Fashion Culture | 21st-Century Denim

Fashion Culture | 21st-Century Denim


21st century denim that is organized in conjunction
with our exhibition Denim fashions frontier that has been curated by my
colleague Emma McClendon who is here on stage and who will introduce the panel
Thank You Tanya firstly thank you to all of you for coming out tonight for our 21st
century denim panel as Tanya mentioned my name is Emma McClendon and I’m the
curator of our denim exhibition just across the way which I encourage you to
see if you haven’t already and of course thank you to my panelists Jeff silberman
Kara Nicholas and Andrew olah for joining me on stage tonight what we’re going to
be discussing is the current state of the denim industry and where we’re going
as we move further into the 21st century to get us started off I’d like to have
each of our panelists introduce themselves give you guys a bit of
background on themselves and particularly how long they’ve been
working in the industry so I’ll turn it over to you Andrew I’m Andrew Olah and I
started a business part-time in 1973 in full-time in 1977 and focused my
whole life basically since 1980 on indigo and denim fabrics development in
sales marketing and trade shows hi I’m Kara Nicholas and I work for cone denim
I am in charge of proc development marketing and I also do the museum and
archive for our company and I’ve been working for cone denim for 17 years in
june this year so good evening my name is jeff silberman I’m the chairperson of
the textile development and marketing department here at the Fashion Institute
of Technology and in addition the executive director of the international
forum for cotton promotion and I have been at FIT full-time since about 2001 and with the international forum for comp promotion since about 2003 so Jeff as part of his program here at FIT runs a capstone
course that deals entirely with the development of a denim line it’s fully
immersive for the students and actually all three of our panelists here
participate in this program so Jeff brought with him a
wonderful video that about this capstone course that I think will give a really
great launch pad for our discussion tonight it’s pretty short it’s about 10
minutes and I’ll show it in just a moment you’ll see pretty quickly from
the video that it was produced for promotional purposes for the course but
it has a really great overview through out of many of the different aspects of
the denim industry we’re going to discuss today which i think is going to
be particularly helpful for those of you in the audience that maybe don’t have
any experience with the denim industry before tonight or beyond the exhibition the students this year created five
collections of jeans one knit which is the first for us and four woven products
they did an amazing job this is really all about experiential education and if
I had to describe this group in one word I would say they were effective and
they’ve created for themselves not just the product but also the process so they’d
become very valuable to an employer I enjoyed working with this group
immensely this project is about students working together with industry
professionals different advisory and board members to understand how the
industry works and to go through all the processes from sourcing yarn to labels
to Google web sites and they’re going to touch every element of what it takes to
make a brand and I think that’s what makes this course well worth
providing communication is a big part of this project it’s how well the students
work together to resolve their differences as in real life you don’t
always get what you want and therefore you have to learn how to compromise you have
to learn how to sell your ideas how to get the rest of the team to see what you
see and it’s all in trying to get the fit the design and the details of the
garment to represent exactly what they’re trying to market I’m trying to
teach these guys wet processing design some garment costing the love of indigo
why we bleed blue and perspective definitely perspective towards what it
takes to be really good at a job and even more than that in denim and what
this project does is it exposes the students to every single piece of the
process we are ARZENA and we are professional eco-friendly sophisticated
high quality reliable beautiful we’ll take out the stress and bring in the
zen we are ARZENA TDM students graduate with a
breadth of experience that is rare and so helpful out in the industry where you
have so much energy being put into developing the latest in technology for
fibers and fabric constructions then on the other side I think there’s a real
need to take that to the retail and brand and consumer level and provides
them with the tremendous experience mined denim was born by looking at denim a
different way our jeans were created from a lack in the market of raw
selvedge jeans for women our jeans transition from day to night week to
week year to year mind your denim I am impressed with the students year after
year branding this year is not about a mark or a logo it’s about communication
a conversation people don’t buy what you do but then they buy why you doing so
it’s really important for us to teach the students that they need to talk
