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I n n ovat i o n in denim



Innovati on in d e n im

by fa bi a n a g iacomot ti p r o m ot e d BY I SKO tm / A rchrom a

Innovation in denim

Text, research, interviews, Fabiana Giacomotti Contributing writer, Claudia Proietti

Art work, illustrations, graphic design, Gianluca Rondoni Layout, Lisa Tagliaferri English translation, Linda Makins / on behalf of Cetra Congressi Cesena - Italy Printing, La Greca s.a.s., ForlĂŹ - Italy

Publisher, Menabò Group s.r.l. - Project conceived by Marco Lucietti with the invaluable support of Albert Llort

ISBN 9788890953002


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CONTE NTS Preface by Elio Fiorucci

p. 9 Part TWO

Part ONE Maria Erixon Levin - A woman on a mission

p. 12

How jeans are made: from raw cotton to the catwalk

p. 138

François Girbaud - The jeans heretic

p. 20

Green issues and innovative technologies on the cotton plantation

p. 140

Adriano Goldschmied - The irrepressible inventor

p. 28

Spinning, dyeing, weaving and finishing

p. 142

Yuji Honzawa, Dr Denim - Tradition unbound

p. 36

Innovation in denim weaving, technical and creative revolutions

p. 150

Peter Kim, Ben Taverniti - Cool attitude

p. 42

Transformation - from fabric to jeans

p. 154

Fatih Konukoglu - A deep feel for denim

p. 48

The rise of man-made fibres

p. 158

Claudio Marcolli - A touch of sparkle

p. 58

Washing and finishing techniques. The final links in the jeans chain p. 166

Luigi Martelli - The gentleman of denim

p. 66

Denim couture

p. 176

José Manuel Martinez Gutierrez - The spirit of a brand

p. 74

Scott Morrison - Couture allure

p. 80

Afterword. Denim and fashion, the perfect marriage

p. 189

Andrea Panconesi - The Brand believer

p. 90

Renzo Rosso - The snake charmer

p. 98

Author’s acknowledgments

p. 195

Ermanno Scervino - Pure seduction

p. 106

Special thanks to

p. 197

David Trerotola - Stretching to the future

p. 112

Further reading

p. 199

Vivienne Westwood - Fashion philology

p. 120

Thomas Winkler - The colour magician

p. 128



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Our world would not be the same without Bluemasters. Their intuition, energy and genius are the driving forces for research and growth in this branch of fashion that we love so dearly and are so grateful to be involved in. It would undoubtedly have been lovely to gather together each and every Bluemaster in a single publication, thus providing a delightful opportunity to discover them all in one special place, in one volume. However, a work on such an encyclopaedic scale proved impossible, but it has not blunted our enthusiasm to encounter at least some of them, presenting them in alphabetical order, each in his or her inimitable way a true master of denim. We would therefore like to thank all those who have worked so hard to bring this book to print. Our thanks go to companies Isko-Sanko Tekstil and Archroma, the first to support the project, to author Fabiana Giacomotti for putting it into such eloquent words, and to Menabò for publishing this love song to denim. Marco Lucietti, Marketing Director, Isko Albert Llort, Marketing Manager Special Dyes, Archroma



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pre face The more I work with them, and it’s been a good few years now, the more convinced I am that jeans possess magical powers. They are the only item of clothing that you can wear hiking in the mountains, on the beach and on an evening out and always feel at your ease. Jeans never disappoint you, their fabric is a friend who never tells you off, who lets you express yourself freely, lets you be yourself. It is the only natural double-faced fabric, white and blue, the only one that lightens and brightens as it ages, without fading to a dingy shade like the others. It is the only one that goes with all the others, with any colour. This is its strength, and it’s clear for all to see. People are much more sensitive than you would think, they now react much more strongly to issues like being green and, in the case of jeans, organic cotton and treatments that pose no health risks. Today there is a deep longing to recover a lost harmony and balance, and that’s the inspiration for my new venture Love Therapy, born of that need to give and receive joy, even when shopping, interacting with people rather than just objects. I’ve always believed that any trade or enterprise, even the most down-to-earth ones, must have ethical values at their core, thus creating an ethical way of doing business. Buying jeans cheers you up. I’ve got umpteen pairs, but I always enjoy buying new ones. Denim can be processed and treated in infinite ways, some of them truly amazing. I think the Japanese make the loveliest denim, with the selvedge still visible, woven on those tiny seventy-centimetre looms they imported after the war from the US, where they had been scrapped. Jeans have a wealth of fascinating stories to tell, tales of manual labour, social upheaval, creativity, style and fashion. However, fashion has not yet convincingly conquered that territory that is denim, I feel it has got it wrong. Denim is a fabric of the very highest quality, both simple and luxurious at the same time, that could easily be made into superb, lightweight, deconstructed, unlined jackets. Yet all those fashionistas who like to imagine

