Blue Horizon: Kingpins’ Futurist Looks Ahead

Miguel Sanchez

Miguel Sanchez has been watching the industry evolve over the course of his three-decade career in denim. Sanchez is a textile engineer and the founder of consultancy Gavilan AD. He is also part of the team looking for sustainable products as part of Kingpins’ Most Sustainable Products (MSP) initiative.  

Sanchez outlined some of the possibilities on the horizon for the denim industry in a presentation titled “Denim in the 23rd Century” at Kingpins Transformers in New York last year. 

Among the developments in work that could change how the textile and apparel industries is done:

Nano robots. 

Robots so tiny that they are not visible to the naked eye, these nano robots attach to the fiber and can change shape to alter the look or performance of the fabric. Plus, Sanchez said, these robots can be recycled. 

Shape-memory materials. 

“People are now accustomed to denim that adapts to the shape of the body,” Sanchez said. But elastomeric fibers are not very sustainable. Imagine instead an alloy-based monofilament fiber that can adapt to a change in temperature or a new activity. It’s still in the experimental stage, Sanchez said, but shape-memory materials could transform our definition of “performance” apparel. 

Coloring crystals and electromagnetic fields. 

Researchers are looking at creating pigments that can change colors when exposed to certain wavelengths of light and retain that color even when the light source is removed. Consumers could, in theory, continually change the color or pattern on their garments.  

Compostable-only materials

There are also efforts to make the manufacturing process faster and more efficient, such as AI-driven automation, ultra-fast digital printing and full customization. 

But a fast and efficient supply chain could lead to oversupply. No one wants to live in a future littered with the remains of our overconsumption. So some researchers are looking at truly compostable materials.

“Denim is not only blue jeans,” Sanchez said. “If you start with fibers, everything is connected. To make it compatible for future, everything is interconnected.”

Sanchez’s presentation inspired us to ask members of the denim and apparel community about their vision for the future last fall before the Kingpins shows in Amsterdam and New York. Many said they envisioned a future that is clean, safe and equitable. You can read their predictions in the slideshow below.


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