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Denim Innovations

Innovation driving denim industry

The COVID-19 pandemic has let physical events in online shows, virtual presentations, webinars. Simultaneously, the denim world has virtually showcased recent developments at Kingpins24.

One of the main focal points of the show was a various range of waterless dyeing and finishing processes. The water-hungry sector is becoming less water-thirsty. But according to experts, there is still a long way to go for the industry. During a Kingpins24 panel last week, experts explained that real water savings require a big-picture approach.

Figure: With a diverse range of waterless dyeing and finishing processes, the denim industry is slowly becoming less thirsty. Courtesy: kingpinsshow.com

Besides, circularity, efficiency and the production of hemp fibers were crucial topics during Kingpins24. Leading denim companies across the supply chain showcased their latest technologies and solutions to lessen the industry’s impact on the environment.

Pakistani denim mill AFM displayed how they are using their skills and knowledge to reproduce effects and designs from conventional methods with recycled fibers, sustainable chemicals and less water.

AFM’s state-of-the-art shredding and sorting facility achieves 100% post-industrial waste cotton fabrics, and blends with 40% post-consumer waste.

Ampelio Dal Lago, Creative Director of AFM made a range by similar shades of recycled cotton without adding any indigo.

“Recycling cotton is the major mission because it can save the environment,” Lago said.

Voicing on the same note, Faiza Jamil from Artistic Milliners discussed the Pakistani mill’s Cradle to Cradle fabrics and Circular Park – a new sorting and shredding facility during a panel discussion.

Faiza Jamil said, “Circular is a design concept, not just recycling. The way we have been designing things creates a lot of waste. Nature operates circularly and we must learn lessons from there.”

Marcel Imaizumi, Chief Operating Officer at Vicunha said, “Vicunha had been recycling content for two decades, but did not primarily promote it as it was undervalued – but now it adds value.”

Vicunha’s Tiger fabric is made with 100% recycled fabric including Tencel’s Ecomade, Refibra and recycled cotton.

Turkish denim producer Calik showed RE/J, a recycled denim fabric made from 100% pre-and post-consumer waste, which will be made available to buyers in time for the autumn-winter 2022 season. It uses Lycra’s EcoMade fiber (created with 68% recycled plastics and renewable plant-based resources), in addition to Repreve’s recycled polyester, derived from waste plastic bottles.

Nicholas Prophte, Vice-President of Sourcing, Production and Innovation at PVH Europe, said its circular strategy focuses on lower-impact materials, recyclability-minded design, traceability and new business models.

A partnership with Turkish denim mill Kipas has resulted in 80% pre-consumer and 20% post-consumer cotton fabric, intending to increase the latter to 30% in the short- to medium-term; 50:50 trials are also underway. Around 70-80% of all Tommy Hilfiger denim contains at least 20% post-consumer recycled content.

Recycle and reduce

To enable a circular economy, the Lycra Company’s latest innovations for its Coolmax and Thermolite EcoMade ranges are launched. The two fibers are now made with 100% textile waste, thus a strategic collaboration with Itochu Corporation, a Japanese trading company with a foot in the global textile sector.

An exclusive depolymerization and filtering process is used to renovate textile waste, which entails scraps from garment manufacturers, into fibers with properties similar to virgin polyester, said Lycra. The new fibers are available in filament and staple forms, suitable for common textile processes and insulation batting uses.

Hemp’s depicted a bright future

Resistant, fast-growing and tough, the environmental profits of hemp made the natural fiber a crucial part of a collection of fabrics by Pakistan-based Crescent Bahuman Limited (CBL).

The vertically integrated denim company is the first denim mill in Pakistan to develop indigenous, rain-fed hemp fiber.

Crescent Bahuman also partnered with green-minded designer Miles Johnson on Now or Never, an “all-natural and recyclable” hemp-centered denim collection.

The collection includes blends of core-spun hemp yarn, Tencel lyocell and both organic and Better Cotton Initiative (BCI)-certified cotton, and uses “sustainable, waterless dyeing methods” – something that Johnson pushed for.

Zaki Saleemi, Vice-President at Crescent Bahuman, elaborated: “Overall, there is a water-saving of 98% in dyeing and 80% in finishing, thanks to the use of our latest Naya indigo dyeing process.”

Denim leaders acknowledge the fiber’s potential as a substitute to cotton, but also stressed the need to ‘dive deep’ for full perceptibility in terms of production at the farm level. Describing European hemp as ‘mandatory’ for the Tommy Hilfiger business and confirmed the company’s use of ‘real’ (not cottonised) hemp.

The hemp-blended fabrics come together in a range of garments inspired by workwear and military styles, trimmed with natural and recyclable accessories including removable shank buttons, organic cotton labels, recycled back patches and Crescent moon bartacks.

Another Pakistan-based mill and manufacturer AGI Denim launched a fabric called HempX, a blend of organic cotton, hemp and elastane made with recycled components.

HempX’s material is processed using AGI Denim’s Double Zero technology, which AGI claims saves 85% water compared with conventional indigo dyeing and finishing processes. It is also made using 50% renewable energy.

AGI’s Henry Wong elaborated that hemp is an ‘emerging champion’ as he also announced a partnership with hemp processor Panda Biotech to develop US-grown hemp. Wrangler and Lee-owner Kontoor has also newly partnered with the agricultural company.

Jordan Nodarse, a designer at Turkish mill Bossa, presented fabrics in the new collection as part of a conversation with Simply Suzette’s Ani Wells. As well as the environmental benefits of hemp, it enables a focus on slow fashion by adding durability and the possibility of creating more of a circular mentality, he said of the new collection Hempy.

Bossa’s Xupple Stretch addresses the issue of inclusivity with extra stretch, and which could also help to minimize store returns.

Nodarse said, “It gives less concern about the size and replaces that with comfort and positivity,” he said. Eco 3 “applies the full cycle of garment washing sustainability: laser, eco stone, eflow, ozone technology and ecological chemicals.”


Bossa is also working with the Turkish government on a project to create a less thirsty cotton variety. The seed will be non-GMO (genetically modified) and the aim is that it will be finalized within three years. Business development director Besim Ozek said: “Hopefully, we will have a cottonseed called Bossa to show you.”

The mill has reduced its water usage by more than 40% in two years, from an average of 70 liters per meter to 38 liters per meter. It is also creating laser- and ozone-friendly fabrics, which will help the laundries use less water, and making fabrics that will need to be washed less frequently by the consumer.

Water was also a focus at US-based Cone Denim, which unveiled its Road to Mission Zero initiative in collaboration with Spanish technology provider Jeanologia. Mission Zero denim will involve reducing water usage to “near-zero” levels, and the goal is to return clean water to nature.

Cone’s initial denim offering draws from its Flash Finish fabrics (which, on average, save around 83% of water, 39% of chemicals and 14% of energy usage, it claims), made with Jeanologia’s G2 Dynamic ozone technology.

Berke Aydemir, head of R&D at Naveena, presented an antimicrobial range made with technology from the Swedish company Polygiene.

Aydemir said this can extend the life of the garment, saves energy and water and reduces the carbon footprint.

Niklas Brosnan, Marketing Director at Polygiene, said the collaboration is part of a wider education and marketing push to convince consumers to wash clothes less frequently. He claimed there is a groundswell building.

The owner of the Chinese mill Foison Textile, Sam Li, discussed the hardships of operating during the pandemic with Kingpins’ Vivian Wang. He said the company had invested heavily in sustainability over recent years, including adding a photovoltaic panel system that supplies most of the factory’s energy, and that he is confident that 2021 will be a better year for textiles.

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