about why why are you making this product really understanding what their
audience is passionate about will be integral in them tailoring the right
message to them you’re not talking at your consumer you’re interacting with your
consumer so part of this presentation we make is we’re giving them all the
different tool to market their brand but to be able to curate content that’s
relevant to their audience innovation is a is a huge part of
what’s going on tags and logos today as a way to have two-way communications
with their customers yeah the students are really interested in adding a 2d
barcode polish would go to like the website they would create learn how to
track your jeans after you buy them I’ve been really impressed with these
students I was really impressed by how organized they’ve been how responsive
they’ve been in setting this up and and they just have such brilliant ideas on
how to effectuate their design we are drifters denim a drifter is a person who
is constantly moving from one place to the next a drifter is a wanderer a
traveler and a vagabond our target customer is named Piper and she’s a
freelance food journalist and a world explorer when we began brainstorming
about our brand we knew that we wanted to create a pair of jeans that would
suit the adventurous lifestyle of our customer so we created a high-waisted
distressed pair of jeans using selvaged denim drifters jeans are for the
Explorer go out and travel the world well this is really quite an
impressive project it’s about really integrating critical thinking about
marketing and business strategy along with tough technical decisions about
fabrication and production Cotton Incorporated is pleased to be a part of
this denim project because not only can we share a lot of technical information
and market research information but the opportunity for the students that come
see Cotton Incorporated and to walk through a cotton farm and experience the
fiber firsthand at the farm level we are ALT denim short for alternative denim we
are a premium women’s line made in the USA ALT denims mission is to provide quality
denim that is sexy and sophisticated we develop a fem boyfriend jean with
leather accents finished with cotton incorporated stay true cotton technology
which will help retain the color of our dark wash denim jean wash after wash so
whether our customer is running from meeting to meeting or dancing the night
away at a concert ALT denim jeans will give her the great sexy fit
our denim is not for the Wildflower it demands the rooms attention I’ve never
come across another program like this I think what makes it so innovative and
fresh for the students is they have an opportunity to show all the skills
they’ve mastered from a technical perspective as well as their ability to
connect it to the real live marketplace and most importantly then they learn how
to tell their story and share it all with an audience that’s what the real
world’s gonna bring for them hi everyone we are and loop and we’re
excited to introduce to you our new knit denim brand our mission is to elevate
the athleisure trend by bridging the gap between traditional denim and
comfortable knitwear with advanced knitting technology and design innovation
for the first time since project inception we have partnered with sew USA
the pioneer of knitting technology which really enabled us to learn more about
and tap into the unlimited potential of knit wear our brand is currently the only
all knit denim brand in the market we are and loop we will be the knit denim you can
wear again and again when we started this project I was looking for a way
that the students could interact with industry that they could have a real
experience and because we have a terrific advisory board we made sure
that we had all the contacts that we needed the students embraced it they
jumped on it and now they have a project that they can really create something
and really call their own I’m very happy to see that the students are concerned
with presenting content an authentic brand there’s no fear they’re saying it
like it is they want to produce a quality product with a reason a reason
there’s a why and there’s a greater understanding for what’s needed and what
isn’t out there yet the TDM students with experience are getting through this
program are the linchpin for the future of our industry we hope every season
that the kids will create something that is outstanding and compelling okay okay the lights are on so ultimately what
we’re talking about in the video in the panel is the production of jeans this
one particular type of garment when I was putting together the exhibition
across the street and conducting my research I came across an organization
called the global denim project it’s primarily made up of anthropologists and
sociologists and according to their estimates on any given day over half the
world’s population is in jeans now this is a really staggering statistic and
positions jeans but denim in general in a very unique position in the fashion
industry and so to sort of start off tonight I’d love to get each of your
take on why you think jeans have such an enduring popularity whoever can start it
i’ll start well I think it also comes from your own generation so for people
