Rivet Magazine: Fall 2021

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RIVET 50 NO. 13 / OCTOBER 2021

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Angela Velasquez Executive Editor, Rivet Peter Sadera Editor in Chief, Sourcing Journal Jessica Binns Managing Editor Arthur Friedman Senior Editor Vicki M. Young Executive Financial Reporter Jasmin Malik Chua Sourcing & Labor Editor Kate Nishimura Features Editor

Most people who spend enough time with me eventually say I’m a bit psychic. (I said “psychic,” not “psycho.”) But not in the hocus-pocus, “look into my crystal ball” sense, or in any way that’s particularly useful except on the topic of trends. I didn’t see the pandemic coming—a 2020 calendar of canceled flights is proof—and you certainly don’t want to come to me for life advice. I may be the last human on Earth who still says “yolo” to justify my decisions. Rather, my so-called psychic ability manifests as a level of intuition heightened by fervent observation, empathy, and an unwavering awareness that there’s always more than meets the eye. What I didn’t realize until the world began reopening this summer was how intuition must be fed and nurtured by other people, sights, sounds and experiences. Social distancing and working from home, though necessary, had all but squelched that intuitive spark. Attempting to communicate ideas over Zoom with a countdown clock lurking in the corner is hardly for people like me who rely on reading the room. Nor does a new denim collection shown on a staid PDF ignite the same interest, intrigue and excitement as an in-person presentation that brings fabrics and silhouettes to life. Lucky for me I don’t have to design jeans, but I can sympathize with the toll remote work takes on deep thinkers and creative souls. And denim—behind the science and sales of it all—is an industry energized by community, collaboration, contact and soaking up the culture cultivated on buzzing streets. That was more than evident in Bluezone’s emotional atmosphere in September, marking the first in-person denim supply chain event since the pandemic upended business. For many, the gathering reunited industry friends and long-time collaborators who shared their pandemic experience and the work that came out of it. Face masks couldn’t conceal sometimes-teary eyes. Even getting to the show, departing on my first transatlantic flight in nearly 18 months, felt monumental. But that’s what makes the denim business unique. A fabric that evokes qualities from nostalgia and exploration to versatility and strength is bound to permeate the lives of the people behind it. It doesn’t take a clairvoyant to see that something great is brewing for the denim industry, however. Cool girls from New York to Paris have made wide-leg jeans central to their uniform of oversized blazers and laid-back loafers. Gen Z jeans shoppers are hunting down new fits, washes and colors. Denim continues to star on the runway in fresh new ways, and sustainable jeanswear now fills the hallowed halls of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s storied Costume Institute. I can only hope that this groundswell of good news delivers denim into a bright new dawn where its humanity, once again, will shine.

Glenn Taylor Business Editor Liz Warren Staff Writer Victor Vaughns Jr. Rivet Market Editor Chuck Dobrosielski Staff Writer Sarah Jones Business Reporter Tonya Blazio-Licorish Contributor, Fairchild Archive Assistant A RT DEPA RTMEN T

Celena Tang Associate Art Director Arani Halder Designer SOURCING JOURNAL A DV ERTIS IN G

Edward Hertzman Founder & President, Sourcing Journal & Rivet Executive Vice President, Fairchild Rebecca Goldberg VP, Strategy & Business Development Lauren Parker Branded Content Manager Eric Hertzman Senior Director of Sales & Marketing Deborah B. Baron Advertising Director Allix Cowan Corporate Subscription Sales Associate Sarah Sloand Executive Sales Assistant Ellen Young Sales Coordinator P RODU CT I ON

Kevin Hurley Production Director John Cross Production Manager Therese Hurter PreMedia Specialist



Executive Editor, Rivet







MARKET TRENDS Western-inspired denim, flare jeans and purple statement-pieces renew closets this fall.

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YOUTH REVIVAL Abercrombie & Fitch Co. CEO Fran Horowitz is ready to tackle the opportunities that come with denim's new cycle. THRIFTING MAGIC A thriving resale market is inspiring brands to try their luck at secondhand. CASUAL COOL From marketing gimmick to Zoom dressing, what's next for casual Fridays? RIVET 50 From sustainability gurus to designers with star power, meet the 50 most influential people in denim in 2021. RUNWAY REPORT Distressed denim, statement jackets and glacial finishes trend on the Spring/Summer 2022 catwalk. GENTLEMEN Menswear designers examine denim through a sartorial lens. LOOSE ENDS Loose-fitting jeans are in demand, but are consumers in for a size surprise? GLOBAL EXPERIENCE The denim sector continues to weather challenges that industry leaders could never have predicted. LABOR PAINS Though CSR programs are common in the denim industry, are compliance audits up to par? DATABASE The global denim industry adapts to new sourcing strategies.

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YOUTH REVIVAL By keeping the needs of Gen Z consumers top of mind,Abercrombie & Fitch Co.CEO Fran Horowitz is well-prepared to tackle the opportunities that come with denim’s new cycle. w ords _____ VI CK I M . YOUN G


ran Horowitz, chief executive officer of Abercrombie & Fitch Co., initially joined the company as brand president of Hollister Co. in 2014, and it was the playbook she developed there that later served as the blueprint for tackling the turnaround at the firm’s core A&F brand. Now CEO, she leads two brand teams that have learned what it takes to stay on top of fashion trends wanted by the next generation of consumers. Here, Horowitz discusses current jeans trends, staying close to customers and the role of social media in marketing the denim options for each brand.

RIVET: Sales across the board fell for apparel merchandise during the pandemic. When you look back on denim trends, what was popular pre-pandemic and what were the signs of early trends that were about to break out? Fran Horowitz: At Abercrombie, we were already

RIVET: While denim has never really fallen out of favor, there does seem to be a resurgence in i ere o erm o e im i e ei ion, how has this greater interest changed other merchandise options for each brand? FH: With such a significant denim trend, the out-

seeing the shift to wider legs, and now we are seeing how much that shift has evolved and grown in the past year and a half. We are also seeing our customers lean towards less stretch in the denim and more of an authentic, vintage feel, as seen in denim of the ’90s and 2000s. At Hollister, the largest shift was also towards non-skinny fits, but we have also seen the evolution of destroy, redone and vintage authentic washes.

fit is now starting with jeans. As a result, that is impacting the tops and the footwear. At Hollister, we’re seeing tops getting simpler and driven by neutrals and solids.


RIVET: What trends for each brand are you seeing now that are resonating with customers and that are expected to be favorites again for the next season or two?

teams dedicated to each brand and its corresponding generational needs, we’re seeing that trends transcend gender and age. How our dedicated, global teams interpret those trends through each brand’s filter is really where we are seeing a difference.

RIVET: Are you tracking any other lifestyle trends that could potentially impact the denim sector? FH: Sustainability continues to be a top priority

RIVET: Does the younger customer demographic require more frequent updates in merchandise? FH: If you stay as close to our customers as we do,

within our company, as well as among our customers. We will continue to implement these practices in our denim business to meet our customers’ desire for sustainable products; for example, Abercrombie and Hollister both utilize liquid indigo, which is an eco-friendly alternative to powder indigo. It cuts back significantly on water usage during the fabric-making process.

it is not harder to create products for certain demographics. The rise of TikTok has increased customer

high tops with these straighter legs. Additionally, the bootcut fit will be even more important in both genders this fall, as it is easy to outfit off the straighter legs.

e o r oe o e r i e e e o er FH: While we have separate product and marketing

RIVET: How do the denim options each season impact the tops that are sold to complement the new styles? FH: Across both Abercrombie and Hollister, it’s

all about proportion play. For the past few years, skinny jeans paired well with oversized tops. Now, we are seeing a shift towards wider-fit bottoms with slim tops. Additionally, rise has an impact on tops’ length. We are still in a high-rise trend, but as low-rise re-emerges, you will see tops’ length adjust proportionally. RIVET: How does social media play a role in marketing the denim options for each brand? FH: Social media and social selling continue

