Dec 5, 2019
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Denim Première Vision embraces sustainability, eco drive shapes trends

Dec 5, 2019

Denim Première Vision appeared to shrug off the real and the economic chill as it returned to sunny-but-cold London this week with a busy show and an enlarged exhibitor list.

London's latest edition of Denim Première Vision was full of people and of ideas - Photo Sandra Halliday

The big story was sustainability, sustainability and sustainability. Stung by an increasing focus on denim as one of the most polluting materials, producers are rapidly transforming themselves into beacons of sustainability. And while there’s an element of ‘greenwashing’ that comes with that, the investment and creative thinking that’s going into the eco drive is genuine.

PV’s International Exhibitions Director Guglielmo Olearo told fashionnetwork.com that “today sustainability is not an additional requirement, it's an essential and this industry has made huge improvements in the past year”.

PV’s International Exhibitions Director Guglielmo Olearo - Photo Sandra Halliday

And being sustainable is now a commercial decision as well as an ethical one. Olearo added that “all industries including denim have to face up to the fact that in the future they could be selling less volume. They have to be able to find a new business model to add more value to the product which means more development and more innovation. Sustainability comes into that and the market wants something concrete. They don't just want to hear companies saying ‘we are sustainable’, they want to see it happening, to see actions”. 

And there was plenty of action on show with an interesting development being that style trends seem to be tracking the move to sustainability. More than one manufacturer told us that, for instance, the current trend for a more ‘raw’, untreated look also happens to be light on processing and more eco-friendly.


So just what were the top trends? The organiser called out Earth as a key theme, a development championing renewable materials such as ‘clean’ linen and hemp blends, plus organic and recycled cotton or even soy protein fibre. These fibres can create both refined textures and more irregular grains to “add character to” light washed-out denim or darker tones. It’s all about a “pleasing visual discontinuity” with fraying and irregular stitches adding to this effect.

Water is a major direction and, again, sustainability comes into it. Denim’s reputation as a big user of processed water was countered by one fabric created using 92% rainwater. Water is making an impression stylistically too. Fade overdyes look like the surface of a calm ocean, while laser prints create water ‘stained’ effects on the surface in complementary and contrasting blues. This also leads to blurred surface effects, “cloudy prints” and a “new evolution of tie-dye” that resembles water in movement. Graduated blues also reflect the colours of water on organic cotton but contrasting colours (like intense reds) can also be used with whites and blues to look like colour-runs.

Meanwhile, Mobility is all about movement and “smooth suppleness”. It’s a “feeling of a summer breeze that creates relaxed and airy shapes”. The materials themselves mixed lyocell, modal and recycled polyester with natural fibres to create a very fluid feel. Open weaves support this while eco-friendly dyes that use little water are key here, as is equally-eco laser finishing. Colourwise, movement can be worked in almost-effervescent tones to feel light and fresh. And movement also means non-uniformity with wrinkled, speckled and shimmering effects also strong.

Fantasy is another direction with rich colour used randomly. Tonal allovers really make an impact (linking back to the Water trend) while bold contrasts used randomly embrace colour in all its aspects. But there’s a more graphic edge to fantasy too with orderly rectangles created via laser prints or jacquards. Technique contrasts, such as silk screen and laser printing or brush strokes, create offbeat effects and unusual shapes. And volatile metallics also come into this trend but importantly, they step back from SS20’s boldness into a more subtle version for SS21. Brush stroke metallics confirm the season’s subtlety and love of irregularity.


These trends were brought to life by some of the exhibitors at the event, both through the creation of exclusive materials in collaboration with PV and on their stands. 