from my generation or Jeff’s generation as one perspective I asked my my
daughter who’s 36 what was her first memory of jeans and she said Three’s
Company so everybody everybody has their own starting point of where they first
have a relationship with jeans and so it’s difficult but for me to say but I
think the real reason the jeans are so popular is that they’re very utilitarian
and they’re very common ground for everybody so you feel I think when you
wear your jeans that you’re you’re wearing the same skin as others and you
can you can feel a little bit a relationship to everybody else although
each person has their own particular jean I also think that people create a
bond with their favorite jeans you know oftentimes people if you ask
somebody what’s your favorite jean I can tell
you oh these because you know that because of the way they wear and they
fit them and they take on the personality of the wearer so it’s about
the indigo dye and the cotton and the way that it kind of takes on your own
it’s almost like a blank canvas and then it takes on the personality of the wearer
and it just it’s one of those things I think they get better with age so they
sort of you know people hold on to them for a long time and they can tell you
this is my favorite pair of jeans and why and in it then it’s been with them
through different events you know they can say oh well I got this hole when i
was doing this and i mended it or i did you know it’s just it’s it’s unlike
any other fabric and garment so it’s a really special thing I think I would
have to say because I grew up in the 60s and that’s kind of what everybody wore
including me including everybody that I knew and I think it would be harder to
give you an example of what else except our parents those days everybody wore
jeans accept Authority so Andrew I’ve heard you speak about this before and I
was wondering if you could maybe touch on the push-pull there is in the
industry right now between the old and the new in denim kind of well I’ve
always I tell this to the class every year that fashion is either Jetsons or
Flintstones and depends on your perspective we all in fashion in
general get whats the word inspired by the past I know companies that have
built their ten years of their business just by pulling styles or ideas from the
past so we all do that and we’ve always done that shopping vintage for I mean
the vintage business in jeans is so strong that people don’t want to sell
vintage anymore they want to rent it because it’s people are running out of
it but at the same time there’s new fibers and there’s new ways of doing
things so that’s changed everything yeah I guess I’m just to talk about i think
sometimes the Jetsons and the Flintstones merged together too you know
you take some of the inspiration from the past and then you
put that together with some of the newer technology so yeah that’s an interesting
analogy yeah I think that if I needed to give one answer I would say that
probably based on different panels that I’ve been on I’ve had the chance to
speak with a lot of people I’d say that sustainability is probably the biggest
change that I’ve seen coming and seeing how the industry addressed it years ago
how they’re addressing it now which is totally different absolutely so the next
topic that we’ll touch on is sustainability I mean sustainability is
something that we hear discussed over and over again in fashion just in
general not just in denim I mean in denim with the sheer size of the
industry at the moment you know thinking about how every person in the audience
probably owns a pair of jeans and how many jeans are being produced each day I’d
love it if you guys could each discuss you know issues with sustainability
you’ve come across kind of current that are currently very prevalent in the
denim industry and also some ways that the industry is trying to address them
right now as we move forward well it’s a pretty monstrous subject because jeans
are composed of fiber so you have all these fiber issues when you have
spinning which uses energy and you have weaving which uses energy none of it is
reusable or today really and then you have dying and then you have the
chemical waste and then you have all the I’ m giving you all the cynical side of the
problems but there’s all these different elements that are another washing jeans
and then packing them and shipping them and so on and so on so there’s a lot of
issues I think the industry is overwhelmed by the scale of the of the
problems but one by one everybody’s cluing in on trying to do the best they
can at each particular level do you think and this is for all of you that
denim is more unsustainable than other factions of the fashion industry like
what I mean just sort of ready-to-wear clothing a general fast fashion you know
the waterways the things that go into the unique way that denim is produced
an expert on that is oh I can tell you about denim I’ll give a quick response to that polyester
every single piece of polyester that’s ever been made still exists on this
planet so the first question I have is polyester is what sixty percent of total
consumption of world fiber so imagine even if you recycle it just keeps going