RIVET: Are there any key differences for the women’s businesses versus the men’s businesses? FH: The women’s and girls’ businesses move

faster at Abercrombie and Hollister, respectively. Men and guys tend to be about six months to a year behind. In terms of denim, we’re seeing wide-leg fits catch on with him a bit more slowly. RIVET: Are denim trends affected by seasons? FH: At Abercrombie, the overall trend is shifting

towards wider legs in bottoms. However, a large percentage of that interest has been in the spring and summer. As we get into fall, skinnier bottoms such as jeans, vegan leather, and leggings remain important to our millennial customers, so they can pair them with oversized and legging-friendly tops such as sweaters, fleeces and knits. At Hollister, we are not seeing as many seasonal shifts within silhouettes. With the massive shift towards non-skinny fits among our Gen Z customers, we do not anticipate seeing the typical drop-off of wider-leg fits come fall. However, we will continue to keep our assortment varied to best meet our customers’ needs. RIVET: Is the denim that is sold in the summer a lighter weight fabrication, or do you sell the same weight all year? FH: At both brands, we use a key, seasonless weight

of our high-quality denim year-round. This fabric is used in jeans and denim shorts, as well as in shirts and jackets. RIVET: When you create the denim product lines for



FH: As the vintage ’90s trend dominates, we anticipate straight and wider-leg fits will continue to grow in popularity among our customers. Emerging trends include even baggier fits, the resurgence of lower rise jeans, as well as a shift towards more minimal destroying that are less overt and mimic authentic vintage jeans.

demand for faster trends. We are committed to staying close and listening to our customers, as well as increasing our investment on the platform, to align with our customers’ rapidly changing preferences. RIVET: Are there certain denim trends that have been more popular for Hollister and not Abercrombie, and vice versa? FH: Patchwork jeans are more popular in Hollis-

ter, while vented hems and cross-over waistbands are more popular in Abercrombie. While the leg shapes are macro trends, the details differ based on what is appropriate for each age group. At Abercrombie, our female customers are opting for more slim tops to complement the wider legs. For our male customers, shoes are a critical part of his outfit, so you will see a resurgence of RIVET NO.13 / OCTOBER 2021

to be a top priority for us across our brands, as we aim to meet our customers on the platforms where they’re spending their time. It’s also a critical tool for marketing our denim offerings—especially with our strong influencers and affiliates strategy. For example, as we are in a trend cycle, our customers can see our new fits on micro-influencers who they trust for fashion advice, including how to outfit new denim shapes, what tops to pair with the jeans, what shoes will work, and how the fits will accommodate diverse body shapes. TikTok is also rapidly rising in importance at both brands. While it was originally geared towards Gen Z, we’re seeing our millennial Abercrombie customers turn towards the platform for trend and fashion advice. We’ve had a hard time keeping Abercrombie’s ’90s High Rise Straight Jean in stock due to its viral popularity on the platform. RIVET: ore e ifi lly o Holli er o i e brand targeting the Gen Z customer? FH: At Hollister, we are constantly focused on

making cultural inroads with our Gen Z customers. Gen Z is a faster customer that pushes us to be nimble and to create more newness more frequently. Therefore, we’re focused on meeting them on the platforms where they spend their time, with the right products and messages that meet their needs. And we’re leaning into initiatives that fit with their lifestyles, including gaming, long-term influencer relationships across platforms, shoppable content and live shopping, and more.

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Independent denim shops found big success in the face of crisis. w ords_____ LI Z WARRE N


he pandemic continues to pose challenges for denim retailers large and small, and while many experienced significant losses, others emerged stronger. Call them the retail warriors—the denim boutiques that survived the first 18 months of a global pandemic despite store closures, tighter wallets, delivery disruptions and workforce woes. With headstrong and agile owners at their helm, the businesses are now equipped with a new sense of flexibility that they’ll undoubtedly lean on to weather future crises.

Shifting strategies


The retailers that most successfully navigated the pandemic were the ones that acted quickly in response to initial signs of trouble. For Beau Lawrence, founder of Santa Barbara-based denim retailer Ace Rivington, the first telltale sign was the toilet paper shortage which, while outside the realm of denim, was a glaring indicator of supply chain disruption. His first plan of action was to throw out the traditional indicators of success. “The first step we took to ride this out was to completely disregard profitability as a key function of the business,” Lawrence said. While liquidating inventory with a series of flash sales was a top priority for maintaining staff, helping the community during a global crisis was next on the list. Lawrence shifted production from jeans to face masks, which he and his team distributed to essential workers. Beyond that, he launched a service to deliver products directly to local customers’ doorsteps at a reduced shipping rate—a simple concept that earned him 60 sales in just one week. The pandemic was also an opportunity to reevaluate location. In September 2020, Lawrence closed his store in Santa Barbara’s La Arcada shopping district and moved to the heart of downtown on State Street—a strategy he says was one of the best things he could have done for the business. “We now have much better visibility and foot traffic in front of our new store location, and it helped increase our brick-and-mortar business by at least


thrill pillars “conserve, negotiate and innovate,” and resulted in the hard decision to temporarily lay off most of its workforce, including upper management. “As a small business, we care about every single employee, but without a retail store, we had to reduce our payroll to survive,” Carman said. His remaining team was tasked with negotiating with all its partners—from landlords to brand vendors—to secure deals to reduce debt and ensure it could continue working with them beyond the pandemic. It also continued to innovate through digital methods, as Carman said it was important to “not only let customers know they could still buy online with confidence, but that we were still standing strong.” These efforts proved to be a success: Today, Carman reports that energy and sales have been “overwhelmingly positive,” and are clocking in even higher than pre-pandemic levels.

Lessons learned For better or for worse, the pandemic triggered a new framework for success—one that puts new selling strategies and product categories at the center. In the event of further lockdown, these same businesses are prepared to forge through as a result of their newly implemented practices. For Over the Rainbow, these practices include its robust e-commerce platform that delivers an



50 percent,” he said. Store closures were also an inevitable move for Nashville-based Imogene + Willie, which temporarily shuttered its flagship “gas station” store—a local attraction that was also the site of community food and music events—in favor of a more robust digital platform. “With the closure of that location, our focus had to be 100 percent digital,” said K.P. McNeill, Imogene + Willie business partner. “We were fortunate that we had already been focusing the majority of our resources on that channel.” Through its digital platform, it pivoted its product mix into knitwear and lounge-oriented styles— particularly graphic T-shirts—that underscored the “stay at home” shift. Today, its digital business is experiencing continued growth, and the newly reopened store is running ahead of its 2019 numbers. The success even inspired the retailer to consider opening a second location in Austin soon. In Toronto, the family-owned boutique Over the Rainbow also responded to store closures with an aggressive e-commerce strategy. Though necessary, the move was a “challenging adjustment,” according to Daniel Carman, Over the Rainbow vice president. March 18, 2020, he added, was the first time the store ever had to close for health reasons in 46 years. The retailer’s survival strategy revolved around




enhanced user experience, better customer service and more convenient shopping methods like curbside pickup and local delivery. Most importantly, Carman said, the pandemic taught everyone to be open minded to new ideas, which will “allow the company to evolve as we have during the pandemic and beyond.” Less reliance on brick-and-mortar business will help Imogene + Willie navigate whatever is in store for the uncertain future. McNeill explained that the company has a deeper commitment to build its digital business and find a better work-life balance for its team in the process. “Through our experience, we landed on a successful combination of virtual and in-person meetings,” he said. “We have learned how to optimize this mix, and we will keep that in place.” In addition to new business strategies, the retailers also learned the long-lasting benefits of stepping up to help their communities in times of need. During the height of the pandemic, Ace Rivington established a charitable program that donated one meal to Santa Barbara County Food Bank for every $1 spent on its website, in total providing more than 80,000 meals for locals. The retailer’s commitment to its community will remain, no matter what the remainder of 2021 brings. It recently launched a local tip-share fundraiser centered around a new “SB Monster 2021” T-shirt that will donate $10 to local bar and restaurant tip jars for every purchase. “The most important strategy that’s been consistent for us as a brand is the focus on community and supporting others,” Lawrence said. “’Reopened’ does not mean ‘recovered.’”



