It’s easy to forget that we raw denim enthusiasts exist in an extremely narrow niche. We are menswear enthusiasts, but we focus on one particular fabric, and even that doesn’t quite capture it. We obsess over denim that is produced in a very particular way and follow brands that address the market with a very particular (and often very old) design language.
In our bubble, we miss the broader context. Selvedge denim is only part of the wider world of denim. What else is out there?
I want to find out, so this year, on August 30th and 31st, I’m going to Bluezone in Munich. This will be more than my first time at Bluezone. It will be my first denim trade show of any kind. I’m going because I want to broaden my denim horizons.
While researching for a forthcoming menswear book from gestalten, I had to take a wider perspective of fashion. It made me realize how deep down the rabbit hole I’d fallen. Bluezone is how I stay in the wider niche of denim but leave my bubble.
Founded in 2003, Bluezone was the first denim-dedicated trade show of its kind. It is a showcase for groundbreaking innovations and the resulting denims that will be the backbone of future collections from denim-focused labels and heritage brands. Mingling in the crowd of around 20,000 visitors and exhibitors are denim artisans, manufacturers, buyers for small and large brands, and, of course, denim journalists and influencers.
The theme of this year’s Bluezone is Campus, with emphasis both on the open and engaged intellectual and innovative climate of the campus and on varsity looks. For the latter, SAAT and Evlox have collaborated with Robin Meijerink and Koen Kuik to create a special line of Campus apparel that, in tones of blue and yellow, broadcasts Bluezone’s support for the millions of Ukrainians displaced by the war. Half of the proceeds from the apparel sales will be donated to Fair for Ukraine.
The Big Sustainability Splash
For the August 2022 show, Bluezone has partnered with Transformers Foundation, an organization that serves as a central point of contact for brands and consumers who want to either know more about sustainable and ethical manufacturing or to take steps to align their processes with best practices. Through education and collaboration, they’re raising awareness and nudging manufacturers towards sustainable change.
Transformers Foundation, founded by Andrew Olah, who is also the founder of the Kingpins shows, will be leading talks on both days of Bluezone, with the first day focused on decarbonizing the denim industry. The second day will focus on recent innovations and the people behind them.
These talks promise to be driven by concrete data. More than any other organization, Transformers are clearing away some of the misinformation and disinformation surrounding sustainability and shining a light on widespread “greenwashing” in the garment industry.
Last year, they released a report on sustainability misinformation. Denim journalists (I’m not excluding myself here) and brands have been guilty of trafficking in questionable claims about denim’s environmental impact. At the same time, brands have exaggerated their environmental bona fides in a practice known as “greenwashing.” Transformers provides clear answers to important questions, and, as denim journalists, we are in their debt.
The Transformers report cleared the air and opened my eyes. It is required reading for all those who want to speak honestly about the industry and its impacts. During their talk, look for me in the front row.
Who is Exhibiting at Bluezone?
Headquartered in Lenzing, Austria, The Lenzing Group is the company behind TENCEL, a type of rayon made from eucalyptus fibres. The fabric, touted as the most environmentally friendly substitute for cotton denim, has been featured in Endrime’s forward-looking collections, including their zero-waste concept they recently developed in partnership with Cone.
Lenzing have introduced an unprecedented level of transparency to their production, using fully traceable fibres that can be traced back to their point of origin. They’ve also, with the help of renewable energy sources and offsets that neutralize unavoidable carbon emissions, they’ve managed to produce a certified carbon-zero denim that may one day be the backbone of true carbon-zero jeans.
Berto Industria Tessile
The Italian textile manufacturer got their start making sails for Venetian vessels in 1887. With more than a century of focus on rugged and durable fabrics for workwear applications and, more recently, a move into more supple and luxurious fabrics for shirting, they run the textile gamut.
Deeply respectful of heritage and tradition, Berto Industria Tessile were winners of the Fabric of the Year at the Global Denim Awards in 2015, and they are regular challengers for some of the most innovative fabrics to emerge from Italy. I’ll be keen to give their certified organic denims dyed with natural indigo a close inspection.
The innovative Turkish mill recently produced a traceable denim collection in collaboration with Kings of Indigo. Each garment has a unique fingerprint that can be scanned for in-depth information on the various steps that went into producing the fabric, giving the consumer a closer look at some of the industry’s leading energy and water usage reduction strategies at work.
Calik also host one of our favourite denim blogs, featuring content from Wouter of Long John, Robin of Realign, and Samuel Trotman of Denim Dudes. I am a regular contributor as well, and, though Calik doesn’t yet produce selvedge denim, they’ve consistently demonstrated that they’re denimheads through and through.
Another mill that has helped put Turkish denim on the map, Isko produces a wide range of textiles, including beautiful selvedge denims that you may already have in your closet. They produce sustainable denims for brands like Diesel, &Sons, and Nudie, and they’re one of the industry leaders when it comes to producing stunning fabrics from waste material (either their own or others’).