themselves liberated from every imaginable taboo, still succumb to that tired old convention that jeans are right for any occasion, provided denim is kept well away from those garments that symbolise status and power. Take men’s jackets for example. Denim is OK as the bottom half, but on top it shrieks working class. No one has ever seen a CEO in a blue denim jacket, at least not in this backwater of the universe. A denim jacket is working class par excellence. Fashion is a funny old world, it works to a very powerful unconscious logic. Yet, as over the years we have managed to give women jeans designed and cut especially for them, we can also bring this last barrier crashing down. Denim lends itself to revolution, indeed it is an icon of rebellion. It was there when the West was won, during the gold rush and it marched in protest over the Vietnam war. Then there was the women’s movement, when denim-clad women embarked on their mission to liberate their own body, itself the miraculous cladding for so many feelings, so much intelligence and courage, a great deal of courage indeed. Jeans played a crucial role in the history of feminism just as they marked a landmark in my own career. I created the very first jeans for women in the 1970s with the help of Mario Morelli, the great pattern-maker for Valentino, and the legendary Venucia De Russi, Italy’s most famous pattern-maker, now the benchmark for all denim manufacturers, including overseas. Now a pair of jeans like those is a classic, but then they were laden with social significance. It was much more difficult to show the body in those days, the only one who really broke the mould in what I would define as liberating the legs, was Mary Quant. Jeans for women, that made them look sexy in a very natural, unforced way, placing the female body centre stage, but not in a tasteless way, was the second step. And the secret was? Technically it was simply bringing the crotch slightly forward. As ever, the revolution was in the idea. Elio Fiorucci 9



François Girbaud (photo courtesy of Marithé + François Girbaud)


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François Girbaud the j e ans heret ic François Girbaud, styles himself a heretic and a rebel, like the Cathars, who

laser cutting a tweed motif into denim. Girbaud is no newcomer to religious

were exterminated in the 13th Century at Mazamet, in the Département of

overtones. In 2005 he was hauled into court by the French bishops over his

Tarn, where he was born. He is a man with a particularly biting wit.

advert, seen on thousands of posters and flyers, picturing a reinterpretation

“Well then, aren’t we here yet again to talk about all those distressed jeans for

of Da Vinci’s Last Supper in which the apostles were represented as women

rich Russian oligarchs? We need to look to the future, and the future is eco-

in jeans, while the Lord (also a woman) was displayed in an inscrutable pose.

friendly washing. Saving energy, electricity and the ozone layer. This is what

He held firm and won the case on appeal, and he has gone on to produce

I’m working towards. Do you know Jeanologia?”. This is the Spanish finishing

high-impact campaigns, not necessarily crusades, but bearing in mind that

company that has been the benchmark for the world of denim ever since,

denim has been imbued with religious symbolism ever since the 1970s when

some seasons ago, they launched G2, the sustainable washing process that

Emanuele Pirella and Oliviero Toscani intoned “he who loves me follows me”

reduces water use by up to 60%, courtesy of a system that transforms air into

for their Jesus Jeans advert. Undoubtedly denim arouses a certain religious

a mix of active oxygen that they call, with a certain panache, plasma. Once

fervour and Girbaud is no exception to this rule. “The energy of the light cuts

it has been used to accelerate the aging process, this plasma is turned back

the fabric, transforms it and makes it possible to create an infinity of effects,

into purified air that is then released into the atmosphere. The Jeanologia

from hound’s tooth check to Prince of Wales plaid, even though of course its

slogan, “Water is over. Air is the future”, is indeed pretty convincing. Working

main purpose is to save water” he relates. “At last this process can provide an

with Jeanologia, Girbaud patented WattWash in 2010, a process that produ-

answer to the growing awareness of the denim industry’s excessive con-

ces a 97.5% water saving, in practice, 5 litres of water against the average of

sumption of water over the decades”. The fact that Girbaud himself has been

150, using light in the form of the laser. He is so proud of this that he circu-

one of the principal water guzzlers, drying up the oceans like there’s no to-

lated a video-clip online that, in a portentous, quasi-biblical voice deplores

morrow, is something he has been keen to remedy for over a decade, declaring

the progressive desertification of the planet then goes on to introduce this

that he intends to do this, whatever the cost. As you can see, Girbaud is not

miraculous process, as the image of the moving sea dissolves into shots of a

just any old jeans entrepreneur, concerned with the aesthetics of the product, 21

its creativity and its saleability, end of message, Rather his jeans have to be invented, transformed into something so different from anything previously seen and coveted that you are instantly convinced of the error of your ways and all you can do is follow him wherever he leads. After all, if he has managed to crowd the world’s greatest style gurus into a few square metres among the fruit and veg stalls of Les Halles in Paris, he must have something going for him, and that something is his visionary gift. If Goldschmied is the Colbert of denim, diplomatic, jovial and shrewd enough to surround himself with only the best, Girbaud is the Danton, ever ready to demolish all your certainties with one Gallic shrug of the shoulders, granting a fleeting glimpse of a totally new experience for which only he has the key and the formula and that he will only unveil to you if you prove worthy of his trust. The Danton of jeans was born right after the war in Mazamet, in the heart of Languedoc, to a family of weavers, but right from early childhood he yearned for the US, for the epic battles of cowboys and Indians (“I only leaned later on what it was really like”), and for the American Dream in general. He met Marithé Bachellerie, the daughter of a champion cyclist from Lyon, in Saint Tropez, in 1967, when both were barely out of their teens. He intended to sell cowboy boots, she preferred ponchos with their trademark fringe. He was enthralled by the jeans-clad Elvis Presley and his inimitable hip wiggling, she by Brigitte 22

Marithé and François Girbaud, founders of the brand of the same name (photo courtesy of Marithé + François Girbaud)