How a thriving resale market is inspiring denim brands to try their luck at secondhand. w ords_____ LI Z WAR R E N



n a YouTube video that has garnered more than 2.4 million views since it was posted in January 2020, influencer Haley Israelov teaches her 735k subscribers exactly how to thrift. In it, she outlines a beginner’s guide to thrifting, presenting a list of essentials to look for, and tips for finding the perfect fit. She explains how to expertly scour the men’s denim section for that optimal slouchy high-rise (her secret is to carry a tape measure and look for inseams of 11 inches or more) and what to look for in women’s cardigans to nail the DIY look for fall. Israelov is far from the first in her space to offer a detailed thrifting haul. In fact, it’s a trend that’s growing in popularity as both video-centric platforms and secondhand clothing have risen to the forefront. According to online consignment and thrift store ThredUp’s 2021 Resale Report, the secondhand market is projected to double in the next five years to $77 billion, meaning thrift hauls like these will likely become the norm among fashion influencers—and big brands and retailers want in. To compete in the growing category, they’re adding secondhand and vintage items to their business models. Welcoming secondhand Often seen at the helm of innovation, heritage denim brand Levi’s was one of the first to incorporate a secondhand offering into its business. With the promising secondhand market statistics and “vintage 501 jeans” trending as a key search term on Google, the company knew it was time to expand its offerings, and in October 2020, launched Levi’s SecondHand. The buy-back program allows customers to purchase secondhand jeans and jackets on Levi.com while also giving them the opportunity to turn in their worn jeans and jackets in Levi’s stores for store credit. The company teamed with Trove, which “does


the hard work behind circular shopping” and facilitates the cleaning of used garments, along with managing inventory and fulfilling orders. The operation has worked with brands like Patagonia, Eileen Fisher and Nordstrom on facilitating their own buy-back and resale initiatives. The program’s success is a direct reflection of consumers’—mainly Gen Z’s—penchant for both sustainability and authenticity. Rather than buy a copy of a trend from the past, these consumers prefer the original item. Known for its industry-leading repair program, Swedish denim brand Nudie Jeans is continuously looking for ways to extend the lifecycle of a jean. Its Re-use program, which debuted in 2016, incentivizes customers to bring in their used jeans in exchange for a 20 percent discount on a new pair of jeans. Garments are then repaired, washed, adorned with a Swedish “Good Environmental Choice” eco mark and resold on its website and at Repair Shops around the world. In 2020, it sold 2,238 pairs of Re-use jeans. It’s a concept that also inspired millennial-centric denim brand Madewell to get in on the secondhand boom with its Madewell Forever program, a “pre-loved” denim offering that stretches across 2,000 Madewell items. Shoppers can go to madewell.com and click on the Preloved tab, which will direct them to a microsite powered by ThredUp. The page’s look and feel parallels the Madewell website, with easy searching across size, wash and cut, for a seamless experience that makes sustainability—and major discounts—much more accessible. The program helped Madwell expand its customer base, as the lower price points (think $30$50 for a pair of pre-owned jeans, which is about half the price of retail) attract a budget-focused customer that still wants high-quality products. But according to Liz Hershfield, senior vice president, head of sustainability at J Crew Group, Madewell’s parent company, the initiative was launched to help the environment—not the company’s bottom line. “We are not approaching resale with a revenue or sales goal in mind,” she said. “Our goal first and foremost is to become as circular as possible, supporting our commitment to lessen Madewell’s impact on the environment.” The program incentivizes consumers to bring in their used denim to Madewell stores to earn $20 in Madewell shopping credit. Any collected denim that has reached the end of its lifecycle will be recy-



cled responsibly through programs like Cotton Inc.’s Blue Jeans Go Green program. Madewell Forever expands upon the brand’s partnership with ThredUp, which began in 2019 with Madewell Archive, an in-store program that brought secondhand Madewell jeans to six U.S. stores. The uptick in the secondhand market inspired the brand to revisit—and refuel— the partnership.



Beyond the brand H&M is also dipping its toes in the category by testing a secondhand initiative through its Canada business, which launched H&M Rewear in September. According to Frédéric Tavoukdjian, country manager of H&M Canada, the program “provides shoppers with an option for recycling garments and becoming active participants in circular fashion” as the call for resale heightens. “Now more than ever, Canadian shoppers are looking for good, reliable resale platforms,” he said. “We wanted to provide a reliable and simple platform for this growing demand.” One of the defining features of H&M Canada’s secondhand platform is that it offers used garments from any fashion brand— not just H&M—and sellers can create their own digital listings. Through hmrewear.com, sellers create a post by filling in the description, size, color, condition and selling price for their product. If they’re reselling an H&M product, they can search the Rewear database for the product—sometimes using just one uploaded image—and the listing will collect most of the data points automatically. “We felt it was important to be inclusive of all brands in Canada rather than just limiting this platform for H&M products,” Tavoukdjian said. “We want to provide a destination for Canadians to become active participants in circularity and find new homes for garments from any brand in their closet.”

The company also offers a “premium experience” in which it retouches the first picture of the post for optimal views and helps determine pricing using an algorithm that detects the most competitive price. Sellers can be paid for any listing that sells with either cash via direct deposit or H&M

store credit with a 20 percent bonus that can be redeemed in any stores or on hm.com in Canada. Walmart took a similar approach with its resale business, which offers pre-owned fashion from labels including Tommy Hilfiger, Coach, Nike, Michael Kors, Calvin Klein and more. In May 2020, RIVET NO.13 / OCTOBER 2021

the retail giant partnered with ThredUp to launch its resale platform on its website, which originally featured nearly 750,000 pre-owned items across women’s and children’s apparel, accessories, footwear and handbags. According to a company spokesperson, that number now hovers around 2 million. ThredUp is responsible for supplying the inventory and fulfilling and shipping the items directly to the customer. Shoppers also receive the added benefit of Walmart’s free shipping policy on orders over $35 and can take advantage of free returns at Walmart stores. Looking ahead Retailers’ efforts to promote secondhand aids in the fashion industry’s greater shift to circularity. Global initiatives such as the Denim Deal and the Ellen MacArthur Jeans Redesign program have helped bring together a fractured industry under one shared goal of keeping high-quality items in use for longer. As companies with major market share—Walmart alone sees approximately 220 million customers and members at its stores and websites every week—their efforts to redistribute high-quality clothing as opposed to creating and selling new items has the potential to make a major global impact and drive their sustainability efforts forward. Madewell is ensuring its program has a big effect by pledging alongside ThredUp to collect 1 million pairs of denim through Madewell Forever by 2023— the same number of jeans it was able to acquire in six years through its pre-existing denim trade-in program. “We have long been focused on creating a circular journey for jeans,” Hershfield said. “We are committed to creating high-quality products that stand the test of time, truly embracing circularity by extending the life of our products and reducing our impact on the environment.”

