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What the future of denim looks like according to industry experts

By Huw Hughes


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Amsterdam - The Kingpins trade fair is back in Amsterdam from 10 to 11 April, bringing together industry professionals and showcasing the latest trends and innovations to hit the world of denim. As a fashion staple, denim continues to transcend gender, age, and class, and remains one of the fashion industry’s most versatile, durable and sought after fabrics. But, just like with the rest of fashion, the denim industry continues to evolve alongside waves of shifting trends, changing customer expectations and advancing technologies. At this season’s Amsterdam edition of Kingpins, FashionUnited took the opportunity to ask denim professionals what they think the industry might look like in ten years from now. Here’s what they said:

Sustainability will be baked into the supply chain

“Sustainability will no longer be a trend - it will be embedded in the supply chain,” Tricia Carey, director of global business development for denim at Lenzing, told FashionUnited. “We will continue to see the rise of conscious consumers with a deeper understanding of the worth of an item, and the industry will have to keep up with them.” As consumers continue to become more informed about the importance of sustainability and transparency within the fashion industry, companies are being forced more than ever to meet increasingly high standards. But according to Carey, sustainability goes further than just focusing on the production stage of a garment - which is currently being improved through reducing the amount of energy, water and chemicals used in the process - the whole lifecycle of a garment needs to be taken into account. “Sustainable production is important, but we have to care about the garment all the way until the end of its life.” According to Carey, in the next ten years we will likely see a huge increase in the focus on the longevity of garments, with customers willing to pay more money for better quality products with a longer lifespan.

Circular economy: repair, recycle, reuse and reduce

Rebecca Larsen, product development manager at House of Gold, the agency which homes denim mills Blue Diamond, In the Loop, and Jeanious Laundry, said that more focus will be put on creating a circular denim industry. “Sustainability is important but it’s not enough. What really needs to happen is we need to close the loop. Instead of constantly producing more and more, we need to learn to reuse what we already have.” The trend of the 4 Rs - repair, recycle, reuse and reduce - will likely continue to rise in the next ten years, according to Larsen. At Blue Diamond, for example, like many denim mills, collections are now being made using reused waste from the production process. Blue Diamond uses Refibra technology - a process that upcycles cotton scraps produced during textile manufacturing to create new garments. The increasing popularity of methods such as this could see an industry that, rather than constantly creating new garments and throwing them away, becomes a constant process of making, using, taking apart and reintroducing denim as a raw material back into the supply chain.

More vertical supply chains

“Sustainability is the only trend that matters,” said Richard Tobin, vice president of sales and marketing at textile company Kaltex. “For younger generations it's particularly important. If we’re going to leave a cleaner world for them, we have to do it now, so the next 10 years are particularly important.” The full service Mexican owned company uses only American cotton, and supports the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) organization. The vertically integrated company has also been using Tencel fibers since 2000 when it first tested them in its men’s denim, and has been running a water treatment facility since 1996, where all its wastewater is treated, tested and monitored. According to Tobin, vertical integration of companies in the denim industry will also become more commonplace in the next ten years. A trend that seems to be growing in popularity, vertical integration allows brands to attain a higher level of control over factors such as waste, water, chemical and recycling management.

Physical will move to digital

In the next ten years, digital technology could also have a much larger role in the denim design process. According to Gail van der Hoeven, creative brand strategist at Soorty, the prototype stage could potentially be eliminated completely. Soorty partnered with Amsterdam-based digital fashion house, The Fabricant, which uses film visual effects such as motion capture, 3D animation software and body scanning to create hyper realistic 3D animations of garments without physical prototypes having to be made - in effect saving time, eliminating unnecessary waste, and eradicating the need to transport samples.

While digital samples might not completely replace physical sample production, the benefit is that the former could help brands understand consumer tastes at an earlier stage in the production process. “As far as the industry is concerned, this is already happening,” said van der Hoeven. “Consumers might take a little while to get used to the concept, though.” Soorty showcased its first collaboration with The Fabricant, called C2C Gold, at the October 2018 edition of Kingpins, while The Fabricant also teamed up with Swedish brand Carlings in the same year for a digital clothing collection that sold out in a week.

Photo credit: FashionUnited

blue diamond
The Fabricant