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Bardot’s fringe, who she vaguely resembles, dreaming of one day making it

jeans en masse, the ideal fashion statement that doesn’t restrict movement on

big in the theatre. As well as a life-time partnership, theirs would be a winning

the dance floor. They really arrived when film star Jennifer Beals wore them

union of two different world visions. In short, they became the stars of the

in the smash hit of its day, Flash Dance, and Girbaud sportswear took up

Cote d’Azur for their very own idols, including Vince Taylor who would stroll

residence on Park Avenue and Rodeo Drive. Meanwhile, the sites occupied

around the Place des Lices late in the evening with the Girbauds and Johnny

by the Girbaud duo’s various businesses had become a magnet for denim

Halliday, who would select the best items from their boutique to enhance his

designers and also for communications. In the 1970s the banner “Drôles de

image as France’s hottest sex symbol. The Girbaud couple really hit the

choses pour drôles de gens” hoisted up among the meat and vegetable who-

heights during the Flower-Power era and then with the advent of Punk, cul-

lesalers of Rue de Turbigo, beckoned all the showbiz idols of the time.

tivating in their Paris boutique a taste for washed-out, worn and faded jeans

In 1985, the new showcase in Rue Etienne Marcel was transformed into a

transformed with revolutionary new processes, water and stones “a-go-go”,

video installation at a time when the art world was yet to give this art form its

“movement is the first sign of life, even before it shows itself ”. Their resoun-

blessing. In the first decade of this century, Girbaud’s conversion to the green

ding success was dubbed “un tabac” by the French. In 1977, Marithé&François

cause, followed immediately by the rest of the world, for the reasons already

Girbaud, by now a famous brand - the plus sign between the two names was

stated, was trumpeted by the coming of Patrick Blanc’s four-storey Vertical

added in 1995, thus reinforcing the couple concept - launched their baggy

Garden designed for the boutique in Rue Etienne Marcel. If the five great

jeans. They caused a revolution, above all in the market that François Gir-

époques in the history of European (and therefore global) denim fashion were

baud then idolised and still does, the US. A cut that had never been seen

the Wild West in the 60s, stonewash in the70s, the sportswear revolution and

before, these jeans were the perfect answer for rappers and break-dancers in

the launch of stretch in the 80s, the birth of city-sport style in the 90s and the

the nascent hip-hop scene, in search of a style identity. These were the street

return of elegance in the 2000s accompanied by the green movement, there

culture years and yet again Girbaud found himself, as he is fond of repeating,

can be no doubt that brand Marithé+François Girbaud has been across them

“in the right place, at the right time”. The dance scene took to these baggy

all. Now François is devoting himself to saving the planet and in addition to 23


The wattwash laser technology treatment burns out the indigo dye from the denim fabric (photo courtesy of MarithÊ + François Girbaud)


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These photos show the effect of the laser technology wattwash treatment on denim. Currently used to create a distressed look, research is also being done on using it on sections of fabric to reproduce geometric shapes and other images, or striped, hound’s tooth check and tartan patterns (photos courtesy of Marithé + François Girbaud)



“The Other Denim. We need to strip jeans of the attitudes that constrain them”, an exhibition dedicated to the design careers of Marithé and François Girbaud, and held at the Stazione Leopolda in Florence, to coincide with the Pitti Immagine Uomo fashion event, June-July 2005 (photo by Jacques Gavard, courtesy of Marithé + François Girbaud)


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his mission to safeguard its water resources, he is reflecting deeply on the use of natural as opposed to man-made fibres, modal for example. “People may well think the cotton they’re wearing is a totally natural fibre, but in reality, the farming and garment manufacturing techniques used are anything but eco-friendly or ethical. We simply can’t go on as we did twenty or thirty years ago”, he observes. As ever, the question posed is whether the prevailing interests of the industry, linked to demand, are too powerful to be opposed in order to instigate the fair trade principles Girbaud is talking about, or if unified action on the part of farmers, manufacturers and distributors can lead to real and effective of awareness these issues among end-users. In reality, as Girbaud says, it looks like this is already happening, “the new generations have clearly taken this on board”, for obvious reasons since they are the ones most involved in the future of the planet. Many of the more forward-looking producers are now sensitive to the need to safeguard the planet and some governments are taking action on this front. Despite the cost of ethical products, there are many good intentions. While waiting for eco-friendly manufacturing processes to come within the reach of everyone and, above all, to become common cultural capital, Girbaud continues his experiments, also amusing himself by laying siege to some very well-known places. For example in 2010, this maestro, whose canvas is denim, took over Maurice Canessop’s gallery, to sponsor the Paris exhibition of the works of an anonymous 17th Century painter from Lombardy, discovered a few yeas ago, portraying characters and scenes from the life of the common people in which a dark blue fabric with an unmistakeable white weft featured large: a mother with a smock in this dark blue material, a little beggar with a military-style jacket, remarkably reminiscent of the jacket worn by Jennifer Beals. Clearly this is “Tela di Genova” (Genoa Blue - blue jeans fabric), and the figures in the pictures are undeniable proof that denim was in vogue, at least among the less wealthy classes, well before its elevation to iconic status in the Wild West and its starring role on the silver screen. “The discovery of these paintings has also challenged many of our preconceptions”, remarks Girbaud, “and given substance to many of our legends”, he observes with a touch of irony. “Between the story of Nîmes and of Gênes, over the years we creative types have made it a big part of our own narrative, and that’s for sure!” Les trois grâces, spring/summer 2010 (photo courtesy of Marithé + François Girbaud)