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CASUAL COOL From marketing gimmick to Zoom dressing, what’s next for casual Fridays? w ords_____ CHUCK DOBROSIE LSK I


he story of casual Friday, and the broader casualization of workplace wear, has multiple beginnings. In one telling, it begins in 1962 with a campaign led by the Hawaiian Fashion Guild. In an apparent attempt to boost local garment sales, the association lobbied state government to endorse aloha shirts as business attire. The crusade, which included sending every member of Hawaii’s legislature two aloha shirts, proved effective. Before long, the state Senate passed a resolution recommending “aloha attire” be worn during the summer months “for the sake of comfort and in support of the 50th state’s garment industry.” In 1965, the Guild set its sights on a new goal: the creation of “Aloha Friday,” an occasion when employees could swap out formal wear for the tops Hawaii is known for. The group got its way once again and, in 1966, state officials formally endorsed the weekly tradition. In the decades that followed, the event, also known as Hawaiian Shirt Day or Hawaiian Shirt Friday, spread to the mainland. Another version of the story starts in California’s Silicon Valley. According to author and columnist Michael S. Malone’s history of Hewlett-Packard, it was HP that pioneered casual Fridays in the now-famously informal tech enclave. Born from the weekly Friday afternoon beer busts the company began throwing during World War II, the


so-called “Blue Sky Days” allowed employees to dress casually and encouraged them to open their minds to new ideas, Malone claims. Visitors to the company and employees who left to strike out on their own carried the tradition with them. For many workers, however, the journey to today—to a world where Zoom attire is fast becoming the business norm, even beyond the webcam—begins in the early ’90s.

‘A Guide to Casual Businesswear’ It was 1992. The U.S. had just endured an eight-month recession. A year past its official end, unemployment remained high. Businesses were both struggling to keep employees and having to cut their benefits. Companies were in search of a low-cost morale booster. Businesses, however, had their doubts about casual dress codes. First, the large, traditional companies of the time remained afraid—despite what studies were showing—that letting individuals dress casually would negatively affect productivity, Rick Miller, the president and CEO of public relations firm Rick Miller Communication explained. And second, there was no clear consensus on what casual workwear would even look like. That’s where “A Guide to Casual Businesswear” came in. The basic idea—taking casual dress and making it much more acceptable and commonplace at work—came from Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&Co.), Miller said. The job of the public relations firm Burson-Marsteller’, Miller’s then employer, was to develop such a campaign. Head of the company’s San Francisco office, Miller led this effort, working directly with the denim giant and its Dockers brand to execute a campaign that would shape white-collar America’s conception of casual business wear for years to come. “Once you took away a man’s suit, many men who were in office settings were really ill-prepared to come to work with a more…I’ll call it an appropriate casual look,” Miller said. “So, they really needed help in showing and sharing with their workforces what could look right, what is appropriate.” The team started with the top Fortune 100 companies, contacting human resources directors and offering them “this notion of a guide to casual business wear,” Miller said. “We really believed that as [aluminum giant] Alcoa went, as Proctor [& Gamble] went, many companies would follow and indeed that’s what began to happen.” Not long after, LS&Co. broadened its outreach, shipping its new pamphlet, “A Guide to Casual Businesswear,” to some 25,000 HR managers. Aside from talking points to use with senior leadership and advice on how to communicate

new dress standards, the pamplet also provided a list of suggestions. “Combine some of your existing business wardrobe with casual attire…try wearing a button-down shirt with khakis and loafers, either with a more colorful tie/scarf or just a sportcoat or sweater,” said one tip. “Avoid clothing that is too revealing or tight fitting,” recommended another. These recommendations—and the pictures of smiling employees wearing Dockers khakis—codified casual Friday norms for years to come. Companies requested additional pamphlets, copied its recommendations and posted samples around the office, Miller said. Ultimately, it appears the campaign did help support broader acceptance of more casual dress codes. According to a survey cited by LS&Co. and conducted by Evans Research, nine out of 10 companies allowed their staff to dress casually on an occasional or full-time basis in 1995, up from two-thirds in 1992. By 1995, 42 percent let employees dress casually one day a week.

"IF YOU PU T ON A SUI T, I T SEEMS SIL LY A N D K IN D OF FA K E...” — R ic h ard T hom p son Ford, S tanford La w S c hool But the campaign did have another goal. LS&Co. is a business after all, so the images used in the campaign showcased the company’s products, particularly its Dockers khakis. “For many people, the khakis were kind of like a default pant,” Miller said. “If I didn’t have a suit pant I might have had a pair of khakis that I would wear out, but that was about it. Maybe if I have a blazer I’ll put that on, but it was khakis with any shirt I had in the closet. And I probably had a pair of them, and I’ve had them for a while.” In this sense, the guide appears to have succeeded. Khakis became the default pant of ’90s-era casual Fridays—something that would pave the way for denim to eventually take its place. Decades later, Dockers now regards the “Guide to Casual Businesswear” “as an integral and rich part of [its] heritage,” said Tracey Panek, LS&Co. historian. RIVET NO.13 / OCTOBER 2021

A new dress code Writing his recently published book “Dress Codes: How the Laws of Fashion Made History,” Richard Thompson Ford, a professor of law at Stanford Law School, scoured through legal opinions, plays and newspaper clippings from the late Middle Ages to the modern day. He traced the continued casualization following Dockers’ “Guide to Casual Businesswear” to the “ascendancy” of Silicon Valley. “Because these Silicon Valley companies are so successful, everyone feels not only kind of emboldened to dress more casually, but in some sense even required to,” Ford said. “If you look at some of the investment banks where they used to be some of the most uptight places in terms of dress code, they've all gone for casual dress codes because they’ve got all these Silicon Valley clients and the clients think smart, savvy, innovative people don’t wear suits.” The pandemic has of course accelerated the trends that were dominating pre-Covid. Ford, however, doesn’t see this as employees just letting loose. Rather, he ties it to the late-20th century and 21st century focus on “authenticity in dress.” “Everyone wants to seem kind of unpretentious and like they’re dressing sensibly,” Ford explained. “So, you go to Zoom, and you’re in your living room, and the kids are running around in the background and there are dirty dishes. If you put on a suit, it seems silly and kind of fake and contrived and people don't want to look contrived.” Looking at one of Dockers’ most recent collections, it is clear a seismic shift has occurred in what is defined as work clothes. Released in August, it includes a pair of chinos, a crewneck sweatshirt, a button-down shirt and a tee it says will “layer easily for any clean, laid-back office look.” “We looked at some of our first products to inform what we’re introducing to the market today,” Nick Rendic, Dockers global head of design,” said. “The Original Icons are the outcome of that work. And included in that is the Icon Tee because it’s so appropriate to the new workplace norm as well as being a West Coast staple in everyone’s wardrobe.” Ford doesn’t anticipate the current trends in workplace dress reversing anytime soon. “Everyone’s gotten used to this relaxed stuff being professional attire—you’ve seen people on Zoom wearing it for the last year—but also because people are going to remain on Zoom parttime…I suspect that Zoom attire is going to more and more become everyday professional attire and that’s accelerating what was already a trend toward casual clothes in the workplace.”


S/S 22 TRENDS: Women’s Contemporary Trend Toolkit Powered By:



RIVET 50 serves as an index of the forwardthinking leaders driving change in the global denim marketplace. This year, those individuals were nominated and chosen by the denim industry. More than 16,000 online votes determined who made the list. From sustainability gurus to designers with star power, here's a look at who is influencing denim in 2021.



Agents of Change


Supply Chain

l Paige, Co-Founder and

Creative Director


As the co-founder and creative director at Paige, Paige Adams-Geller added a female voice to the jeans category predominantly made up of men during premium denim’s heyday. What began as a women’s denim brand in 2004 expanded just two years later into a full lifestyle collection for men and women. The brand is expanding into new markets through a partnership with Italy-based Brama Group. The company will begin to distribute Paige’s collections in Europe and the Middle East this fall. Her impact extends beyond denim and into the surrounding community through her work with organizations dedicated to empowering survivors of sexual abuse and eating disorders.

