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Denim by PV Part II: Artistic Mills, YKK, and Cone Mills

Founding editor Nick Coe and I recently attended the international textile tradeshow Denim by Premiere Vision in Barcelona, Spain. The show brought together a hundred different exhibitors from twenty different countries to show everything the world’s denim community.

Today we’d like to give you a look at three more of our favorite exhibitors: one old, one familiar, and one very exciting newcomer.

Cone Mills

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Our last exhibitor needs little introduction. Cone Denim Mills and their iconic White Oak plant are America’s last producers of selvedge denim fabric. Spanning three centuries of weaving, they’ve become a force in the recent raw denim renaissance as the first stop for small American denim brands.

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Cone’s style has never been about producing exotic fabrics with an abundance of nep, slub, or weight. They’re more interested in creating high-quality, uniformly woven denim that will stand the test of time. Doesn’t get much more American than that.

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A vintage chambray shirt from Cone’s “Found Collection

Here’s a sample of Cone’s ubiquitous 13oz raw selvedge fabric, the popular standby for new and old American brands alike.

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The White Oak folks also had one new selvedge offering to show. This lightweight dark weft charcoal fabric appeared to have been spared singeing so it still had a soft and hairy hand to it.

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Cone’s mainline on the other hand, appears to be shifting towards more innovative fabrics both in function and composition. These two jeans are made of recycled plastics in the weft, Cone’s nicknamed them Ketchup and Mustard for short.

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And they’ve also stepped into technical fabrics with this water-resistant coated denim.

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YKK Europe

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Hardware doesn’t get enough love, but it’s one of the most important and often defining parts our jeans. One of the most ubiquitous and highest quality hardware and accessories makers is the Japanese company YKK (checkout our history of the zipper for more info).

They’re so ingrained into the world garment industry that I doubt you could find anyone in the free world that doesn’t have at least one YKK zip, button, or rivet in their closet. Their Euro division was out in force showing off their latest pieces for the denim industry.

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YKK’s big button board.

If you can dream it, YKK can make it into a button. They had a nearly overwhelming amount of variety of styles, materials, and finishes that a brand can customize to their heart’s content.

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Throughout their 80 years as a company, YKK acquired many of the original hardware producers from the early twentieth century and preserved their molds, casts, and presses. This way, they can easily recreate period-specific buttons and rivets exactly like they were made years ago.

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A “Super Payday” brand button cast from 1939.

Artistic Fabric Mills

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Pakistan isn’t the first country that comes to mind when you think of high-quality artisanal fabrics, but that’s going to change soon. One of the most exciting meetings we had at the entire show was with Henry Wong of Artistic Fabric Mills, a new weaving operation located in Pakistan’s historic Indus Valley.

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Henry is one of the most knowledgable denimheads we’ve ever had the pleasure of speaking with. He’s been active on Superfuture since the earliest days of the forum and soon turned his passion into his career when he became the Product Development Manager at Cone Mills.

So when we heard Henry had teamed up with Artistic in Pakistan, we had to find out what he was up to.

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We’re all familiar with the traditional methods of indigo rope-dyeing, hank-dyeing, and the like, but what they’re doing at Artistic is entirely different. Henry and his team are resurrecting a 4,000 year-old Indus Valley method of indigo piece-dyeing and applying it to their denim fabric.

The results are garments with a kind of electric depth and saturation of color like we’ve never seen before. Artistic hopes to define a new domain of Pakistani heritage textiles founded on these ancient techniques.

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And they’re not limiting themselves to just denim either. One of our favorite takeaways from the show was this hand-dyed bandana. It may appear grey, but an up close look reveals indigo warp yarns running counter to weft yarns dyed yellow with pomegranate skins.

This level of detail and intention on their products has us really looking forward to what Artistic has planned next.

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Stay tuned for our Denim by PV wrap-up post!