Adriano Goldschmied, the “Godfather of Denim” (photo courtesy of Adriano Goldschmied)


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Adriano Goldschmied the i rrepressible invento r In the Western world there are three types of “grand old man”, and in

having taken a long look at the back view”, laughing heartily as he says it.

fashion being “grand” means making it past what was once known as

In the world of denim, Adriano Goldschmied is dubbed either “the

middle age. There are those who sport jeans with turn-ups and who are

Goldfinger of denim” or just “the Godfather of denim”, and perhaps

labelled ridiculous, those who squeeze themselves into low-slung, low-

the latter is the most apt. As his forty years in the denim business demon-

crotch models and are just pitied as muttons dressed as lamb, and then

strate, Goldschmied is a benevolent godfather-like figure who is always

there are those who cut a dash in those timeless jeans that display all the

ready to support anyone with talent and energy on a par with his own.

ups and downs of a life packed with incident. These are the grand old

Goldschmied, who hails from Trieste, does not mince his words and

men who seize the attention of the young as style icons and who, wherever

exudes the same energy as the Bora, the winter wind that sweeps the

they may be, are greeted with a hushed chorus of “really cool”. Adriano

Adriatic coast. He was Renzo Rosso’s mentor, taking him on as a part-

Goldschmied is precisely this type of jeans-wearer, the kind of man who

ner at Diesel, later helping launch Replay, Evisu and Rivet on the road

receives calls from likes of Sharon Stone, if only just to tell him that she is

to success. In 1980, he formed “The Genius Group”, a think-tank of

camped by the washing machine containing the new jeans she has worn

the most artistic and influential minds in the fashion industry, including

non-stop for days, just waiting for them to finish drying so she can climb

Katharine Hamnett, Betsey Johnson, David Mantey and Paul Harvey,

straight back into them. “In the denim business, fit is now everything

among others. They were leaders of street style and created their own

and modal is the fabric that shapes itself to the figure to perfection” he

mythology as the knights of the round table of casual wear. No stone

says with a wink. Anyone who thinks that only women care about the

was left unturned in the quest for innovation - new ideas, new washing,

way denim can shape the body, is mistaken. “Gender is completely irre-

dyeing, colour-fixing and finishing techniques were put to the test in a

levant when it comes to sex-appeal. It counts for nothing, indeed men

vision of a world that, despite appearances, is in a constant state of evo-

are the vainest. Just try sneaking into a changing room, or wait outside,

lution and regeneration. Just as Gertrude Stein said of the rose, in the

count the time spent and you’ll see who comes out last, naturally after

same way: “Jeans are jeans are jeans are jeans”. 29


The creative hothouse of Adriano Goldschmied. After writing the book on Italian jeans, Adriano Goldschmied has been living and working in California since 2000 (photos by Peggy Wong, courtesy of Adriano Goldschmied)


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The first of Goldschmied’s roses was his famous King’s Jeans line, with

forty years on, Goldschmied has become so much part of the West Coast

its extravagant flares and body-hugging fit, symbolic of that pioneering

denim scene that he now lives and works in Los Angeles, and has not lost

era when the clamour was for more versatility in fashion, where style

one iota of the spirit that gave birth to King’s Jeans. As tireless as ever, he

could be understood as a concept rather than a clearly defined set of

has conceived and launched an astonishing number of highly successful

rules. It was 1969 and jeans, the quintessential casual garment, were fast

brands, not always on his own, crossing new frontiers in communica-

becoming a fashion statement to be flaunted with style. Goldschmied,

tions, but always with that scrubby beard that makes him resemble a mi-

young and energetic, opened the King Shop in 1970 where he sold his

nor prophet with a twinkle in his eye. In 1993 he began manufacturing

King’s Jeans in Cortina d’Ampezzo, a jet-set ski resort that was the ide-

his signature line, “A Gold E”, in Los Angeles. His subsequent venture,

al launch-pad for the latest trends. After five short years he developed

AG Adriano Goldschmied, founded in Italy in 1996 and relocated to Los

the first spin-off with the brand Daily Blue, and later Goldie, the first

Angeles in 2000, won Sportswear International’s Best Women’s Jeans

offering from the Genius Group think-tank which now included Rosso.

award for 2002 through 2004. Goldschmied went on to create the luxu-

(As a kid I was an avid collector of their famous stickers). All the while

ry denim label GOLDSIGN in 2005, elevating premium denim to new

Goldschmied was roaming the world, and observing the gilded youth

heights before merging the brand with Citizens of Humanity in 2008

of California steeping their jeans in bleach to transform them into one-

where he serves as Executive Vice-President of Product Development.

offs. This fired his imagination and, working with Lavanderia Martelli in

Goldsign is well-known as the brand that Pippa Middleton chooses for

Vedelago, he began the experiments that were to change his life forever

her famous posterior and for which Sharon Stone twiddled her thumbs

and bring about that denim revolution that is stonewashing. Legend has

next to the washer/dryer for a whole afternoon waiting for her favourite

it that his first attempt, using white pebbles from the River Piave, tore

pair to come out clean. His latest venture is in modal, and if you are not

the washing machine apart - a story familiar to anyone over thirty, and

yet convinced of the eco-friendly credentials of this fibre, which is used

a tale that younger minds in the fashion industry are delighted by. Now,

in the “organic” denim that is now packing our department stores and



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One stage in the laser treatment (photo by Peggy Wong, courtesy of Adriano Goldschmied)