DHRUV AGARWAL l Kontoor Brands, Senior

Director of Innovation and Product Development

As Kontoor Brands’ senior director of innovation and product development, Dhruv Agarwal has been instrumental in the introduction and expansion of programs that enhance the sustainable footprint of Wrangler’s and Lee’s parent company. The company expanded its Indigood program, an initiative that targets water savings during the fabric construction phase, to include any water savings technology in fabric production that uses at least 90 percent less water than conventional processes. The company also expanded its collaboration with Panda Biotech, an industrial hemp fiber company. The companies are working to bring traceability and scale to the textile-grade, cottonized hemp grown and



processed in the U.S. “Sustainable hemp creates the perfect complement fiber to cotton,” Agarwal said. “Our work with Panda Biotech has been focused on making truly sustainable hemp, unlocking an additional commercialized fiber crop for American farmers and providing consumers with access to more sustainable apparel.”

MURTAZA AHMED l Managing director of

Artistic Milliners, Founder of Star Fades International

Few denimheads have been recognized by the United Nations for their efforts to promote sustainable and ethical production, but Murtaza Ahmed can claim the honor. In 2019, the managing director of Pakistan-based vertically integrated denim manufacturer Artistic Milliners was recognized by the UN Global Compact for promoting gender equality and eco-consciousness in the country’s garment industry. Ahmed also helped Artistic Milliners to advance gender equality across the organization by filling half of the company’s board with women. Earlier this year, Artistic Milliners acquired Commerce, Calif.-based denim laundry Star Fades International, with the intention of establishing a stateside presence and helping to reinvigorate the Los Angeles area’s historic denim sector.


MEHMET AKGÜNLÜ l Isko, Executive Commercial


Isko has been at the forefront of denim development for years, and the Turkish denim mill hasn’t let up thanks to leadership from execs such as Mehmet Akgünlü. The mill recently expanded its line of R-Two fabrics, which mixes reused cotton and recycled fibers from its


production loss. Additionally, Isko revealed it was joining the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Jeans Redesign project, confirming that 85 percent of its entire fabric production will consist of recycled material content. Akgünlü himself says: “We have always thought that collaboration is essential within our industry. The unprecedented circumstances we have been experiencing in the past year have proven how important it is to support each other and be accountable for our actions.”

Such collaborative efforts are continuing to manifest for Isko, which now is teaming with the fashion school Institut Français de la Mode (IFM) and luxury giant Kering to develop a 10-week course dedicated to sustainable fashion for professionals and students. Isko also is partnering with MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, enabling it to research and develop smart textiles and wearable technologies with the help of the program’s participants.

l Be Disobedient, Founder

Challenging the norm has always served as the inspiration behind the work of Be Disobedient, the creative consultancy founded by Ana Paula Alves de Oliveira. The pandemic, however, forced the group to recalibrate and push boundaries further. Though a challenge, the global shift to digital communication and events provided a greater soapbox for Alves de Oliveira to spread her Be Disobedient message on sustainability, collaboration and creativity. “We had to adapt existing projects into online experiences, using creativity to react quickly,” she said. The group generated more than 10 webinars inviting over 50 industry experts from around the globe to share personal stories, insights, success cases and recommendations to inspire colleagues during the difficult year. The digital events also provided a platform for South and Central America denim industries. While the regions suffer from a lack of technology and government subsidies, Alves de Oliveira pointed out that Latin America still has the most important ingredients to make good denim: “passionate people with denim addiction.”

JACLYN ALLEN l Guess Inc., Director of

Corporate Sustainability

Jaclyn Allen

Advancing an apparel brand’s sustainability strategy is challenging during normal circumstances, let alone in a pandemic, but Jaclyn Allen is coming out the crisis with big wins for both Guess and the planet. Bringing jeans to market that adhere to Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Jean Redesign guidelines is one of those achievements. At Allen’s suggestion, Guess took

Kerry Bannigan

Scott Baxter

an exploratory approach to achieving the circular requirements by sponsoring a course at Fashion Institute for Design and Merchandising to help with research. Though the challenges were immense, the team didn’t give up. Collaborating on Guess’ sustainability report, which completed a “reasonable” assurance examination by Big 4 accounting firm KPMG, was another win. Allen’s global team worked to create a testing and controls protocol for nearly 100 metrics disclosed in the detailed report.

KERRY BANNIGAN l Conscious Fashion Cam-

paign, Founder

Kerry Bannigan is on a mission to scale sustainability. In 2018, she founded the Conscious Fashion Campaign to accelerate the United Nations’ then-newly introduced Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. The 17 SDGs address issues such as climate change, pollution, poverty and hunger—and Bannigan’s venture helps show companies exactly how to incorporate them into their existing framework. Though initially launched as a year-long pilot, the Campaign became a permanent institution. Its partners now collectively represent over $4.7 billion in revenue.

SCOTT BAXTER l Kontoor Brands, President,

CEO and Board Member

Kontoor Brands president and CEO Scott Baxter has Wrangler and Lee on a growth track. The heritage brands are finding success at home and abroad. In late 2020, Kontoor Brands launched the Wrangler brand in China on digital platforms. International revenue now accounts for about 22 percent of the total business, led by Europe and China. The outdoor collection, Wrangler ATG (All Terrain Gear), as well as the Lee collaboration with fast-fashion giant H&M, which included 100 percent recycled jeans, are examples of initiatives that are positioning Kontoor for long-term success in these regions.

SARAH BELLOS l Stony Creek Colors, Founder

and CEO

In an industry swept up in synthetic dyes, Sarah Bellos is proving that it is possible to build a scalable (and local) source for natural indigo. As founder and CEO of Stony Creek Colors, the Springfield, Tenn.-based plant-based dye company, Bellos

"WE NOW DIXIE CATER TRULY HAVE l Panda Biotech, President A SCALABLE SUPPLY CHAIN As the denim industry THAT CAN continues to seek out fibers, Dixie COLOR OUR alternative Carter’s company, Panda wants to be INDUSTRY WITH Biotech, go-to for all premium A REGENERA- industrial hemp. To fulfill this commitment, it is TIVE, CLIMATE constructing what it says largest hemp facilPOSITIVE isitythein the world at more than 500,000 square INDIGO feet in Wichita Falls, SOLUTION." Texas. The first facility —SARAH BELLOS, STONY CREEK COLORS works with key parts of the suppychain to advance natural dyes and help restore denim’s rich indigo heritage. The dyes are a win-win for the industry, improving “profitability and ecosystem health for farmers, while empowering designers, brands, and mills with greater transparency and traceability,” the company states. In 2021, Stony Creek Colors joined Fashion for Good’s Accelerator Program designed to facilitate financing, provide impact assessments. The company also celebrated the closing of its Series B financing round, totaling more than $9 million. With this financing, Stony Creek Colors secured the capital needed to scale operations.

will begin operating in March 2022, with the company saying it is developing machinery will process approximately 10 tons of industrial hemp per hour. Panda Biotech recently began collaborating with Oritain to use forensic science to trace the origin of each products.

l_____ DI XI E CATE R


Visit our website for extended profiles: sourcingjournal.com/denim/Rivet-50



l Advisor and Designer at

l CI & IE manager at Saitex

Unspun, Gap Inc. and more


A Levi’s veteran credited with revitalizing the company’s appeal, Jonathan Cheung now consults with leading brands, material solutions providers and retail technology innovators. As an advisor to Unspun, which has pioneered a solution to help shoppers find the perfect fit, Cheung helps bring potential denim partners into the fit tech fold. With a passion for versatile clothes that are built to stand the test of time, Cheung shepherded the release of Un-labelled, Unspun’s custom fit unisex denim collection, made with organic cotton and eco finishes.

With an eye toward social responsibility, Gilles Cousin studied textile engineering in France before embarking on a career that has spanned continents and categories. His interest in the next generation of eco-friendly materials ultimately brought Cousin to Saitex. There he was offered “so much opportunity” for continuous improvement and participation in compelling new projects like Saitex’s new U.S. factory. “Working with most of the main denim actors worldwide, I feel that the company has the power to change the actual way of jeans manufacturing, if not garment manufacturing,” he said.


