was top on the company's trade fair list, as the bigger denim brands are here. Dutch is denim and it is important to us.

Kingpins vs Denim by Premiere Vision

However, despite Kingpins efforts to remain a 'invite-only' denim fair for the best, a number of the exhibitors and visitors compare the differences between Denim by Premiere Vision and Kingpins, highlighting the drawbacks and plus points of both sourcing fairs. Although ITV Denim exhibits at Denim by Premiere Vision, as well as Kingpins, Gnutti explains that the company has made a decision to focus on their main businesses in the UK, the Netherlands and Sweden, which means turning their focus to Kingpins. "I love the founders of Denim by Premiere Vision, but politically speaking we have chosen to focus on the markets which are strongest for our business...I can always do better and we are always working to expand the business," she adds.

"Kingpins creates a unique atmosphere which attracts many international buyers and brands," said Manel Secall, sales manager for Wellfit Products, button manufacturer with offices in Spain and Hong Kong, who is attending Kingpins in Amsterdam for the second time. He believes that the trade fair's "casual" feeling is what helps set it apart from all other denim trade fairs, like Denim by Premiere Vision. Sherazade Khan, Head of R&D and Design for Pakistani-based denim manufacturer Siddiqsons Limited, notes that the business in Amsterdam appears to be moving along much more swiftly than Kingpins former editions in New York. "I much prefer this layout," she says, which allows buyers to quickly locate the exhibitors they are searching for whilst exploring new denim exhibitors at the same time.

"With a few more exhibitors, [Kingpins] could be great"

"There is less of a display element here at Kingpins," muses Janelle Hannah, designer for Wrangler, who was just dropping by the denim trade fair to see selected exhibitors. But, she adds that is one of the aspects about the show she likes, its "efficiency", which makes it easy for her to walk in, conduct her business and quickly walk out again. "And I live in Antwerp, so it makes it even easier for me to visit, and I will definitely be returning to Kingpins...sometimes it just feel like there is too much going on at Denim by Premiere Vision." However, its small size is also a draw back for Hannah, who points out that Kingpins is missing "one or two" key denim mills. "It has improved since its first show and with a few more key exhibitors, it could be great."

Canan Guvenc, Customer Representative from Turkish denim mill Orta Anadolu, explains that the boutique denim trade fair uniqueness and smaller size can be a draw back for some exhibitors. "Most retailers and brands tend to go to Denim by Premiere Vision, which means for some visitors it feels too crowded, with too many people around to conduct good business. However, this also means that Kingpins may attract less visitors as the many already go to Denim by Premiere Vision and there many not be enough buyers to satisfy all the exhibitors at Kingpins." She adds that Kingpins earlier timing, over two weeks before Denim by Premiere Vision, can also be a plus or negative for potential buyers, brands and retailers.

A sales representative from Knitdigo, a Chinese specialist denim knit manufacturer agrees with Guvenc theory."Our first experience last season was good, but it felt like most people were just asking about our company, rather than placing orders." He notes that Kingpins in Amsterdam is different from the boutique denim trade fair editions in other cities, and it presence less established. "It's in the middle, it is still quiet new here, so the event still has to grow and attract more visitors."

Patricia van Weenen, developer at Coltex, believes that Kingpins does offer a “interesting concept,” but if the trade fair organisers want it to grow it needs to become more “innovative and developed,” like Denim by Première Vision. “It is nice that they decided to host Kingpins in Amsterdam, but they need to develop it further. I think it can be bigger in order to attract more visitors, as well as more exhibitors so that it can become an industry standard like Denim by Première Vision.”

Kingpins showcases innovation with Lycra Beauty

Nevertheless, despite the comparisons to Denim by Première Vision, Kingpins highlighted a number of innovations and trends in denim. Invista, the world's largest integrated producer of polymers and fibers, unveiled Lycra Beauty, jeans which contain shapewear capabilities already worked into the denim fabric. After surveying over 1600 consumers from the US, the UK, France, Italy and Germany, the company discovered that there was a very high interest in denim shaping wear, 80 percent of the women questioned would be interested in shape wear jeans and over 60 percent already claimed to own a pair of shaping jeans. Invista decided to expand its existing Lycra Beauty shape wear, swim wear and leg wear and expand it to the denim sector by developing fabrics that contain over 40 percent stretch to ensure the optimal balance between comfort and shaping.

“I mean, who wouldn't want to wear it?” says Guvenc, noting that shaping denim was one trend that was high in demand from their customers and part of their Spring/Summer collection, which Orta Anadolu is presenting at Kingpins prior to Denim by Premie;re Vision next month. “Shapewear? I want it so bad!” laughed Gnutti. “But it is something that we are working on at the moment. Personally I think that denim is not always about the shape of the body, but about the human physical state.” She adds that many customers showed interested in vintage looking fabrics as well as super soft fabrics.

“People want a fabric were all the technical aspects are already worked in.” Fabrics which are pre-washed, dyed, coated and treated seem to be high in demand, as it means there is less work for potential buyers to do. The interest in pre-worked denim can also linked to the growing interest in sustainability and number of exhibitors presented sustainable denim collections, made with less water usage, chemicals and dyes to minimise the effect on the environment. “But that is something that is already part of our company's DNA,” says Gnutti. “I hardly mention sustainability anymore because to me, it is nothing new.”

Amsterdam Kingpins runs from October 29 to 30.