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Stone washing (photo by Peggy Wong, courtesy of Adriano Goldschmied)


boutiques and being advertised on giant billboards, Goldschmied will

manufacturers are experimenting with new cuts, finishes and fits”, he

soon convert you. He explains, “We all know only too well what a small

reveals. Needless to say, like the technical teams and R&D departments

percentage of organic cotton is actually used compared to the amount

of Europe’s most iconic brands he too is hard at work with these fibres.

officially sold, for reasons of cost. All the fine words on this score are lar-

Furthermore, he is also researching new washing and finishing techni-

gely a matter of politics and image. What’s more we are all accustomed

ques that are genuinely low-impact, that pollute less and are less water

to garments with the right fit and such performance factors as feel, soft-

and energy-hungry, in other words, eco-friendly. Naturally recycled cot-

ness and wearability, which cotton alone cannot deliver. While the future

ton plays a large role in these experiments as this material has caught

of denim is undoubtedly eco-friendly fabrics, it is not necessarily organic

the public’s imagination, although it is not the easiest to use nor the

cotton. The real future lies in cellulose fibres originating from wood”.

most cost effective. As Goldschmied adds with a wry smile, “Everyone

By this Goldschmied is referring to rayon, modal, promodal, tencel and

wants to buy organic but they’re not always ready to pay the price”. He

cupro, some of which are not exactly new, but actually hark back to

is also working on a special polyester made from plastic bottles. “OK,

the 1930s and are subsequently etched on the collective memory (at le-

granted, this demands an enormous commitment, but this is the life I’ve

ast in Italy) where they were heralded as miraculous inventions when

chosen and I still love it to pieces”. His challenge is now to find new and

produced by the company Snia Viscosa, and thus home-grown to boot.

more effective ways of managing the transition away from traditional

It is fascinating to see such relics make a come-back in the third mil-

fibres. This is a personal challenge since, right from the outset, he gra-

lennium, in the age of all things digital and apparently undreamt of

sped the subtle difference between jeans as a passing fashion and jeans

innovation. These fibres are now the object of much research and deve-

as a timeless style statement. This is the only explanation for the fact

lopment and, as Goldschmied predicts, when they are mixed with cotton

that denim from the great fashion houses is in fierce competition for

the next generation of jeans will make its appearance. “All the fashion

brand leadership and buyer-appeal with the specialist brands in who-

multinationals are working on modal and tencel, and all the major

se factories they are often produced. Goldschmied responded to this



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with GoldSign, where he developed jeans whose fit is both new and old and that are perfect for teaming with shirts, jackets and designer accessories. Now he says, “We will have to work even harder on the vintage concept, but using our old models solely as a source of inspiration. A perfect replica of a vintage pair of jeans is no longer cool. The new vintage is cool”. He explains this seemingly contradictory perspective by saying, “Just as you have to experiment with different techniques, you have to use two-way logic when working on style, not looking merely at the past but keeping it in mind when exploring a future that, if it has no roots, no memory or history, cannot possibly come to pass”. He sees history in terms of syncretism, a philosophy with echoes of Henri Bergson, but, in Goldschmied’s mind weight is given to the fruit of experience rather than to a new concept. His mantra and his trademark the aphorisms work with his peaked cap, soft shirt and seriously lived-in jeans to tell a story of unknown limits, in his words, “You never know you have constructed something until after you have done it”. This is not to say that boundaries should not be imposed but rather that “you never know what they are until you have overcome them”. This doesn’t mean to literally taking a walk on the wild side, but rather think the wildest thoughts. Which is a sure sign of cool. The actress Sharon Stone in Goldsign (photo Gotcha Images/Splash News/Corbis images)



Fatih Konukoglu, CEO of Isko - Sanko Tekstil (photo courtesy of Isko - Sanko Tekstil)


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Fatih Konukoglu A d e e p feel for denim Fatih Konukoglu, CEO of Isko, is one of those people who can answer

home and his team as a sort of extended family. Aside from their num-

your questions for hours on end, smiling all the time. When the inter-

bers and their individual role, he states quite freely that he divides his

view is over however, as you go through your notes, you realise that you

time among them as best as he can. When asked how he spends his free

were the one being interviewed. His style is that of the most astute poli-

time, although he is known to be a keen technology fan, he replies that

ticians and old-school entrepreneurs, in which they are accumulating as

“I spend every minute of my time off with my wife and three children”,

much information as they are providing. They never interrupt the inter-

never forgetting of course, that the company is also part of the family.