and going and going and going going and it keeps wasting and it’s got nowhere to
put it I think sustainability is a mindset though too because we talk about
sustainability I think it’s something that everyone needs to be mindful of
throughout the whole process I mean you know as a mill you know we produced
globally so we’re producing in the u.s. Mexico and in China and we have you know
the same level of standards for all of our mills globally but I mean it really
is it goes down to every bit that goes into production you know recycling
you know packing materials to the lighting in the mill you know using
low-cost energy lighting to you know reusable totes and things at the mill
level we also in production at our US facility we use methane gas pumped in
from a local landfill so that’s one of a source of of helping to power the plant
so i think that there’s a lot of things that when it’s a broad topic
sustainability and i think that we can talk about it in fibers but also i think
in the you know the production side of things you know just to be mindful of
how you’re approaching it at the approach for the mill and for you know
garment cutter and you know all through the entire the supply chain i would
say that my co-panelists are being very modest tonight and i say that because
the textile development of marketing department really our portion of the
supply chain has to do with sustainability with natural fibers we
deal with agriculture with chemical fibers we deal with chemical companies
with dying we deal with water usage with finishing we deal with chemical effluent
and so we’re focused on every portion of that and andrew has started this group
called the transformers which talks about reducing water usage which
talks about different sustainability issues Kara’s company cone denim is
working with natural indigo and so everybody is trying to go with this a
certain way so i don’t know if i can say that denim is a dirtier industry than
other industries because there’s water use of there’s ways in every industry
but i would say that maybe it’s because i’m closer to this industry but i see
more being done in this industry than i see in other industries i was
wondering if any of you could talk about for those in the audience who maybe
aren’t as familiar with the denim industry and sort of the different
processes that go into it some of the implementations of things like lasers 03
you know things we’re seeing in finishing treatment I think finishing is
something that the everyday consumer who doesn’t really know what’s going on you
know behind the scenes in denim doesn’t even necessarily realize is happening
I’ll take this one right yeah so I mean basically you know that there is a big
initiative throughout the denim industry on how do we save water usage and and
different chemical usage and and there is a lot being done on the garment
finishing side you know ozone is one thing that Emma mentioned and that’s
basically you know helping to you know cut down the amount of water used in in
finishing garments because I mean when you get your pair of jeans a lot goes
into them so when you buy them and they have all of the different sort of
whiskering techniques and sanding and things like that washing a lot goes into
manufacturing your jeans so it’s not just about you know there’s many steps
so we won’t get into all of that but yeah laser technology is another way
that you can also get the different types of whiskering and sanding effects
on jeans and and that’s a really wonderful thing that’s come along
way to make it look very natural and used to be where it was laser technology
could really pick out something though that’s been lasered that’s not a very cool
looking but there’s been a lot done and in laser technology on that on that side
of the business know that’s I think kara’s told you what there is to
tell you about the finishing side the finishing side is generally a really
filthy process is there any one initiative that you guys have seen in
recent years you know in terms of sustainability that you see making the
biggest impact on denim you know that you would point out I mean there’s a lot
but there’s a lot I mean because you can you can attack it at so many levels
there’s not unfortunately there’s no simple answer so you can’t just say oh
this this jean is really perfect you know from a sustainable point of view
this this particular one has this feature this one has that feature it’s
not possible to do that today we’ve been trying to do a lot with recycling I
mean could talk about fibers or we can you know get into that a little bit
later but you know even you know recycled PET materials you know the
plastic bottles and things like that you know we’ve done a lot at the mill level
in trying to you know work with either recycling cotton or recycling like I
said PET materials and big initiatives against that post consumer we had a
conference that Jeff mentioned last year we do a conference every year on
sustainability in jeans last year was water this year it’s on industrial waste
but last year in our conference somebody from the dye indigo chemical company or
a company that produces the dye he gave statistics of the difference between
using liquid indigo versus powdered indigo it was a massive difference in
