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Selvedge denim manufacturing returns to its home

Selvedge denim production in the United States is going to be revived from this month, which is an initiative of Vidalia Mills, an agile North American textile maker.

Backstory

In October 2017, the last and most famous selvedge denim mill in the U.S. closed. Cone Mills’ denim mill in Greensboro, North Carolina, named White Oak, announced it would fold due to a lack of orders at the end of 2017 after 110 years in business. With the closing the American made denim came to an extinction leaving a dearth of mills left in the U.S.

Selvedge denim manufacturing USA

Vidalia Mills’ road to revive the production of denim in America

The U.S. denim market lost an iconic symbol with Cone Denim’s declaration of its ceasing operations and closing down the White Oak mill. But very recently Vidalia Mills CEO Daniel Feibus said, “Denim is the American fabric, so it’s time we made selvedge denim in the United States.”

While unveiling the last roll of selvedge denim manufactured at Cone Denim’s White Oak facility, Feibus went out to the factory floor to flip the switch on a selvedge denim weaving machine, one of more than 40 purchased from Cone which will get second life in Vidalia Mills.

On September 29, the facebook page of Vidalia Mills reported about their mill tour by posting a video. They said, “Last week we held a brief tour of our mill which included a reveal to more than thirty key brands and retailers of the first of our recently purchased, fully operational, 1940 Draper looms from the former White Oak mill in Greensboro.”

“Yes, we’re the first new denim mill with selvedge production in the US for a long, long time, but we’re not only going to make denim, but also yarns, too, for sale. Everything produced by the mill will contain e3 sustainable cotton,” they told the customers in the social media with full confidence. This means every yard of fabric, and every pound of yarn, will contain sustainably grown and traceable cotton from farmers around the U.S.

Vidallia Mills
Figure 1: Post from the Vidalia Mills’ Facebook page.

According to Feibus, “The purchase of the most iconic selvedge denim production in the world is not only humbling to us but furthers our mission to reinvent the greatest tradition of denim, the quintessential American-made fabric.”

“It is very exciting that part of American denim history will be restored to production capacity and continue to have domestic selvage denim,” Tricia Carey, Director of Global Business Development for Denim at Lenzing, said, “I hope this is a start of more domestic denim industry revival.”

“It is very exciting that part of American denim history will be restored to production capacity and continue to have domestic selvage denim.”

Tricia Carey, Director of Global Business Development for Denim at Lenzing

Machines will keep rolling from November

Vidalia Mills has a game plan to execute its operation in the U.S. with open-end yarn spinning aimed to start up in November; selvedge denim production in December; ring-spun yarn in the next year’s January, and the foam dye system from Temsan, a Turkish manufacturer of air-conditioning systems for spinning, weaving and knitting mills, to be integrated by April.

Vidalia Mills has a strategic relationship with Lubrizol Corp to work closely to maximize the performance and eco-friendly attributes of Lubrizol’s X4zol-J elastomeric fiber in Vidalia’s production of denim fabrics.

The company intends to employ 600 people once fully operational. It is also working on establishing a local garment factory for full-package goods, Feibus noted, and will set up a laundry facility at the site.

Game plan Vidalia Mills
Figure 2: The game plan of Vidalia Mills.

What about sustainability?

Feibus said “Our goal at Vidalia is to make high-quality, sustainably-produced yarns and fabrics exclusively using e3 sustainable cotton to meet the needs of brands and retailers in North America and around the world. Vidalia is a resource for brands, retailers, and consumers who appreciate small-batch premium selvedge denim produced in a sustainable, transparent environment.”

E3 cotton Vidalia Mills
Figure 3: Features of e3 cotton which will be used by Vidalia Mills.

Vidalia Mills will ensure its contribution to build up a sustainable future by using 100% certified sustainable E3 cotton from farm-direct sourcing in its denim that is traceable back to the field.

Feibus believes “Being transparent and sustainable is more than a slogan. It’s a major commitment to a process, from how cotton is grown on the farm to how it’s manufactured at the mill. We think running only e3 cotton gives us the ability to provide that traceable yarn element all the way through the system and we see that as a really big part of our mission.”

Vidalia also operates a zero-discharge site water filtration system, with more than 50% of the mill’s energy needs met by renewable resources.

Who are the partners?

In a talk and tour of the soon-to-be operational facility, Feibus explained that Vidalia is partnering with such companies as BASF, Temsan and Lubrizol to create a cutting-edge yarn and denim manufacturing facility.

“Our goal at Vidalia is to make high-quality, sustainably-produced yarns and fabrics exclusively using e3 sustainable cotton to meet the needs of brands and retailers in North America and around the world.”

Daniel Feibus, CEO, Vidalia Mills

BASF’s e3 cotton is derived from its high-quality certified Fibermax and Stoneville cotton seeds that can be traced from the farmer and the ginner through to the mill and retailer. With third-party verification and documentation, a licensed merchant can sell Fibermax or Stoneville garments or home furnishings.

Conclusion

The whole initiative is going to be a ‘farmer-to-fabric’ story of sustainability and transparency. All made in Vidalia, Louisiana. It is also a glorious event for the return of selvedge denim production in the U.S.

Many executives on hand discussed the importance of bringing denim manufacturing back to the U.S., which they said can provide an attractive, alternative sourcing opportunity for brands.

Robert Antoshak, Managing Director of Olah Inc., said, “Vidalia Mills is needed in the industry and hopefully can be a model for others to follow.”

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