Innovation invades the denim market. F/W 2015-16 bets on new fancy selvedge denims, super comfy fabrics, cool coatings and hues and special effects that are sustainable.

In general the denim market continues to suffer. A major reason is the strong competition created by mono brand stores that manipulate the biggest volumes of sales. They compete against one another with the lowest prices such as €9.99, €19.99, €29.99 in almost all markets. “The challenge is to offer added value products, niche denim developments and unique new products,” says Panos Sofianos, creative director, Tejidos Royo. Despite this, the reality is much more complex as Martelli’s Giovanni Petrin explains: “Everyone talks about innovation. Though when it comes to truly experimenting, many brands back out because special treatments increase the cost of their production.” As a consequence there is a lack of initiatives and, except for Japan or Northern Europe, young or small brands struggle to survive. The situation seems brighter only for global brands or for brands with a clear identity. “It’s imperative that the whole industry commits to getting out of this paralysis and truly begin to change, innovate and dream again,” says Petrin.

Performance and sustainability continue to attract many companies’ attention, while a general return to denim and authentic image jeans seems to appear on the horizon. Prints are no longer cool. Stretch fabrics continue to recall great attention–and also increasingly for men. Therefore a wider selection of stretch fabrics– including selvedge ones–are hot for the season. On the other hand authentic fabrics are increasingly characterized by heavier weights– from 12 oz up to 16 oz (as presented by Candiani Denim)–are super hot. Meanwhile, washes are taking two main and opposite directions–they can either have heavy vintage aspects or be very clean.

In the darkest winter season optimism and bright surfaces are the best antidote. New selections of coatings and new surface effects are hot topics. Isko’s variety of denims also includes soft touch leather-like denims.
Garment manufacturer M&J Group has developed a series of shiny and see-through resin effects on denim and colored garments and a special leather effect obtained through laser, three-dimensional and tactical features. Hantex has developed metal-like special coatings and Isko has developed a series of lurex-like coatings applied onto denim. Vicunha also offers bright surface denims.


Every denim manufacturer is presenting denims made with recycled cotton and recycled polyester mixes. Cone Denim continues to offer its selection of colored denims made by employing different waste materials. It is re-using ketchup and mustard bottles to create new red and yellow weft denims, respectively. It also re-employed x-ray films to make gray weft denim and launched black weft selvedge denims made from recycled black food trays.

Berto opts for denims carrying vertical stripes of different widths and reinvents herringbone weaves with colored wefts. Soorty launches jacquard denims characterized by woven camouflage denims. US Denim offers coated wool denims with purple or brown surface coating. Also cool is US Denim’s new orange selvedge denim, a shade that is not usually employed for vintage-style denims. Hantex launches Ghost Shadow, a special technique through which various colors can be mixed in the same fabric. Isko launches its Ferra Colors, a series of deep, saturated, green and navy casted denims.

If authenticity is cool again, selvedges are a real must once more. But it is even better if this small savvy detail can be reinvented in new cool ways. US Denim has launched its orange selvedge denim and Calik offers its Noble Selvedge urban collection of vintage and modern selvedge denims made up of comfort stretch denims in pure black and ecru. Colored weft selvedges are another modern interpretation to give a refined edge. Ready for dye selvedge bull denims offer rich color options as well as pure, deep shades of indigo in red and green casts.

Maximum comfort is another must- have. US Denim launches a special double weave stretch fabric that is as warm as knitwear but looks like denim. Candiani is betting strongly on stretch denims by offering Sling denim, which can stretch up to 60% elasticity. Its Perfect Stretch denim–also devised for men–can extend to over 60% and guarantees a weft-shrinkage to 5-8% maximum (a conventional one is 15-20%). Orta Anadolu has developed its Comfort Square multidirectional stretch technology with 20% elasticity both in warp and weft. Its Fits Well lift technology also has super slimming effects and has a super soft touch on the skin.

Isko’s newest Stay Blue and Stay Black denims–part of its Slowfade ranges–maintain their original shade for longer than standard denim. Finally, Calik launches a Nippon Blue, a dark blue almost black denim shade that when washed can create special contrast effects.

Italian laundry Martelli has acquired 100% of the Martelli Gonser laundry, aka Martelli Tunisia, the company’s division working in the North African market. The partnership between Martelli, which previously owned 60% of the company, and the German laundry Gonser Group lasted for the last five years. The acquisition aims to achieve two goals: creating a powerful strategic hub in Africa and providing all the brands producing in this area with a reliable all-round service that includes treatments, finishing and washing. Tunisia, a leading area in the textile industry, combines experience with competitive costs. Numerous European firms now manufacture there.

More companies have discovered the African continent as a production site. “For good reason,” according to JC Mazingue, an apparel trade advisor with East Africa Trade Hub, which promotes economic development in Africa with the support of the US Agency for International Development. During Interstoff Asia Essential in Hong Kong in March, Mazingue showcased east African countries at its booth and as part of trade show programming that promoted the continent as a new sourcing region. It is not just low wages which are the main reason for growing interest in countries such as Ethiopia and Kenya, for labor costs are no lower than in Bangladesh or Vietnam. It is the favorable trade regulations which make Africa attractive. Thanks to the United States AGOA Act, 95% of all products from 45 sub-Saharan countries can be imported to the US quota and duty-free. “That makes it 16% less expensive to import to the US from these African countries than if goods sold in the US or Europe originated in China for example,” says Mazingue. For this reason, it is mostly Chinese and Turkish companies who are investing in Africa and thus seeking to compensate for rising wages in their own countries. Customs duties are also waived when all input materials and fabrics are imported to Africa. H&M and Tesco are among the major brands already producing there, especially in Ethiopia, the new big player in sourcing. “East Africa has reached the point today where China was 15 years ago,” says Mazingue. “Volume is still fairly small. But if only 10% of production is transferred from China to Africa, this would already be a considerable amount for these countries.”

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