In the current textile/apparel global landscape, partnerships are often the key to success for U.S. companies. A prime example is a recent three-way partnership between VF Corp., Cotton Incorporated and Mount Vernon Mills that has spawned a new denim product enjoying considerable success.
Indeed, VF's Wrangler brand's Riggs Workwear line, finished with durashield, a new abrasion-resistant finish designed for bottom weight cotton fabrics, has been selling well in stores across the United States since it debuted late last year. Riggs Workwear jeans are available at a diverse mix of retailers including JCPenney, Cabela's, Bass Pro Shops and Tractor Supply, and the line includes four jeans styles.
The story goes like this. Having identified the need, through consumer research, for more durable and comfortable jeans, Wrangler approached the Cotton Incorporated textile research department to inquire about coming up with an improved denim that offered such properties, says Jeff Isom, merchandise manager for Wrangler outdoor apparel.
Meanwhile, following months of experimentation and testing by now retired textile researcher John Turner and later by Ken Greeson, manager of textile chemistry research, Cotton Incorporated developed the durashield finish it. In addition to adding strength, it also imparts color retention to fabric, and provides a permanent softness and an improved surface appearance, says Greeson.
Bringing in the third party of the soon-to-be partnership, VF convened a meeting with Greenville, SC-based Mount Vernon Mills, its primary denim supplier, and testing with durashield followed.
"Once we tried it on the fabric and got the results, VF loved it," said Dale McCollum, Mount Vernon's vice president of merchandising for denim fabrics. He notes that the big volume to date has been in indigo, but that durashield also has been used on black fabrics, and works equally well on colors.
"It makes garments look good throughout the expected life of the garment," he says. "Even after 30 to 50 launderings, we see improvement in tear strength. It also provides a soft hand."
For Mount Vernon, the largest U.S. denim manufacturer, durashield is now a niche product at its huge Trion, GA-based mill, which weaves 1.5 million yards of denim per week. Approximately 100,000 yards per quarter get the durashield finish. Application of the finish, which uses a common textile softener, did not require the company to purchase any additional equipment, McCollum notes.
Denim may be just the first of many fabrics to benefit from the durability offered by durashield. In fact, the product will soon move beyond denim into a piece-dyed fabric that will be on the market next year, Isom says.
Applications for other types of apparel are likely as well, says Greeson. "[Durashield] will work on cotton khakis, which are mostly non-wrinkle resistant finished. With [a] wrinkle-resistance finish, you can have more degradation of fabric. We're trying to improve those types of finishes."