Amsterdam has staked its claim to be the jeanswear capital of Europe with a citywide initiative for the denim sector.
Along with Sweden, the Netherlands has long been seen as a vibrant and innovative market for jeanswear. It’s no surprise that G-Star, Denham, Hilfiger Denim and ethical pioneer Kuyichi are all based in Amsterdam.
Trading on this tradition, on May 7-8 new denim fabric fair Kingpins made its debut in the Dutch capital alongside a citywide initiative called Amsterdam Denim Days. This involved a separate denim show called Blueprint, full of inspiring vintage stalls, seminars with industry leaders including the legendary Adriano Goldschmied, and denim brand concepts. It was hosted by the House of Denim, a newly launched innovation centre in Amsterdam that will combine a jeans school, denim archive and sustainable laundry laboratory. Founder James Veenhoff is also setting up a jeanswear insiders’ meeting place called the Indigo Embassy, due to open by December.
Housed in Westergasfabriek, a former gasworks that is now an events space, Kingpins is the brainchild of Andrew Olah. Having worked in textile development since 1976, from 2004 he has run Kingpins shows in the US and Hong Kong. For his first European event, he handpicked 40 exhibitors encompassing fabric mills, denim laundries and denim service businesses. Visitors could attend seminars featuring denim leaders including Denham founder Jason Denham and trend forecasting service WGSN.
Olah’s plan is to create a forum in which retailers, buyers, brands and designers can be inspired, build personal relationships and take away strategies that can help them differentiate their own collections.
The Dutch initiative was welcomed by British jeanswear specialists, who are also being courted by Denim by Première Vision, the French fabric show’s specialist offshoot, which takes place in Barcelona on May 21-22.
Of Kingpins, Matt Brown, men’s denim designer from River Island, said: “This really is a denim event,” while his colleague, men’s denim buyer Tom Thurlow, added: “It’s a place to be inspired and build relationships.”
Trendwise, the two-day Dutch initiative underlined that technical fabric innovation and craftsmanship are the major concerns in jeanswear product development. No consumer “needs” a new pair of jeans, so it is critical for any denim business to deliver fabric innovation that exceeds customer expectation in order to give them a new reason to buy. Denim is enjoying a revival and buyers are reporting buoyant sales, with consumers purchasing from brands and retailers that offer superior fit and quality.
Goldschmied told a Blueprint seminar: “Consumers are requiring functionality in denim that they have not asked for before in terms of comfort. Brands need to pay attention, as do buyers to deliver it.” Denham highlighted the importance of fabric innovation for men’s as well as women’s jeans: “I never thought I would see the day when guys with beards and tattoos were coming into our stores asking for super-soft, comfortable, skin-tight jeans.”
In the other strong trend, elements of craftsmanship are being used to build the brand experience and a compelling product offer.
Exhibitors illustrated some of the ways craftsmanship can be used to build collections: Crafted fits Stretch innovation from expert denim mills means brands can deliver sculpted fits like never before. Investing in these high-performance fabrics helps deliver a quality guarantee to customers that can improve brand loyalty.
Personalisation Whether at product development stage or in store, using techniques such as lasering, 3D texturing, foiling or customisation is critical to developing a unique point of view.
Denim details Customers value extra details in denim. Whether in pocket lining, stitch colours or construction ideas that are unique to a brand, creating distinctive details gives customers an extra gift.
Using crafted in a modern way Building in traditional craftsmanship features, which might originate from Japanese workwear or American mend-and-repair techniques, offers a way for modern denim collections to create distinctive brand stories. Alex Jaspers, global brand manager for Scotch & Soda, summed up the approach: “We aim to deliver a jean that is as beautiful on the inside as it is outside.”
The next Kingpins event in Amsterdam will be on October 28-29, and expect to see an even stronger turnout from the denim community there. With Kingpins and Amsterdam Denim Days, you get a lot of jeanswear inspiration as a return on your investment.
- Sara Simmonds is a fashion consultant. www.sarasimmonds.com