water and nobody even knows that and I know that it’s been sort of mentioned a
lot i think in recent months and over the last year the trend of biodegradable
compostable denim i don’t know if any of you have experience with this as a
product development you know or sort of what your take is on this
new crop of products we’re seeing well I think the right person to speak about
this would be Kara because because the using natural dyes but I’ll give a quick
plug for the textile development and marketing laboratories in that we’re
trying to do exactly that we’re growing fresh indigo we’re composting it
we’re fermenting it we’re trying to convert it to liquid indigo and we’re
trying to judge shelf lives and we’re trying to explore just exactly that
thing but I was just going to say on biodegradability cotton is biodegradable
and a lot of fibers like for instance lycra not so I think in the next
ten years biodegradability is going to be the single largest issue in
sustainability versus water and versus energy energy is already almost no one
talks about anymore so but biodegradability is huge and we keep
using other fibers that don’t biodegrade so unless Kara wants to add anything to
biodegradability no I’m good ok so kind of on that note it’s a perfect transition to
talking about cotton you know traditionally denim is made entirely out
of cotton you know but as we sort of alluded to that’s not always the case
anymore so I was wondering you know this is particularly geared at Jeff because
he’s our resident cotton expert could you speak a bit about the current role
of cotton in the denim industry kind of how its evolved over the last few
decades yes I think that you have to also in addition to talking about the
last few decades you have to talk about the last few years there was a price
spike in cotton in 2010-2011 were cotton went to about two dollars and sixty
cents a pound which opened up the door for alternative fibers to come in but it
wasn’t just because of a price issue it was also because some of the other
fibers outlend other properties to the fabric softness more absorbency things
like that even better stretch so cotton has always denim i should say has always
been a cotton stronghold for sure and it still is but there are other fibers that
are getting involved and i think there’s a place for all of the fibers
I will say however that when you’re looking at fibers for an industry an
industry as vast as denim you also have to count in production in other words if
you like this particular fiber like tencel or lyocell or various fibers that
are coming into the market can could a fiber like that conceivably produce
enough to make an impact in the market because it’s not just does the consumer
want it its can it be produced any other people with cotton thoughts I guess
we’re also talking about sustainability and there’s also different initiatives
on the cotton side and Andrew probably knows a little bit more about that I can
tell you we’re as a mill we’re offering options to our customers in different
type of sustainable cotton initiatives we joined a BCI which is the better
cotton initiative last year we’ve also teamed up with e3 in this year just
at the end of last year and we’ve committed to over 1.5 million pounds of
cotton with the e3 initiative and these are all facilities at or sorry
they’re companies or initiatives to offer sustainable cotton alternatives do you
want to add anything about e3 well I’ll just say this that we I consult
for e3 but I’ll say this that consumers have the choice are going to have the
choice to to buy all their cotton sustainably or not so right now you
don’t all your cotton that you’ve got 99 percent of whatever you buy is not grown
sustainably which maybe you want to change so you can ask your brain to
change can you tell the people here who may not be familiar what e3 is exactly
well it’s not just e3 but there there’s the BCI initiative as well that there’s
there’s a program that exists by certain certain cotton initiatives that actually
are on a plan audited plan to have farmers use less resources so
you cannot grow cotton without using resources but you can grow cotton using
less today in America they grow cotton by planting one seed and GPS it so they
know how it goes they have drip systems that use hardly any water at all
compared to what they used to in the old days anyway that the issue is not that
the issue is that people monitor year after year that the farmer is doing a
better a better job with continual improvement to the environment and most
cotton well almost 99 percent of cotton today nobody’s monitoring at all
I’d like to add to that also that one of the things that makes these initiatives
important is that they’re not marketing initiatives their production initiatives
so they are based at the producer level and all the way through the supply chain
and they are constructed to help create better growing conditions better better
product but it’s not just a marketing handle its production system that goes
all the way back to the farm and I think that’s a really important comment
because throughout our whole industry so many companies are using sustainability
as a handle and people in the industry know it and the consumers sometimes are
