Denim fabric today must have characteristics for performance, sustainability or novelty to grab the attention of buyers and consumer, said exhibitors at BPD Expo, held this week in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood.

Eddy Liang, an executive at China’s Deyao Textile, showed denim made with Repreve recycled polyester, which he said was based more on the mill than demands from customers for great sustainability.

“We want to be socially responsible, but I’m not sure the retailer really cares about it,” Liang said. “Using recycled polyester is important to us and the environment, and we hope the message will get across. European buyers are actually more receptive.”

Overall, Liang said price remains important, but there is more interest in novelty fabrics and styles that doesn’t always hinge on cost.

At Japan’s Kurabo Textile presented by Artisan Cloth, non-denim fabrics in a jeans fit and novelty denims in a Heritage collection all followed the beyond basics motif.

Kim Walsh of Artisan Cloth Inc. said corduroy is poised to “make a comeback” for Fall 2018 and Kurabo, which manufactures in Japan, China and Taiwan, is producing fabric with a cotton and Tencel or modal blend, as well as herringbone and canvas cloth with bi-stretch.

In the Heritage group, denim with a Seventies’ wash effect using selvage fabric is key, along with a pre-spun soft yarn blend called Sweet Spin, a group of colored indigos and a selection of performance denims using Lycra Beauty.

For Mount Vernon Mills in Trion, Ga., it’s all about “differentiating from Asian competitors,” said Dale McCollum, vice president of merchandising for denim fabrics.

For example, Mount Vernon went deep into its archives and is rolling out a group of vintage printed denims. In addition, a new selection of quilted denims have been developed, along with two-sided fabrics with a soft cotton underside for tops and bottoms.

McCollum and M. David Mitchell, director of business development for denim and piece-dyed fabrics, explained the array of denim Mount Vernon makes to set itself apart and appeal to buyers, which they said is especially important as a U.S.-based manufacturer.

This includes a variety of blends, such as cotton with Lycra or Tencel, a range of spinning techniques and several finishes, such as moisture wicking, water repellency and anti-microbial.

“Everybody is looking for plus add-ons to attract millennials,” McCollum added. “You have to give performance features, as well.”

Denim North America was showing off its collaboration with sustainable polyester producer Poole Company called EcoSure BioBlast.

Lisa Harris, creative director at Denim North America, based in Columbus, Ga., touted the denim’s sustainability quality, noting that EcoSure BioBlast fiber will help deal with the problems of used clothing filing up landfills.

The denim incorporates Poole’s biodegradable fiber made from 100% post-consumer recycled water bottles, noted company executive Bill Coffey.

The collection also uses ozone treatments instead of traditional dyeing to save water.