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Designers Demonstrate Cotton's Fashionable Aspects
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Most people are aware that cotton is the most widely used natural textile fiber and is widely considered environmentally friendly. But cotton seldom conjures images of stylishness and fashion.

However, the award-winning designs of the 2007 design competition by China's Next Generation of Designers demonstrate cotton's fashionable aspects.

Xiao Fangqi's Cloud collection and Wang Fei's Dance in Nature line present frilly, pastel and lightweight denim dresses. And the Silence collection designed by Wang Jing is colorful, feminine and stylish.

"Wearing these clothes makes a woman feel good about herself and good about the planet," says Wu Jianchao, a student from Beijing Institute of Clothing Technology, whose collection Style took home awards. "Before working on the collection for the competition, I did not realize that we can do so many things with cotton, which usually makes us think of jeans, underwear or towels."

Organized by Cotton Incorporated, the research and marketing company funded by US growers of upland cotton and importers of cotton and cotton textile products, the competition held in China for its second year is the main event of its Cotton-Beyond Your Imagination campaign.

Six student designers from the Beijing Institute of Clothing Technology won the awards, and each was given 15,000 yuan (US$1,948). Cotton Incorporated would help them produce the dresses and present them at the catwalk shows in Shanghai, Qingdao, Dalian and Beijing in August.

"It's a challenge to design using only one specific fabric," says Wang Jiarong, director of Account Management of Cotton Incorporated Shanghai Office. "All of the applicants did a good job and fully display their imagination using cotton.

"The competition not only improved designers' awareness of cotton but also raised the customers' awareness of its fashion respects.

"When we did a catwalk show in Shanghai last year, many ordinary viewers came to ask questions about cotton and said the fabric's potential was far beyond their imagination."

He pointed out that shirts provide a great example of cotton's potential. According to him, long gone are the days of shapeless oxford shirts with starched collars and pastel colors. Shirting today has reached new levels of sophistication with expert tailoring and couture-like details that were once reserved for those only in the "made-to-measure" club.

"Both men and women have an extensive variety of shirting to choose from as the temperatures rise and sweaters are put into storage," Wang says. "Women have a plethora of blouses to select from, including Swiss-dot retro styles and voile tunics. Men can opt for basic cotton oxfords that are form fitting and epaulet adorned shirts in a rainbow of colors and prints."

As Cotton Incorporated trend analyst Linda DeFranco explains, "Cotton shirting is essential to every wardrobe in the warmer months. It's a way to add formality and structure to an otherwise casual fashion season. Additionally, this season, shirting silhouettes and embellishments are transforming basic shirts into statement pieces."

The challenge then becomes making cotton more fashionable while keeping it comfortable. This requires cutting-edge technologies.

In this case, innovation drives the market. New ideas, new technologies, and new ways of making the established and familiar more attractive and desirable make those products viable.

At the ceremony for the 10th anniversary of Cotton Incorporated's entry into China staged in Beijing recently, president and CEO of Cotton Incorporated J. Berrye Worsham introduced a series of new technologies, including storm denim technology, wicking windows finish, endure technology and the engineered fiber selection system (EFS).

The newly introduced storm denim technology provides water-repellency, protection from coldness and dampness, and, above all, breathability. It's a garment-form application that merges fashion with function in ways not seen before.

Wicking windows, a new moisture management finishing technology, adds another dimension to the usefulness of 100 percent cotton.

Endure is a finish that significantly increases product durability and lifespan. The unique textile application provides an improved level of wrinkle resistance, and helps sheets maintain their original color longer and shrink less than sheets without the endure technology. All of these desirable benefits are achieved without sacrificing any of the softness, easy care or comfort associated with cotton sheeting.

Three manufacturers and five mills in China have adopted Cotton Incorporated's engineered fiber selection system. Employed by nearly 70 leading mills worldwide, the EFS system is a suite of computer software programs that helps manage high-volume instrument fiber data to produce consistently high-quality cotton yarns.

"Chinese mills are one of the major customers for US cotton," Worsham tells China Daily. "Providing these customers with a means of optimizing the quality and consistency of that fiber helps their business and that of the American cotton growers."

The first Chinese mill to install the EFS system was Hong Kong-based Central Textiles, which adopted the software suite in the fall of 2005. In April 2006, representatives of Lanyan Group Ltd attended Cotton Incorporated's EFS Conference in Shanghai. There, they saw first-hand the ease-of-use and practical business benefits of the software suite. Lanyan, which operates three mills near Jinan, Shandong Province, installed the EFS system in one of its mills in November 2006 and has now adopted it in all three of its facilities.

Vice-chairman of Lanyan Jiang Ming reports that the EFS system assists his company in lowering costs and improving the quality of their products, improving their position in what has become a very competitive marketplace.

(China Daily June 22, 2007)

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