Adriano Goldschmied, founder and creative director of GoldSign

Adriano Goldschmied, founder and creative director of GoldSign

Adriano Goldschmied, Diesel's co-founder, is working to promote a new stretch fabric he hopes will turn around the fortunes of the $50bn denim industry.

Made from blending indigo, nylon and polyester, 'active denim' is already wooing orders from large players including G-Star and Diesel, Goldschmied told just-style on the fringes of the International Apparel Federation's 30th annual convention in Medellin, Colombia.

He claimed the cloth will "revolutionise" sales across the category, which has suffered from slumping jeanswear sales as women increasingly favour more comfortable clothing such as leggings and yoga-wear.

"This has the performance of an activewear fabric, stretching as much as 80% in a diagonal way. It provides a completely new level of comfort," said Goldschmied, adding that active denim can be used to make leggings and other best-selling active apparel.

Underscoring the fabric's potential, Goldschmied told the conference's 300 delegates: "Gap's president recently asked 'is Activewear the new Denim?'...This shows things are moving in a new direction."

Lifting sales
Goldschmied's firm Goldsign is working to sell his fabric to premium manufacturers before offering it to mass-market brands. He said the fabric could help boost global denim sales by 5% to 10% a year. While he could not provide sales figures, he said the $50bn denim industry is struggling, noting that innovation to enhance jeans' comfort level has become pivotal for brands to win new customers.

Goldschmied's comments followed a conference presentation called "Transforming the denim business," in which he chronicled a series of milestones that helped him turn jeans into a staple of Hollywood celebrity wardrobes before gaining wider popularity and spawning top brands like Levis, G-Star and of course, Diesel.  

Often called the 'Godfather of denim,' Goldschmied is credited for turning jeans - which originated as work-wear - into fashionable garments.

Speaking about Diesel, Goldschmied said he sold his 70% stake to co-founder Renzo Rosso in 1986 for just $1m.

"Back then, Diesel was not worth what it is now," Goldschmied told just-style, adding the sale was not entirely amicable though he and Rosso remain good friends. Rosso is now worth an estimated $3bn after developing Diesel into a highly successful global lifestyle brand.

Like other apparel segments, innovation has become a by-word in the denim industry where brands big and small are rushing to find ways to seduce fickle consumers, said Mariette Hoitink, chairwoman of Amsterdam-based industry promotion group House of Denim.

She added that Levi Strauss is leading the way with new women's sizes and fitting varieties in combination with a waterless washing project. She also highlighted G-Star's ocean-PET plastic "bionic yarn" collection, curated by singer Pharrell Williams, as another recent example of innovation.

Hoitink said a rush to develop new and more fashionable finishes, such as those including leather and shiny finishes, are also helping some brands beat the blues.

In a bid to develop the industry, the House of Denim is expanding its Jean School educational programme, which Hoitink said is the only one in the world and plans to launch other schools around the world.