tricked by it but there are other companies that are actually doing
something genuinely you know intended to use less resources because that’s really
what sustainability should be about I think I would also like to add the
cotton agriculture in general has improved dramatically as Andrew
mentioned low till and no-till agriculture drip irrigation so that
you’re not flooding the fields and losing all that water to evaporation so
you’re not causing erosion generally speaking all farming but especially
cotton farming has become more sustainable just because it’s more
efficient so I guess moving on from cotton specifically because we have
multiple times mentioned you know how new fibers new things are coming in new
technology I’d like to turn to these new fibers you know discuss some of the
specifics about them what the different fibers are you know what the role what
the performance the industry is looking at
these new fibers for and particularly in the relation to comfort you know this
buzzword we’re hearing a lot particularly in relation to denim and
also athleisure you know these are big words we’re hearing a lot in the
industry particularly in relation to jeans and denim I’ll take this one okay
well comfort is a word that’s being widely used these days and I think that
I mean if you just think about it people are active you know people are moving
and they need the garments to move with them but also the consumers very tactile
so they want things that are soft and and and a nice to the touch so you know
one of the key I think key points that we talked about talk about comfort is
stretch I mean stretch has you know been advancing and is something that’s
important to many customers I mean it started out obviously in Women’s Wear
but it’s permeated through menswear and so it’s really a key thing that the
consumer looks for everyone’s looking to be comfortable we started you know with
different types of advancements where it’s a dual core technology and not to
get too technical but a stretch that was the better performing stretch that it
held its shape it didn’t get baggy knees so we call that you know S jean so it’s
two yarns ones you know for us it’s a lycra spandex and the other component is
a polyester yarn and that they they work together to the spandex to give you the
stretch and the polyester to maintain the shape so basically um that’s been
something that brands have even been talking about to their customers about
the best performing stretches and and marketing and then it moves on from
comfort there too okay we take it up to another level power stretch and then you
keep going and you know by stretch you know we’ve been talking about the
four-way stretch where it goes in the warp in the weft direction so really
that keeps advancing on different new advancements in technology but i think
the word comforts really interesting because we’ve been working a lot with
the idea of taking it another step further so not just stretch but now how
do you bring in some more performances the fabric going to have moisture management
technology or you know is it going to be added strength or you know different to
have your jeans last longer or cooling effect thermoregulation and so you know
things that we’ve been working on more on a different tier of the markets more
outdoor you know market is now we’re looking to you know we’re looking to
bring that into a fashion market as well that your jeans do something a little
bit more for you so you know comfort certainly a buzzword and athleisure and
you know different types of things but the one thing I will say and this is
going back to what you know we talked about jeans and what’s so great about
jeans we always look to maintain the integrity of what makes denim so special
you know being able to put the indigo dye something that where it wears it
really feels like denim you know because you you know when you’re introducing all
these technologies into a cotton-based fabric I mean it really doesn’t seem
like it goes along with it you know and so there’s really some new innovations
ways to do that and how do you bring that along but maintaining what makes
jeans so special for us is really important I think that’s something we
don’t want to lose sight of as we you know move forward I would also add that
this is probably one of the most interesting times for textile technology
there are as Kara said there are so many innovations coming out so many ways to
improve comfort to improve stretch stability and as either of these two can
tell you far better than I can the the basic idea when you’re creating jeans is
to make them really strong because you’re probably going to do some
treatments that are going to weaken them afterward what I do see will be an
interesting I think will be at some point jeans will be so far from the
cotton jeans that we knew that I think you’re going to have a whole group of
purists that are going to want just cotton jeans the way people want just
selvedge jeans and you know the pure finish cotton yeah I kind of agree someone told me
something this week that one of the retailer’s told me this week that
they have a cotton jean in their store like it was really peculiar but because