viewer’s train of thought, rather they keep it going and direct it with

Isko, one of the world’s leading denim manufacturers, is part of Sanko

some pointed, meaningful observations, followed by a statement whose

Holding, a highly diversified giant with a turnover of about 4 billion

logic is based on all they apparently hold dear, lulling the interviewer

USD and 14,000 employees, operating in the fields of textiles, energy,

into believing that he or she has got some kind of scoop and can now

construction, heavy machinery, packaging and education. As the pri-

relax, accepting that second cup of coffee while such wily interviewees

mogenitor of the whole empire, the textile business is well protected and

make polite small-talk about the weather and the latest must-see exhibi-

supported and has the most care lavished on it. It all started in 1904

tions, before taking their leave with the warmest of hand-shakes. Entre-

with one single wooden loom in Gaziantep. These days 1,400 high-tech

preneurs like Fatih listen far more than they talk, they observe rather

looms are hard at work and the production facility in Inegol is big enou-

than merely look. In this interview, the dialogue was on an equal foo-

gh to be seen from the sky. This mill has the capacity for turning out

ting, being based on a long-standing acquaintance and the memory of

some 250 million metres of fabric a year and new techniques are trialed

an epic event on the Bosphorus in which the local women threw down a

every day, courtesy of the fifty scientists and engineers in constant con-

gauntlet in the form of traditional dance, faced with which the Europe-

tact with the two specialist centres in Italy, ISKOteca in San Bene-

ans did their best to hold their own. Just like many Southern European

detto del Tronto, run by Moreno De Angelis, the showrooms that house

men, Konukoglu considers his business to be an extension of his own

all 25,000 of the firm’s concepts, and the Creative Room in Castelfranco 49


Weaving machine, Isko Division in Inegol/Bursa, Turkey (photo courtesy of Isko - Sanko Tekstil)


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Rope-dyeing machine, Isko Division in Inegol/Bursa, Turkey (photos courtesy of Isko - Sanko Tekstil)


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Veneto, run by Umberto Brocchetto and Massimo Munari, the design studio. Even before graduating in Textile Engineering from Bolton University in the UK, Fatih Konukoglu, the third generation of the family, discovered he had a real penchant for denim, that versatile fabric that never ceases to evolve. While he has a certain interest in the other family businesses, including serving on the board of the holding company, he immediately latched onto the denim business as the perfect conduit for all his energy, imagination and creativity and which he found by far the most stimulating. Today he still claims he is capable of recognizing a fabric from the Isko mills, just by observing the passers-by on the streets of major world capitals, amused at the interviewer’s amazement that someone, anyone, could be capable of identifying one among all the thousands of different fabrics. He says he still buys jeans for himself whenever he finds an interesting fit, cut or colouring. Konukoglu has never been a low-flyer, he is averse to step-by-step strategies and half-measures, always targeting excellence, aiming to make Isko an “ingredient brand” with all the dignity and standing of a brand of its own, a “component” whose status is on a par with the products and lines his fabrics make possible. Today he is convinced that “the premium denim market can only grow at the same rate as the global demand for quality”. According to 53


Feed zone, Isko Division in Inegol/Bursa, Turkey (photo courtesy of Isko - Sanko Tekstil)


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Konukoglu, who oversees over 35 Isko presences worldwide, with a heavy concentration in Italy, Japan and Los Angeles, the three “homelands” of jeans creativity, this demand will grow everywhere and, naturally, also in China and therefore, “there is an ever more pressing need to invest in technology, research and development.” This philosophy is borne out by what is a relatively small investment for him, compared to the tens of millions of euro invested overall in development. To be honest, the factor that most strikes you when you try to explain what Isko is to those who still view Turkey as a nation less sensitive to ecological issues than the rest of Europe, is that the Konukoglu family is extremely conscious of about the environment and even more so of the people in it. Yet almost no fabric manufacturers in the world have managed to achieve a 10% recycling figure and almost no-one else is capable of cutting CO2 emissions by 60% in the finishing processes, as Isko has done. These results, delivered by a project that goes by the evocative yet playful name of, “Earth Fit”, represent a sizeable investment, both in terms of setting-up and maintenance. “Our plan for reducing water use in the fabric dyeing process is at an advanced stage, our goal being to minimise environmental impact. In such a competitive global market it becomes ever more urgent to invest in products and technology, in ethical 55


Photo courtesy of Isko - Sanko Tekstil


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employment and human capital. Do you know what our motto is? As my

With Jeggings, Jogg and RECALL (in shape), three terms that have en-

father always said, “The trick of the trade is honesty”, and that doesn’t

tered the global lexicon, Isko deserves a mention among the various in-

mean not being ready to seize every business opportunity, but to do so

ternational academies and institutes devoted to the study of languages

with respect for people and also, in our case, for the environment”. It is

and their evolution. He undoubtedly has some highly creative linguistic

no surprise therefore that, given that the future, or rather the current

talents at his beck and call, even if quoting is inventions makes Konuko-

key to success on a global scale is networking, teams, networks and con-

glu burst out laughing. The new frontier, as he emphasises, is yet again

nections between people and groups, it is Isko customers who provide a

quintessentially technical, using relatively old fibres like Tencel and,

great deal of support, backing and partnering for Isko. After Isko

above all Modal, mixed with cotton and reprocessed using highly spe-

FUTURE FACE, a woven fabric that resembles a circular knit that is

cialised, state-of-the-art techniques. A shining example is the high-per-

light, wearable and has good shaping properties and that Aeronautica

formance PJ Soft that guarantees a very sexy, in-your-face glam-rock

Militare was among the first to use for a total look collection, came Isko

look, ideal for those brands of denim in the vanguard of high fashion.