Gilles Cousin

Romeu Antonio Covolan

l Canatiba Denim Industry

co-founder and CEO

Since the ’80s, Canatiba Denim co-founder and CEO Romeu Covolan has put his business on “a blue road from which it would never stray.” This spirit has led Canatiba to pursue environmentally friendly practices, resulting in a 90 percent reduction in the use of fossil fuels, 40 percent water reuse and

dyeing techniques that save 80 percent of the water. Today, Canatiba operates three manufacturing units that produce more than 11 million meters of fabric a month.

BILL CURTIN l BPD Washhouse owner

While years of working in development exposed Bill Curtin to the global nature of the denim industry, he found his calling locally with BPD Washhouse. Just a short drive from New York City, the Jersey City, N.J. washhouse is the only full-service commercial denim wet and dry process facility on the East Coast. Location, location, location, however, has never been as important as it has during a period that saw travel come to a halt. Laser proficiency— achieved by a newly acquired Jeanologia laser machine—and leaning into sustainability while saving time and money are among Curtin’s biggest accomplishments for the year, and both are benefiting local designers and craftsmen through workshops and classes.

and washing, Zennure Danışman, is advocating for earth-friendly production processes, combining the newest techniques and trends in sustainable fashion with innovative marketing solutions. Since joining the 68-year-old textile company as a product development engineer, Danışman has risen the ranks, overseeing seasonal collections and capsule packages as a finishing and washing development engineer before taking on the role of marketing and washing manager in 2019.

JASON DENHAM l Denham founder

"DENIM RETAIL NEEDS TO EVOLVE INTO AN EXPERIENCE PLATFORM WHERE CONSUMERS CAN BOTH LEARN AND HAVE FUN AS THEY SHOP." —EBRU DEBBAG, SOORTY A big believer in collaborations, Denham founder Jason Denham has leveraged a long-time partnership with Candiani Denim to ensure that his brand was one of the first to use the Italian denim mill’s Coreva

ZENNURE DANIŞMAN l Orta Anadolu marketing

and washing manager

Inspired by her experience in fabric and washing, Orta Anadolu’s head of marketing





technology, the first stretch denim that is 100 percent biodegradable and compostable. In late 2020, the Dutch brand entered a partnership with Nike to design three denim-themed sneakers for the footwear giant.



l Stella McCartney head of


Malin Ekengren’s 15 years of experience centers on denim design and consultancy at some of the world’s most celebrated labels, including Gap, Levi’s and Alexander McQueen. Now standing as the head of denim at Stella McCartney, she channels her unparalleled exper-

tise to solidify the label’s reputation as a leader in sustainably sourced and produced denim. Ekengren’s affinity for staying on the cutting edge of denim innovations naturally aligns with the brand’s penchant for offering luxury without sacrificing ethics.


l_____ E B RU DE BB AG

l Soorty executive director of global sales and marketing

In 2018, Ebru Debbag left her long-time home at Orta Anadolu for her current position as Soorty's executive director of global sales and marketing, where she is focusing on how to best align the company’s product, design and social values with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) “to transform the industry at scale globally.” Outside of her day-to-day work, Debbag spends much of her time promoting sustainability. In 2016, she founded Indigofriends “in pursuit of co-creating a dialogue for regenerative supply chain and consumption practices.” She is also on the board of Etkiyap, the first impact investment platform in Turkey, and is an active founding member of Permaturk, the first permaculture non-governmental organization set up to advocate sustainable living.


l Global Denim creative



Cultural provocateur and creative consultant are just some of the terms used to describe Tremaine Emory, a.k.a. Denim Tears. His first collection, released in 2019 on the 400th anniversary of the day slavery began in the U.S., told the story of American cotton and its foundation in slavery. A year later, Levi’s collaborated with the designer to bring the story to the masses with a capsule collection featuring vintage denim with an all-over screen print of white cotton wreaths. The collection’s success inspired the duo to form a two-year partnership that will continue to help elevate Black voices in denim.

During the pandemic, the role of a creative director has evolved from one that keeps a pulse on market novelties and fashion trends, to one of understanding how a crisis of this magnitude will affect the consumer mindset. As Global Denim’s creative director, Anatt Finkler has stepped up to do it all while also becoming a new mom and adjusting to the new normal. Despite a difficult year, Global Denim has pushed forward with 100 percent recycled cotton compositions, fabrics that fit three sizes and advanced its water-saving Ecolojean program, while maintaining desirable looks and hand feels.

Visit our website for extended profiles: sourcingjournal.com/denim/Rivet-50


KERBY JEAN-RAYMOND l Founder of Pyer Moss

l Founder of Wiser Tech

DONWAN HARRELL l Founder of ArtMeetsChaos

Though his experience spans Nike and Lee, Donwan Harrell is best known for the 16 years he served as the head of his own label, Prps. Despite his attempts at keeping a low profile—he’s said that he intentionally left the U.S. to launch the brand in the early ’00s—he’s credited for bringing Japanese luxury denim jeans to America. When Harrell exited the company in 2018, he immediately shifted his focus to other pursuits like

ArtMeetsChaos, a streetwear line that extends beyond denim. Harrell continues to fail at keeping a low profile, already amassing 14.5k Instagram followers on the brand’s page. Another pursuit that Harrell was able to explore during life after Prps was one close to his heart: an incubator for young minorities. By working with local schools, he aims to teach students about the ins and outs of the industry and provide them with a platform for creative experimentation. This initiative, along with his own efforts to become less anonymous, will help inspire Black youth as they pursue their own creative passions.



Wiser Tech founder Fuat Gozacan has been working to sustainably advance one of the most water-intensive processes in the industry: denim finishing. His company’s research and development center launched an AI-based system called WOX earlier this year, which builds upon the company’s patented Wiser Wash ozone bleaching process, introduced in 2017. Doing away with toxic chemicals, the method relies on just water and ozone. WOX takes the process a step further, employing an algorithm that controls resource use while learning how to optimize the process for the future.

Kerby Jean-Raymond wears many creative hats. As the founder of Pyer Moss, the New York-based men’s and women’s wear brand, he weaves together denim, streetwear, activewear and tailoring into a new and modern aesthetic that carries messages of heritage and activism. In July, despite a freak rainstorm that forced him to reschedule, Jean-Raymond became the second Black American designer to present during Paris Couture Week and used the prestigious runway to celebrate the achievements of Black inventors. Amplifying new voices and uplifting the artists that work behind the scenes of fashion’s glossy exterior plays a large role in Jean-Raymond’s projects. Last fall, he partnered with luxury conglomerate Kering to form Your Friends in New York (YFINY), a platform designed to empower the next generation of creatives and create an “eco-system of creativity that reimagines how consumers discover and interact with brands.” “It is important to me to create and work on ventures that are future forward, involve the community at large and that will continue to help others grow in the fashion and art space,” Jean-Raymond said.

"IT IS IMPORT- LIZ HERSHANT TO ME FIELD l Madewell senior vice presiTO CREATE dent of sustainability AND WORK ON VENTURES THAT Liz Hershfield, Madewell’s ARE FUTURE senior vice president of sustainability for the past FORWARD, two years, received her fashion start in merchanINVOLVE dising. Roles at JCPenney’s Byer California led COMMUNITY AT and to a seven-year stint with Gap Inc., where she overLARGE..." —KERBY JEANRAYMOND, PYER MOSS

saw the production and product development for divisions that generated hundreds of millions to billions of dollars annually. In 2009, Hershfield


began what would become a nearly decade-long career with the e-commerce brand Bonobos. In 2019, she became senior vice president of sustainability at J Crew Group’s Madewell brand, where she now oversees sourcing, supply chain and sustainability initiatives across all the brand’s men’s and women’s categories. The brand recently entered a partnership with ThredUp to expand its resale business. The sustainability leader also serves as a board member for the Grace Institute, an organization that helps low-income women develop professional skills.