it was cotton he could use really thick yarn so by using really thick yarns it
actually looked entirely different than the other jeans in the store so it was
doing really really well and he was shocked because it was a hundred percent
cotton I think that says it all I mean it’s interesting that you guys bring this
issue up in weeks since the exhibition months since the
exhibition is open I’ve had a surprising number of journalists you know people
come into the exhibition people interviewing me about the exhibition and
asking the big question they ask at the end is do you think that jeans have a
future you know they ask they have this question you know as if this phenomenon
that we’re all going towards activewear that it’s all becoming athleisure that
this one hundred percent cotton gene is we all kind of envision it in our minds
is slowly becoming obsolete I personally don’t think that it’s ever going away I
think there’s such a cultural resonance with denim that has so many layers to it
that I that inform on the consumer before they purchase it that that it’s
not but you know I wonder what your experience in the industry you know when
you’re trying to develop marketing and you know what do you also have that
sense do you have people coming to you and we could pose the question the other way
too is athleisure going away you know I mean it’s like I don’t know I mean
it’s just another way to look at it is that a fad is that a you know is that
here to stay I don’t know the answer to that but I don’t see denim going away
and I and I you know for you know working for a mill that’s been making
denim you know since you know the late 1800s it’s I still see it going
pretty strong and and knowing you know working with the designers and knowing
the business that we’re in right now I definitely don’t see that going away no
cause i also want no don’t worry it’s not going anywhere but we are a 50 billion
dollar business 50 billion and we’re growing still in a
lot of countries I think I think Kara’s answer about is what is called athlesirue
oh I would worry more about that also when you consider biodegradability so no
to that futuristic vision of us all wearing yoga pants in five to ten years
instead of to yoga sure I think you should definitely wear yoga pants to yoga I
don’t see people working out in their denim really though that’s the thing
that I find that interesting you know there’s been a lot of talk about you know how do
you work out and I just I think that you know it’s okay to change after you do
your workout or yoga and then put your jeans but there are brands out there at
the moment or product lines that I’ve seen that are trying to gear their
advertising that you can work out in your jeans if you want to and I do think that
being to take that just look at it like being active I do think that people if
someone you know people are on the go the multitasking you know they’re gone
it’s like a million-miles a minute you know it’s like it’s okay you know to
feel that you want people to feel they’re able to be very active in their
jeans I just yeah i think there’s there’s two different things i think one
thing that comes to mind about that is there’s a figure and several people have
it i’m not sure where it originated but that Americans have on average seven
pairs of jeans in their closet so I think that maybe if the next time we
have this panel if I have to tell you that Americans only have six genes in
their closet maybe we’ll see some sort of a trend going but I don’t see it
absolutely um so with the next topic I mean you already brought this up in the
last thing that we were talking about this idea of what a jean looks like kind
of properties of function the dye is really a kind of first and foremost very
primal element the blue color how it fades over time you know how it reacts
with the fiber this is hugely important so I just wonder if you guys could speak
about for our audience some of the current practices that are kind of
standard throughout the industry in dying you know how we get that unique way
that the color fades but then also things that new things that are
happening the natural indigo project okay so I’ll start but before we start
on this the thing is that indigo is not what’s the word doesn’t go well with
cellulosic fiber so the very first problem with indigo dye is it doesn’t
want to go on cotton so that’s a big problem so to put it on the cotton you
have to dye it multiple times and you have to use tons of water because you
oxidize it and it goes get down into another another dip so the conventional
way of dying cotton is it is basically forcing something that doesn’t want to
go in on which creates at the inside of the yarn is to stay white and be white
and so that’s the way indigo works and that’s the beauty of it and that’s the
ecological problem okay yeah so basically we’re trying to get that dye to
adhere to the exterior of the cotton um and so one of the things that we just
did last year I think this is an image of a indigo yarn that’s been dyed with
plant dye plant grown indigo so we’ve been working with a company based in
Tennessee and they’ve been gathering together farmers and getting them to
grow some plant some natural natural indigo and so we’re really excited we