PG Denim founder Paolo Gnutti and some of its SS21 fabrics - Photo Sandra Halliday

PG Denim, founded by Paolo Gnutti and a suppler to brands such as Diesel, Closed, Chanel and Louis Vuitton, clearly sees SS21 in eye-catching terms as it embraces colour and texture — as well as sustainability. For SS21, the fast-growing company, is offering a range called WOW Denim, embracing prints and velvet effects based on viscose flocking. Denim becomes a brightly-coloured (but slightly aged) vision of velvet, either in solid colour, printed or striped. Meanwhile its Studio 54 line explores what happens when cotton meets vinyl. And Garage Denim is characterised by the metallised colours of 1950s and 60s “with colour pastes glittering against very dark fabric backgrounds, creating an imperceptible painted effect”.

And if none of this sounds very eco-focused, you’d be mistaken. The company has plenty of certification on this front and has also designed a dyeing system that reduces the amount of chemicals used by 40%, water by 50%, and CO2 emissions by 60%. It’s also one of the very few companies on the market to offer a range of items made using over 60% recycled material in total.

new from Berto for SS21 - Photo Sandra Halliday

PG works closely with Berto to put its designs into action and Berto’s own SS21 was on show too. Denim PV was particularly important to the Italian firm as it was its very first SS21 show. Marketer Francesca Polato showed us its Free Sprit collection that targets Gen Z. One strong trend was fabrics with recycled colour wefts setting off an indigo warp and highlighting the season’s love of colour. There were also organic soft-tone biological indigos and a focus on stripes, overdyed and ‘indigo-indigo’ stripes. Recycling is key, with 65% recycled fibres for part of its offer.

Pakistan-based Kassim Denim can’t claim that big a percentage yet, but it’s investing heavily in pivoting to a more sustainable model and was focusing on three initiatives as part of this. Its new Endigo project claims to revolutionise the way denim is made and dyed, using electro-chemical tech to minimise chemicals. And with the machine run by solar power, the company’s Umer Jalil said “its only waste product is pure oxygen” — a big plus point. 

Part of its eco approach is its Blue Volt process that dyes the warp using a patented spray system in a nitrogen environment. The result? Zero salt formation and 85% less water used. Meanwhile an organic reducing and fixing agent creates a surface dye effect resulting in easier and more natural fade in the washing process. 

Finally, its Atomic process flow cuts dye usage, eradicates the dry process and Jalil said this is “laser-friendly and also takes less time”.

Kassim Denim is investing to pivot to a more eco positioning - Photo Sandra Halliday

Some newcomers to the show highlighted how important the denim market is to the wider fashion sector. Cervotessile, for instance, focuses on lining and pocketing and it said it’s seeing growing demand from big brands asking for customisation in these areas. A plain pocket is no longer enough to attract attention in a crowded market. It’s been a premium trend so far but is moving into the mass-market.

And shirt specialist Canclini was there for the first time with its restyled collection Blue 1925 as it targets growth in the denim market. With blue and indigo at the core, it also offers over-dyeing in on-trend colours to reach out to a younger consumer. And it’s using linen, hemp and bamboo fabrics, as well as regenerated cotton, and recycled fibres. 


So what did the show’s visitors make of all this? Indy denim designer and consultant Sue Barrett seemed happy. “There’s always something new here,” she told us. “It’s also interesting that after Kingpins, people start to hone what has been successful so that’s interesting to see. There’s also a ‘quieter energy’ here, which I like. This is very much where business tends to be done and this show is also quite easy to get round”.

She approaches the show with a “sustainability filter” and admitted that “there’s some greenwashing”, but conceded that real change is happening. “It’s like ‘there’s a bit of salad, but the rest is sugar’ but that will change, partly because legislation will be tougher”. 

And an interesting development she highlighted is how sustainability is changing companies’ approach to trends. "It seems like a lot of companies that used to have trends teams in-house have moved that money into sustainability teams. Whereas people would once have paid for a trends presentation, they now pay for a sustainability one”. 

Trend-wise she picked up on a punk story, plus 80s and 90s retro saying: “Marble washes are being seen from the more directional guys”. But she said another trend is “doing good”, not just being sustainable. “Cone have a beautiful pink selvedge denim,” she said. “The money from that goes to breast cancer. And there’s a rainbow selvedge too with money that goes to the LGBTQ community. It’s also about being authentic".

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