Isko has recently launched Isko Luxury by PG, a high-profile collaboration between Isko and Italian designer Paolo Gnutti. Their premium, luxury denims (in seven moods) promise to be one of the fabric highlights of the show.
Based in Switzerland, Bluesign was founded in 2000 and their stated goal is to “change the standard mentality within the industry.” They do this by empowering brands to monitor the supply chain minutiae, giving them a detailed and accurate overview of their global environmental and social impacts related to water consumption, energy usage, greenhouse gas emissions, and waste production.
They scrutinize third-party suppliers and monitor the kinds of chemicals used during production, and they help brands understand how they are trending in terms of their footprint and sustainability. At last count, Bluesign has 728 partners, including household names like Adidas, North Face, YKK, and Patagonia, and the number is still growing.
With what might be the oldest manufacturer at Bluezone, the company that is now called Evlox opened its first textile plant in Spain more than 150 years ago, in 1846. With indigo-dyed fabrics at the center of their production from the beginning, they began focusing all of their efforts on denim in the 1970s, with a growing emphasis on high-quality denims.
Exclusively for Bluezone, Evlox has teamed up with SAAT, a Munich-based design studio, and with influencers Robin Meijerink and Koen Kuik to release Benefit Campus 22, an exclusive athletic apparel collection that utilizes the colours of the Ukrainian flag. Half of the proceeds will be donated to Fair for Ukraine, which is providing much-needed support services for those affected by the war in Ukraine.
Founded in Los Angeles by Turkish entrepreneur Fuat Gözaçan, Wiser Wash have found a way to produce washed and distressed denim with dramatically less energy consumption, zero toxic chemicals, and substantial reductions in water waste. The result is identical, but they tread lightly each step along the way.
They’ve managed to eliminate both sodium hypochlorite and pumice stone, producing deep contrasts and fully washed-out fades without any corrosive chemicals and less than a cup of water per garment. This represents a massive leap forward for the most environmentally fraught segment of the manufacturing process. While we’ll continue to fade our jeans ourselves, this is the next best thing.
Pakistan’s first vertically integrated denim facility, Crescent Bahuman are the makers of what they say is the “world’s strongest denim.” Utilizing Dyneema, which is made from Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene, Crescent’s ultra-tough denim has found eager adopters in the motorcycle and extreme sports worlds.
More recently, they’ve introduced Blue Infinity, an indigo-less dyeing method that uses dramatically less water and dye than conventional denim production. This could be a big leap forward for sustainable and environmentally friendly denim production, and I’ll definitely want to inspect the colour up close.
Born in the ‘80s just outside Verona, the Italian denim specialists have emphasized responsible innovation in the realms of denim dyeing, treatment, and personalization. With the aid of ice-blasting and ozone, they’ve been able to make garments responsibly and safeguard the health of their employees.
Elleti has a world-class exhibition of historical denim garments ranging from 1850 up to the present day and one of the world’s best denim archives from which they drew these pieces. Even if they only bring a handful of pieces to Bluezone, their exhibit will be worth the price of admission.
Helmed by Siegfried Gonser, the German textile powerhouse recognizes the needs of the moment by orienting their manufacturing around ecologically sound and human health-focused practices. Gonser started in 1938 as a laundry, and their washing expertise led them into the denim industry in the second half of the century, when brands started looking for expert washers who could reliably produce faded and distressed denims.
In recent years, they have evolved into wider-ranging textile specialists, with cutting, sewing, printing, dyeing, and finishing departments. In previous years, they’ve brought some beautiful denim paintings to Bluezone. Fingers crossed that they’ll be bringing them back this year.
Meet Us in Munich
Every season, Bluezone draws some of the biggest names in the denim community, who gather in Munich to discuss trends and look towards the future, and we’re looking forward to rubbing elbows with them in the midst of one of Europe’s denim capitals.
If we get time either between interviews, chats, and presentations, we’ll be heading to some of Munich’s denim hubs, chief among them Statement, one of the best raw denim shops in the world.
We’ll be popping our heads in to get some of their made-to-fade jackets and shirts recommendations for the Year Two of the Redline Rally, which starts in January, and we’re excited to see what they’ve got in store for fall and winter.
It promises to be an incredible couple of days in one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. We hope we’ll see you there.
Supported by Munich Fabric Start’s Bluezone
This blog post is sponsored by Bluezone; Munich Fabric Start’s independent trade show for the denim and sportswear community.
The family-run Munich Fabric Start was established in 1996. Twice yearly, it attracts 20,000 fashion professionals to Munich. Bluezone was launched as the first denim-dedicated show in 2003. Today, it hosts more than 100 carefully curated exhibitors.
The show caters to all your sourcing needs: well-established ‘all-star’ mills; ‘catalyzers’ that create future trends in denim; and how new technologies and laundry solutions can make denim more sustainable.
Disclaimer: Denimhunters was invited to Munich Fabric Start by the organisers. However, none of the individuals or companies mentioned in this blog post are affiliates.