started this out we just released it in august of last year some fabrics that
were made with some plant bio-based dyes grown in Tennessee and they’re dyed
at our mill in North Carolina and it’s been a nice initiative for us and we’re
looking to see where we can go with it we’ve we’ve committed to the full crops
that the performers can grow and the idea is to have it in a scalable
production level so really be able to grow this business and give you know
another crop for the farmers to be able to grow so we don’t know where it’s
going to go I mean we’re of course there are some challenges of availability
and you know for price but ultimately you know where we’re behind this and
we’re looking to see where to go this jacket is actually made with the the
natural indigo grown at our our mill in North Carolina I know Jeff you
know a lot about well one thing I was hoping Kara could sorry I could elaborate
on is for those in the audience who might not be familiar with it can you
just touch on the fact that most indigo that’s used in the industry is synthetic isn’t actually from the indigo plant anymore right okay so guess the indigo
used primarily used is a synthetic dye so it is not a natural you want to talk
about that I just want to say one thing ninety-five percent or ninety six
percent of all indigo comes from China in the PGN salt that’s used to insert it
a hundred percent comes from China by the way so yes and it is a synthetic dye
so this initiative has been a lot of it’s been very exciting for us I mean
it’s been this has been going on for six years trying to get the right plants to
grow in the conditions for the farmers in the in the south so it’s been it’s
been a good thing for us and yeah well FIT’s initiative with natural indigo
started with three students about three years ago when they won the clinton
global initiative called link big challenge and we put to dye gardens on
the roof of the Feldman center and we quickly realized that in 2 box gardens
that are roughly I don’t know about ten feet by ten feet growing 24 varieties of
plants you really can’t get enough can’t get enough plant material to do
repeatable or significant research so we decided to expand the grove area to
Northern Westchester where we’re growing roughly half an acre of Japanese indigo
which i think is what you’re using is well Japanese and then another variety
as well that we give the farmers and so we have our own we’ve applied for grants
and we’re also working with with Sarah Bellos of Stony Creek colors who supplies the
indigo to cone denim so we don’t know where it’s going either but
we’re having a lot of fun trying to find out where it’s going and there are some
brands out there now with our fabric so we just
released them at the kingpins trade show in July and sampling started in august
of last year and we’ve had some brands come out to market with it teleson a san
francisco-based brand three by one in New York can get a pair of custom-made
jeans using the natural indigo and heddels just came out with a new
collaboration using a bank bag using the natural indigo so it’s it’s good so
I’ve been given a lot of questions from audience so i think i’m going to launch
into those the first one is actually a question I was going to ask you anyway
so it’s a good transition particularly because you guys all participate in this
capstone course here at FIT the question is do you have any advice for an
aspiring denim designer what’s the big takeaway you would want to have a
student here I’d say to be very inquisitive to be interested in all
aspects of the business to put your heart and soul into it because that’s
those are also ingredients that are important to if you’re if you’re looking
to make your own brand or start something new too it’s a great business
to get into I mean denim I this is like no other and you can see that Andrew and
I’ve been doing this for a long time with denim so but yeah and I think it
use all the skills that you learn here and in problem solving and in class and
working with your team and things like that I don’t know if I’m going off topic
but basically get really interested in all different aspects of it like what
goes into making you know finishing a garment and you know into the fabrics
and just get really nerdy and geeky on things and there’s a lot of people out
there that you know are really interested and passionate about denim so
there’s so much information some of it may you know you need to research a
little further don’t take everyone’s word for it online but
yeah I think that it’s just something that you’ll find that there is a lot of
denim pads out there denim you know people are really passionate about it
and so it’s it’s fun to get teamed up with some people that are knowledgeable
and know about those things too yeah that’s great anything else to add the
video that you saw was from a course that we have run we’re running right now
which is the 12th year straight in a row and what it does is it creates emerging
professionals and it makes the students responsible understand each step of the
supply chain most importantly we could not do it without industry and
especially these people who are right

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