Tomorrow's denim will be ecological and high tech
Visitors to the Paris Event Center on 26th and 27th April were treated to an exclusive glimpse of the denim industry of tomorrow, as the 19th edition of the Denim Première Vision trade event showcased ten high-tech developments and technological innovations which could potentially change the face of the industry.
On the digital front, connected clothing is set to become a must. Designer Pauline Van Dongen, in the wake of the connected jacket by Levi's and Google's Jacquard project, gave a glimpse of future possibilities with her water-proof jacket in recycled denim equipped with a soft solar panel, and with the Issho jacket, featuring sensors and a special technology giving the pleasant sensation of a shoulder caress. Another example of connectivity is the limited edition jacket by streetwear label Rochambeau, featuring digital information on exclusive New York City venues, which can be downloaded by scanning a special code on the jacket. Spinali Design instead presented a pair of jeans featuring GPS technology.
"The approach is innovative and interesting, said Tilman Wröbel, Creative Director of the Monsieur-T. studio, specialised in denim design. When someone buys an exceptional jacket though, they could enjoy wearing it for a lifetime. Given the life-span of current technology, what will the useful life of these jackets be? Will it be possible to modify these garments? I love apparel which lives and changes over time."
Studio-T. has also presented the results of its collaboration with Cordura and four other denim industry names, Kipas, Artistic Milliners, Arvind and Cone Denim. The projects offered a quirky new take on a highly durable fabric which has until now been used for 'contemporary' products. The new version is processed to create apparel with a military feel and with an aged look, but the essential difference is that ‘new’ denim is sustainable.
The future of jeans and denim is inevitably linked to a more sustainable and ecological approach. In the last few years, the industry began to question its business model, under pressure from rising costs and confronted with a heightened consumer sensitivity to products that are eco-responsible. As a result, denim manufacturers are changing the rules of their game.
"A few years ago, [manufacturers] used biological cotton which was then treated using potassium permanganate, said Marion Foret, in charge of fashion events at Première Vision. Nowadays, the entire value chain is being re-examined. The denim industry is regarded as pollutant and, especially for Asian manufacturers, it is crucial to be able to make claims that reassure both clients and consumers."
This is why companies like fabric manufacturer Artistic Fabric Mills or launderer M&J Group have developed software to ensure their products' traceability, as well as their natural resources consumption. Innovations like these can turn into strong marketing claims, appealing to consumers of high-end products.
But the trade show's most promising innovation was that presented by the Advance Denim group. The Chinese manufacturer is developing a process to recycle fabrics which blend cotton and polyester. Currently, only garments that are 100% cotton can be recycled but, with the advent of stretch fabrics, only a handful of latest-generation jeans can be recycled. Advance is working on giving a new lease of life to denim by using cotton blended with the 'green' yarn Solucell, and then employing an active agent to separate cotton from Solucell and allow the former to be recycled. Advance is hoping to fully develop the industrial process by next year.
Finally, the My Rags project too is set to revolutionise the denim industry. It is a software created for design departments, manufacturers and launderers, designed to digitally select fabrics, allowing greater creative freedom. "Nowadays, the war on costs has a big impact in the industry, and the range of end-products is highly uniform. It is possible to go an alternative route, by cutting down on air travel and on the loss of fabric through samples, only 20% of which are saved. This is what we are offering, said Umberto Brocchetto, co-founder of the My Rags project. Saving time and money, with more ecological solutions which will also make it possible to be original again." The software is likely to be available during the summer.
Though the majority of denim products are still standardised, a host of initiatives to refashion denim are being developed, and brands are well-advised to pick up on them right from the word go.
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