REFORM that uses a stretch technique that transforms the silhouette

A different chapter in the story, one more closely linked to the eco-su-

with a super-slim look that enhances feminine curves and that was im-

stainability commitment, is the “Once Upon a Future” project, a special

mediately snapped up for the collections of such brands as Fornarina.

selvedge fabric developed in partnership with Haikure, the Umbria-ba-

Dondup, which even staged a special event, was among the first to use

sed sustainable denim company whose USP is the QR code attached to

the Isko fabric using the RECALL (in shape) technology, whose fibres,

every garment, enabling all its processing and packaging stages to be

as the name implies, retain a “memory” of the original shape and do not

tracked. The new collection uses fabrics recovered from product waste

deform. Diesel created a special one-garment line, Jogg Jeans “ jeaneti-

without losing one iota of fit and appeal. New is not always best, as

cally modified denim”, using the trademarked FUTURE FACE fabric

Konukoglu points out. You can still be new when you look to the past.

to combine the performance of jeans with the comfort of a tracksuit.

You may even find a better “new”. 57



Jean Paul Gaultier, Haute Couture, spring/summer 2010, Paris Fashion Week (photo by Stephane Cardinale/People Avenue/Corbis)


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How jeans are made: from raw cotton to the catwalk A stirring tale of cowboys and working-class heroes in the embryonic so-

and music business. This is an odyssey in which, now more than ever,

ciety that would become the United States of America, but whose true

evolutions in style go hand in hand with new technologies, the latest ingre-

historical roots lie in the second half of the 16th Century, linked to the

dient in the mix being “the green thing�, a perfect fit with the pioneering

centuries-old tradition of cotton weaving. A shared iconography featuring

origins of this fabric, making the denim sector one of the most innovative

teenage rebels in ripped jeans and workers in blue overalls. A plebeian

in the whole of the fashion and textile industries.

fabric with the temerity to gate-crash the world of high fashion, initially

Jeans therefore, represent a synthesis of the countless innovations introdu-

prĂŞt-a-porter, eventually scaling the heights of haute couture. A fabric

ced into every link in the supply chain, from cotton growing and weaving

that, until the late 70s, had seemed light years away from acceptance by

to cutting and finishing. This vibrant sector is peopled by Bluemasters

a fashion industry bound, at the time, by a terrifyingly rigid set of rules.

who, within in their chosen fields, throw themselves body and soul into

Jeans have never looked back, ever since the appearance on the scene of

achieving their common goal for jeans, ensuring that legendary item of

the first mass-producers of denim clothing, in the mid-19th Century, led

clothing stays ever more relevant and alive.

by Levi Strauss in 1853, whose brand held on to the monopoly almost until the turn of the century. Most of the new breed of jeans manufactures joined the fray in the final three decades of the 20th Century, enjoying booming markets and weathering the storms of major crises, only a few going under, others managing to evolve and reinvent themselves, altering the very geography of the sector. It seems as if jeans have always had a place in the wardrobes, first of the young and then of every generation, sparking off new trends and new moods, breaking free from their historical roots, nailing their colours to the twin masts of the film 139

Green issues and innovative technologies on the cotton plantation From the pesticides used in the cotton fields to the water and energy needed

twenty-five years ago and are now abided by in most of the world’s nations,

for traditional washing techniques and disposal of the waste water from in-

following on from the many years during which the US was the prime mover

dustrial laundries, the need to be eco-friendly is one of the most pressing is-

in the rigour of their procedures, benchmarking their best raw materials for

sues for the entire denim industry. While added value accrues from the gre-

over half a century with the registered trademark Cotton USA, attached to

en credentials claimed for denim garments, sadly these are often anything

garments made from at least 50% cotton of US origin, its export and use

but green. “As in every other sector, to be eco-friendly, the entire supply

overseas being promoted by the Cotton Council International. The US have

chain must be so.� Whenever he speaks, Marco Lucietti, Marketing Director

also led the way in cotton quality control, thanks to the advanced technology

of Isko, is keen to emphasise the need for a sustainable approach that takes in

employed for harvesting and processing, in order to avoid contamination from

every stage in the process in order to be able to claim real added value from en-

other fibres. US cotton is grown in a vast zone known as the Cotton Belt,

vironmental protection. Starting from cotton growing that can only be label-

covering seventeen states and producing two qualities: Upland, that accounts

led organic if it obeys a set of rules and parameters for its cultivation methods,

for the vast majority, some 97%, of the total production and Pima for the

for the plantation and the conditions for the people who work on it. Right

remaining 3%, a cotton with extra-long fibres mainly grown in Arizona, Te-

from the sowing stage, true organic cotton requires a rotation of semi-natural

xas and New Mexico and whose superior quality is guaranteed by the checks

and artificial insecticides and additives that will eventually replace chemical

and inspections carried out at every stage by the Supima Association. One of

products, often calling on Mother Nature herself by encouraging insects that

the main defining features of cotton quality, regardless of whether or not it

are beneficial for cotton and for its cultivation. The prohibition on the use of

is organic, is the length of its fibres, 34-36mm for good quality cotton, whose

harmful products extends to the areas adjacent to the cotton fields, which can-

fineness and strength depend mainly on the fineness and maturity of the fibre.

not border on crops using traditional cultivation methods. A time-scale is also

Apart from the US areas already mentioned, the most highly prized cotton

set because, in order to be certified organic (3), a cotton crop must be free of

is grown in a belt just above the equator comprising Mali, Benin and Cen-

chemical treatments for at least four years. These rules were introduced some

tral Africa, in parts of Syria and Turkey and in Egypt, which produces Giza



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cotton from “The City of the Gods�, highly prized for its extremely fine grammage and extra-long fibres, woven into fabrics that are both remarkably fine and strong. China produces Xinjiang cotton, named after the region of the same name, which has very long, strong fibres, destined almost exclusively for internal consumption, in addition to the vast quantities of cotton imported to meet the needs of the huge national market. Good quality cotton is produced in Paraguay, in Brazil, which has an ultra-modern cotton industry developed over the last twenty years, and in some small areas in Pakistan. Finally, there is the particularly well-known, top quality cotton grown in the West Indies with, at 39mm, the longest, strongest fibres in the world, harvested painstakingly by hand so as not to damage those fibres. When making a denim fabric, the preference tends to be for a mix of different quality cottons, usually originating from three or four different places, rarely only one, in order to obtain the most uniform features that can be recreated with ease.

