With all the talk of athleisure styles dominating casual apparel and stretch dominating the denim market, it would seem that knit denim would only be getting more and more popular. Yet, the attitudes at Kingpins New York (Nov.3-4) were mixed. Though most vendors were showing some knit denims, approaches to the category ranged widely, and so did the responses vendors were receiving from customers.

Robert Deakin, sales director at Deyao Textile, said that knit denim is a stable category for the China-based mill, and it has been receiving repeat orders. Deakin said the fabric is not a seasonal trend like jacquard or patterned denim. There are, however, issues of recovery and shrinkage with knits, and while the company continues to work on perfecting its knit denim, Deyao sells it with no minimums or surcharges.

Another issue Deyao is facing is competition from other brands. Looking around the show floor, Deakin pointed out that the sheer number of mills presents difficult competition. He said that it is easier for the mill to sell established products, and it can be hard to convince customers to try new developments. “Really we don’t sell fabrics, we support people who sell garments,” Deakin said.

Competition is further complicated by a patent Isko has been enforcing on Future Face, their woven denim with a knitted look, said Deakin. Viresh Verma, vice president marketing at Arvind Denim Lab, agreed and said that the Isko patent is keeping large corporations from shopping for knit denim because they are afraid of litigation.

Invista is working on improving and innovating around knit denim. Jean Hegedus, global segment director of denim and wovens at Invista, said that their new Lycra Hybrid fabric embodies the best qualities of knits and wovens with a circular knit that looks like a woven. The fabric is low-growth and has 360 degree stretch.

Some other companies have experienced success with knit denim abroad, but are having difficulty replicating that success in the United States. Kilim Denim is trying to make its way into the American market, said Olgun Oral, a sales and marketing representative for the company. Kilim has a woven knit collection called Weekenders, the versatility of which Oral demonstrated with a display of pants, skirts and shirts. This denim has been very popular in European and Turkish markets.

Fábio Covolan, a representative at Canatiba, said that they don’t hear a lot about knit denim in the American market anymore. They do, however, have a 30-piece line of woven denim with a knit-like structure that does well in Brazil.

Rather than entering the knit denim market, Atlantic Mills is making high-density sateens that look like a knit. “We don’t believe in knit denim so much,” said Amrin Sachathep, the mill’s director. He said that the recovery is not good, and customers prefer denim they can wear in themselves. Though Atlantic Mills don’t make any knit pants, it is, however, working on some knit indigo tops that they will introduce at Denim Premiere Vision.

Atlantic Mills sateen

Sateen denim from Atlantic Mills