Faut Gozacan


ers field

asan aved

l AGI Denim executive




l Denim City São Paulo

l The Bear Scouts, co-founder

academic director


Born into the world of denim, Hasan Javed is now executive director at AGI Denim, responsible for the mill’s management,R&D and finance. With 16 locations across Karachi, Pakistan, the vertically integrated company produces 24 million garments and 40 million meters of fabric per year. With a passion for innovation, Javed is paving the way for his family’s business to embrace cutting-edge technology. Under his leadership, AGI Denim established what he said is Pakistan’s first LEED-certified spinning mill designed on Industry 4.0 principles.

Denim City São Paulo’s Maria José Orione, a long-time industry veteran, is passing on her firsthand knowledge to the next generation of denim leaders. As the school’s academic director, Orione is responsible for structuring and preparing courses aimed at professionals and students in the jeans wear sector. Formally opened fall last year, the school connects rising denim creators with leaders in sustainability. She has also acted as a guest professor in postgraduate courses in fashion business management across Brazil.

Dio Kurazawa understands what goes on behind the scenes at some of the sector’s leading brands. His professional experience reads like a denim timeline, holding design

and product development positions at Tommy Hilfiger, Levi Strauss & Co. and C&A before becoming the head of denim at WGSN. In 2013, he launched a sustainability consultancy service, The Bear Scouts, to provide apparel companies with the tools they need to achieve their sustainability goals and optimize their supply chain for circularity. l_____ D IO KUR AZ AWA


WALDEN LAM l Unspun co-founder and


Unspun wants to offer the best-fitting jeans on the planet, but in co-founding the digital apparel company, Walden Lam sought to bring modern fit technology directly into the made-to-order manufacturing process. As part of Lam’s vision, Unspun has goals to be a “zero-inventory” brand with the aim for its technology to help divert fashion waste from landfills and incinerators. Already partnering with H&M Group to produce jeans, Unspun’s next step is mass producing waste-free 3D-weaving machines. Lam hopes that by putting “microfactories” on multiple continents, brands can produce closer to home.

MARZIA LANFRANCHI l Cotton Diaries founder

In 2017, Marzia Lanfranchi founded Cotton Diaries, an organization on a mission “to transform the way we grow, make, source and use cotton.” To accomplish this, she doesn’t just consult with brands and suppliers looking to identify problems in their supply

chain, but also helps amplify the stories of the people and projects that are “doing cotton better” through content. In addition to her work with Cotton Diaries and as an independent consultant, Lanfranchi also serves as the intelligence director for Transformers Foundation, which provides free education on the industry to students and consumers around the globe and publishes an annual report and independent research.

AMY LEE l Senior manager trends and

insights for Avery Dennison RBIS

Amy Lee, the senior trends and insights manager for apparel at global materials science company Avery Dennison RBIS, started her career designing fabrics for U.K. brands like Ben Sherman. In 2014, Lee made the move to trend forecasting at Avery Dennison. Lee’s insights work spans multiple markets and stages of the supply chain within apparel, from denim to performance to factory solutions. The trend forecaster has served as a keynote speaker and panelist numerous times in her career, speaking on the topics of collaboration, technology and sustainability at industry events including Première Vision, SB Brands and Future Fabrics Expo.

Visit our website for extended profiles: sourcingjournal.com/denim/Rivet-50


UNA MURPHY l Levi Strauss & Co. director design innovation

l President of Cone Denim


Steve Maggard has served as the president of Cone Denim, maintaining the company’s overall vision of producing high-quality, sustainable denim at scale for the past 26 years. Recently, Cone has invested millions of dollars in reducing water consumption with the installation of two ozone finishing ranges and its new zero liquid discharge water treatment facility at Parras Cone. The project is expected to reduce its water consumption by over 140 million gallons per year. In 2020, the mill partnered with supply chain traceability specialist Oritain and became the first denim mill globally to adopt the highest level of end-to-end traceability possible.

Helming Levi’s design innovation efforts, Una Murphy is responsible for pushing the difference-making advancements that stand to revolutionize an industry built on a less-than-sustainable foundation. Denim’s environmental downsides are well documented, and Murphy is looking to change that. She continually examines the supply chain, from raw materials through production, championing new materials and fiber advancements while promoting designs that will last shoppers a lifetime or even longer. Murphy has pushed the brand to promote more sustainable methods of cotton cultivation while also looking at viable alternatives, like hemp, which requires less water and fewer pesticides in order to flourish. She also worked to help Levi’s introduce its first circular jean through a collaboration with Swedish recycling textile technology startup Re:newcell—a project more than five years in the making—last year. The denim is made with 40 percent Circulose, a breakthrough material composed of equal parts recycled denim and sustainably sourced viscose.

GLENN MARTENS l Creative director of Diesel;

Creative director of Y/Project

Glenn Martens’ arrival at Diesel isn’t your standard changing of the guard. The Y/Project creative director and now Diesel creative director immersed himself into the Italian denim brand’s rich past to design a future that will resonate with younger and more eco-conscious consumers. One year into the gig, Martens has helmed new




c aull

Omer Mert

concept store designs and provocative ad campaigns that nod to Diesel’s history for bold and memorable branding, collaborated with Diesel founder Renzo Rosso on updating archival pieces and laid the foundation to the brand’s first low-impact evergreen denim line called Diesel Library. His first collection for Spring/Summer 2022, meanwhile, underscores Diesel’s new lease on life. The all-gender presentation offers new approaches to pandemic-fashion buzzwords like utility and upcycling deadstock, which Diesel has been experimenting more with as of late.



CINDY MCNAULL l Cordura brand business

development director

Cindy McNaull has been a driving force, thought leader and “durable ambassador” at Invista’s Cordura brand for more than a decade. In her current role as Cordura brand business development director, she harnesses more than 25 years of passion and experience within specialty chemical, textile and non-woven industries. She has led the expansion of


the brand from its heritage in military and outdoor applications to the durable performance textile solution provider it is today for workwear, sportswear and other lifestyle categories. To her denim colleagues, McNaull's known for her creativity, connectivity and ability to think beyond the norm, securing Cordura’s place in the jeanswear market during the past 10 years through collaborations and long-lasting partnerships with. Most recently, McNaull was part of the team that developed and expanded the Cordura recycled fabric portfolio.

OMER MERT l Strom CEO and co-owner

Omer Mert is passionate about sustainable denim, overseeing denim manufacturer Strom with the mindset that shoppers need to “buy less and buy better.” Strom carries out this mindset through a vertically integrated operation in two facilities in Istanbul making it easier for the manufacturer to keep a close watch on every garment from fabric to final piece. The company doesn’t

first-ever collaboration. "THIS IS PREIt yielded some of the highest average unit CISELY THE retail (AUR) the brand TIME TO DOUBLE has ever seen. The Calvin Klein collection followed DOWN ON SUS- Preston’s second collabwith Levi’s called TAINABIITY, TO oration "Mistakes are Ok." REINFORCE AND NICOLAS COMMUNUCATE PROPHTE l PVH vice president of ABOUT OUR Center of Excellence, Denim PROGRESS AND AMBITIONS." As head of PVH’s denim

was right, CEO Chip Bergh said at the time, after a year of deeply painful social tensions and calls for racial justice illuminated the reality that the company was not “where we need to be.”

work with any fast-fashion giants, keeping orders down—its average order is approximately 700 to 800 pieces, from brands including Reformation, Boyish Jeans, Triarchy and Rag & Bone. While many denim laundries use chemicals and hot water in their bleach process, Mert and the Strom team sought to consume less energy by launching an ozone technology process designed to significantly reduce the laundry’s water consumption, use of chemicals and energy. By eliminating chemical use in the bleach process, laundries save on chemical cost as well.

