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Kingpins Amsterdam adjusting to virtual reality

Instead of a vibrant global gathering at the Kingpins Amsterdam, the global denim industry watched the event online in the new normal amid COVID-19.

Though the online event offers a comprehensive program of panels and presentations that explored fiber and raw material innovations, social responsibility and creativity in denim.

Kingpins-Amsterdam-adjusting-virtual-reality
Figure: Instead of a vibrant global gathering at the Kingpins Amsterdam, the global denim industry will be watching online in the new normal amid COVID-19.

However, the organizers, stop short of calling Kingpins24 a replacement for its physical show.

After an initial lockdown in April, the city sprang back to life in the summer. But with a second wave of Covid-19 cases looming and no end to travel restrictions in sight, Kingpins announced in July that it would not go ahead with the October event in Amsterdam.

The void of the physical event has been sensed across the denim industry. Denim mills have exchanged their relationships with clients through apps, Zoom meetings and other forms of digital communication.

The decision to hold the event online is not surprising, as Amsterdam is perhaps one of the hardest hits by the pandemic’s restrictions.

Silva Rancani, Founder of The Denim Window showroom said, “The cancellation of Kingpins is very sad for all of us in [the] denim industry and even more for all of us in Amsterdam.”

“We can’t deny that we plan our events alongside Kingpins’ dates to reach the international crowd that the show brings to town,” Silva said.

“The world is faced with immense challenges and Amsterdam is no exception,” said Jason Denham, Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Denham the Jeanmaker.

“Soon after the first wave of the pandemic, some locals thought life would better without tourism. There was a sense of relief having the city back to themselves for a little bit,” said Menno van Meurs, CEO, Tenue de Nîmes.

“But fast forward a few months and we all acknowledge the city is out of balance without all those curious foreigners everywhere. Amsterdam is meant to be vibrant,” Meurs added.

Mariette Hoitink, Owner of the Amsterdam-based fashion recruitment firm, HTNK International has seen the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic wash over the industry.

“What you see right now is that a major shift is taking place,” she said.

“Companies are more uncertain. And new opportunities in digital jobs are opening up. However, every company needs to be super tech-savvy nowadays,” added Hoitink.

The city’s denim industry is adjusting to the new realism forced by the pandemic.

Businesses like The Denim Window help fill the gap left by a global supply-chain trade show. The showroom, which recently relocated to a more central space in Amsterdam near Westerpark, continues to serve local brands and designers as both a hub for creative collaborations and as a destination to discover new collections and innovations from companies across the sector.

“In a time where unfortunately most of the denim exhibitions are getting canceled, a permanent showroom where collections are displayed, in a strategic location where many brands are based, is becoming eventually even more relevant,” Rancani said.

Companies exhibiting at The Denim Window include Archroma, Berto, The Lycra Company, Medike Landes, R.E.A.L. Garments and more, making it a one-stop-shop for fabric, fibers, trims and garment production. The new space has an open concept layout that allows for multiple clients to visit at the same time, as well as a roof terrace, several working tables, a kitchen and a “coffee corner.”

“I want to keep the coziness and the at-home feeling that was a strong point in our first location,” Rancani said.

The showroom, which began to welcome visitors in September, is working with clients’ various pandemic protocols. Some clients have no problem at all meeting with their vendors, while others prefer to avoid in-person meetings. Corporate companies, however, tend to have the strictest policies in place about in-person meetings, Rancani expressed.

Clients are also working on different seasons—or in some cases—no season at all, Rancani said.

“Some smaller brands are working on their Spring/Summer ’21 collection following the usual calendar, while others are just looking for few novelties to add them to their previous collections that haven’t been sold and need to be represented in their stores,” she explained.

With most brands still holding onto a lot of stock from previous seasons and without any clear indication of what type of apparel consumers will need in six months, Rancani said the city’s denim industry feels “a bit lost, a bit confused.”

To design a new collection ‘is not an option’ for most brands considered down by uncertainty.

How and what people are working on may have changed, but the key takeaway is that the wheels are still turning. And there’s still a consumer for durable, comfortable jeans.

“Amsterdam will keep up and will stay on top of the European denim game,” van Meurs said.

Though the city’s lively social scene is put on hold, van Meurs points out that Amsterdam remains home to the world’s first Jeans School and many top-notch, international denim brands, including Kings of Indigo, G-Star Raw and PVH Corp.’s Denim Center.

“Denim is not so easily taken out of the heart of our city,” he said.

Tenue de Nîmes is part of that heartbeat. Though it’s recognized by denim lovers as one of the best denim boutiques in the world, it took measures to stay connected with locals during the height of the pandemic. Within 48 hours of the first lockdown, it began its doorstep delivery service in Amsterdam.

“One day later, we made it into the Dutch Financial Newspaper FD explaining why we would survive all of this,” van Meurs said.

“During this whole period, we brought every single garment to people’s doorstep. We took extra sizes for customers to safely try at home. We said: If people can’t visit our stores for some time, we will bring the stores to their homes,” he said.

Local brands like Scotch & Soda, Kings of Indigo, Benzak Denim Developers and Tenue de Nîmes are participating, as well as Italian chemical company Officina +39, U.S. brand Ginew, artist Ian Berry and more. Meanwhile, Denim Days’ sponsor Tencel is helping to coordinate a “well-balanced” program with a focus on sustainability, van den Hoeven said.

“This year Amsterdam will share the denim heritage to the world through a virtual program,” said Tricia Carey, director of global business development of denim at Lenzing.

Tricia added, “We are pleased to sponsor Denim Days Amsterdam for the second consecutive year and find new ways to connect during this time. Supporting our brand partners and collaborators in the market brings our story of transforming trees into amazing denim products for modern consumers.”

Resiliency will be tested. Van Meurs said times will get rough for a lot of people as Dutch government assistance begins to wane and is tested to its limits.

“We at Tenue de Nîmes will continue to try and add value to this beautiful city of ours,” he said.

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