3 – The GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) is the most authoritative international standard for the certification of organic fabrics which can only be obtained if every production stage, from cultivation to processing and including labelling, is compliant. Among other things, the GOTS standards states that, in order to be called organic, a fabric must contain at least 95% organic fibres, and no genetically modified fibres are permitted. Photo courtesy of Isko - Sanko Tekstil



These pages show some spinning processes. Spinning involves twisting a bundle of fibres to compact them into a continuous thread (photos courtesy of Isko - Sanko Tekstil)


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Spinning, dyeing, weaving and finishing Spinning The quality of the cotton, something that does not necessarily depend on whether or not it is organic, is also a vital factor in the spinning process, when the textile fibres are transformed into the yarn that will subsequently be woven. In the specific case of cotton which is a discontinuous natural fibre, before spinning can take place, a number of operations must be performed to clean the clumps of cotton of any vegetable resides remaining after the bols have been harvested and to make the fibres run parallel to form continuous threads. Spinning involves twisting a bundle of fibres to compact them into a continuous thread. Spinning can be performed on open-end machines, a more economical process yielding a lower quality result, in which the fibres are twisted by a centrifugal action generated by a rotor. Alternatively, the ring spinning method can be used, producing stronger, more compact yarn, in which the fibres are twisted by winding them around a rotating spindle. The spun yarn is given a name, or “count�, expressed as the weight to length ratio, which depends on the quantity of fibres used, their specific properties and the torsion to which they have been subjected.


Dyeing Classic denim fabric consists of a warp, dyed indigo, and a colourless weft. Indigo was originally a vegetable dye, but today it is a synthetic product. Indigo dye is able to cling to the outside of the cotton yarn while leaving the inside white. This property is the basis for all the localised fading effects the washing process produces on the finished garment. Provided they maintain the concept of colouring only the warp, other types of dyes can be used, for example sulphur-based colorants, or the new formulas developed by Archroma which has recently been challenging for the leadership of the sector by acquiring the textile division (Textile Specialties, Paper Solutions and Emulsion Products businesses) of Clariant. Weaving The process that actually produces the fabric is weaving. This is one of the most ancient operations performed by humankind and although, over the course of the centuries, it has undergone some alterations and improvements, these have never amounted to radical transformation. While technological progress has rendered looms ever more state-of-the-art and efficient, their basic components have remained unchanged, as have the various stages in the weaving process. The structural elements of a loom are, as they have always been, the beams around which the warp yard is wound and then passed through the eyelet of the heddles in a set order, the shuttle that moves the weft and the reed that holds the combs that batten down the weft on the woven fabric. The weaving operations are also quite simple, the alternate up and down movement of the heddles spreads out the warp yarn, making room for the shuttle. Once the shuttle has passed through, the combs compress the weft yarn and the heddles reverse their position after which the combs returns to their departure point and the process begins again. Of the four types of loom in common use in the textile industry: the classic shuttle, the projectile, the rapier and the air jet loom, the projectile loom is the most widely used for weaving denim. In this type of loom, a projectile fitted with grippers hooks onto the weft and is then launched into the inner part of the shed space by guide teeth that keep it on the correct trajectory. It is then slowed down in order to 144

The raw yarn enters the indigo bath and comes out coloured. At first it looks green then, following oxidation it becomes blue (photo courtesy of Isko - Sanko Tekstil)


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Weaving is the process that actually produces the fabric. This is one of the most ancient operations performed by humankind (photo courtesy of Isko - Sanko Tekstil)



In-line quality control, under the looms (photo courtesy of Isko - Sanko Tekstil)


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leave the weft, after which it is carried under the shed space by a chain, from where it starts all over again. This type of loom can achieve 400 movements a minute, producing two lengths of fabric at the same time. In classic denim, the warp to weft ratio is mainly 3:1, so that, when the fabric is viewed vertically, you can see one weft point and then three weft yarns covered by warp. The much-loved look typical of indigo jeans is therefore created by the warp and the infinite variations that can be obtained within the shades of indigo and by the subsequent abrasive processes the jeans are subjected to in the laundry to eliminate the indigo dye from the outermost surface of the warp, until the core, the colourless central part of the yarn, is revealed. Finishing Once it has been woven, classic denim is ready for one more process before cutting. This is finishing a treatment whose main aim is to give the fabric dimensional stability.

In classic denim, the warp to weft ratio is mainly 3:1, so that, when the fabric is viewed vertically, you can see one weft point and then three weft yarns covered by warp (photo courtesy of Isko - Sanko Tekstil)


Profile for ISKO


The story of both the past and, above all, the future of denim, through the innovations and the voices of those who "do" denim.


The story of both the past and, above all, the future of denim, through the innovations and the voices of those who "do" denim.

Profile for isko