ELIZABETH A. MORRISON l Levi Strauss & Co. chief

diversity, equity and inclusion officer

Assuming the role of chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer at Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&Co.) in November 2020, Elizabeth Morrison brought with her more than 20 years of experience building corporate cultures that encompass diverse perspectives and empower employees. The moment

HERON PRESTON l Heron Preston founder

A favorite of hype beasts for years with his collaborations with Nike and his own eponymous luxury streetwear apparel line, designer and artist Heron Preston’s network of fans is increasingly growing blue thanks to partnerships with two iconic denim brands. In April, Preston bowed a collection with Calvin Klein—the brand’s

center, Nicolas Prophte drives innovation across Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein. In March, under Prophte’s oversight, Tommy Jeans debuted its first collec-

garment given how many pairs of jeans include the company’s signature product: zippers. Last October, the company announced YKK Sustainability Vision 2050, a five-pronged strategy that addresses climate change, material resources, water resources, chemical management and human rights as well as 10 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. The company also launched the Solutions Group, to providing other companies with manufacturing process improvement.



l President of YKK Corpora-

tion of America

YKK Group may not be a denim mill or brand, but Jim Reed, president of YKK Corporation of America, knows what constitutes a sustainable



tion that follows Ellen MacArthur’s Jeans Redesign guidelines. To date, the brand has trained more than 80 percent of its designers on circular design principles. He has also taken stands against greenwashing. Prophte is hoping to extend the sustainability conversation across the company. In July, PVH’s European division signed the Dutch Denim Deal, an initiative dedicated to increasing the use of recycled cotton fibers in denim production.

l Owner of Left Hand Twill

A supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, Left Hand Twill mastermind Solomon Russell used his platform to spread awareness about the industry’s shortcomings. In April, he co-produce a booklet containing limited-edition recycled denim patches entitled “Sewn Together: A collaboration between Elmer Gomer, Left Hand Twill and Denim Dudes,” which documented themes of community and solidarity in denim at a time when society was heavily fractured. Russell donated his portion of proceeds to the Radical Monarchs, a nonprofit that creates opportunities for young girls of color to celebrate their identities and contributions.

Visit our website for extended profiles: sourcingjournal.com/denim/Rivet-50


l Crescent Bahuman Ltd. vice

president, strategy


Zaki Saleemi joined Crescent Bahuman Ltd. (CBL) in June 2020 as the world underwent one of the worst global crises in recent history. During that time, the company switched gears and decided to focus on larger initiatives such as sustainability and a digital migration. The company is the first denim facility in Pakistan to process indigenous, rain-fed hemp fiber that was previously banned by the government. While some remain hesitant to embrace these sorts of industry-disrupting innovations, Saleemi is willing to take calculated risks for the possibility of a brighter future.

JENNIFER SEY l Executive vice president and

president of Levi’s brand

With a career at the heritage American denim brand that spans more than two decades, Jennifer Sey has driven the marketing, design, merchandising and brand experience efforts that have cemented Levi’s lofty industry status. She has held a variety of roles at the organization aimed at guiding Levi’s strategic direction, and has received accolades including being named

one of AdAge’s “Top 40 Marketers Under 40” in 2006 and one of Billboard Magazine’s “Top 25 Most Powerful People in Music and Fashion.” She received the 2018 CMO Social Responsibility Award and was touted by Forbes as one of 50 executives redefining the role of chief marketing officer.




l Co-founder and designer of


When asymmetrical jeans by KSENIASCHNAIDER, the Kyiv-based contemporary women’s brand, landed on the radar of fashion enthusiasts and critics in 2016, it was just a drop in the bucket to what was to come in the deconstructed denim category. The straight and wide-leg anomaly, however, is one example of how co-founder and designer Ksenia Schnaider is ahead of her time. A risk-taker that bends industry-wide themes to her own aesthetic, Schnaider has become the go-to source for out-of-the-box ideas. Constructions that mimic the look of fish scales, wader boots and cowboy jeans are among her original concepts, while upcycled patchwork denim result in wearable art. This year, the brand feted the opening of its first flagship in its hometown and several collaborations.



l Chief brand and innovation

l Naveena Denim Mills

officer for The Lycra Company

executive director of sales and marketing

As chief brand and innovation officer for The Lycra Company, Steve Stewart oversees the company’s integrated technology and strategic marketing teams and is tasked with accelerating the pace and impact of innovative products and platforms for brands and retailers. In June, The Lycra Company introduced a campaign aimed at advancing discussions around circularity textiles. Most recently, the company entered a broad-based collaboration across multiple technology and brand platforms with HeiQ aimed at bringing quality-enhancing and sustainable textiles to consumers around the world.

After 19 years at Turkish textile mill Orta Anadolu and now serving as the executive director of sales and marketing at Naveena Denim Mills, Aydan Tuzun has become a fixture in the industry.



l Founder and director of FibreTrace

The increasing conversation around transparency in the fashion supply chain, drew Danielle Statham and the other founders of FibreTrace and their team to create a solution to enable clear vision of a product from raw fiber to the end garment into a customer’s hands. The technology holds “definitive information for transactional records” within its luminescent pigment. Those invisible dyes are embedded into raw fibers at “minute quantities,” with no impact on the ultimate look or feel of a garment. As the item moves through the supply chain, digital Bluetooth scanning devices take on information about its location, qualities, factory certifications and more. Using a smartphone, shoppers can track a garment’s lifecycle—from the cotton farm, to the finishing stages—securely recorded on the virtual blockchain. This will allow brands to nominate yarn, fiber or fabric with the lowest impact, enabling brands and suppliers to develop meaningful and measurable partnerships towards continuous improvement. At Naveena, she’s focused on elevating the profile of Pakistan’s denim sector, serving as the point person for conversations related to the mill’s latest sustainable projects. She’s an outspoken champion of the mill’s advancements in organic and recycled fibers and low-impact dye processes. She’s also known to speak candidly about the mill’s hardships—specifically its experience navigating Covid-19. With a sharp focus on sustainability, the marketing maven does her part to educate those in the denim supply chain and beyond on the shared responsibility to create and invest in garments that are responsibly made.

MOSTAFIZ UDDIN l Denim Expert Limited

managing director

As the managing director, owner and CEO of denim manufacturer and washing plant Denim Expert Limited, Mostafiz Uddin is calling attention to the state of the manufacturing industry at large. Following Covid outbreaks in the summer of 2021, many factories and facilities now have to operate under unhealthy conditions in Uddin’s home of Bangladesh. On top of the fact that factories are still reeling from being left with the

bill on delayed payments and even canceled orders, which occurred when retail buyers closed their store doors. So not only are many factory workers fighting off sickness, but they also still must endure mass layoffs. Uddin’s Denim Expert Limited was the only apparel and textile company named “New Champion” by the World Economic Forum in November 2020.

do business remotely. It introduced a new sales kit featuring concept boxes, each with a fabric swatch and QR code that allowed access to the fabric’s wash gallery, as well as the Lifecycle Assessment (LCA) of the garment. Innovations like these are what Uncu Aki envisions to be the future of sustainable apparel.



l Orta Anadolu director

l Founder and designer of

Steve Stewart

41 ostafi


Oak & Acorn ~ Only for the Rebelles Orta Anadolu director Sedef Uncu Aki is responsible for directing the company’s product development and for launching new ideas and collections where art, technology and sustainability meet. During the pandemic, the mill immediately got to work creating solutions that would make it easier for its customers to

l_____ M I KO UNDE R W OOD



edef ncu

Denim is often classified as an American fabric, but rarely as a Black creation—and that’s a lesson Miko Underwood, founder of denim brand Oak & Acorn—Only for the Rebelles, addresses with her brand. Through historic storytelling and social impact measures, Underwood aims to create positive change. Her signature draped silhouettes were ahead of their time, providing genderless, sustainable denim before it was trendy to do so. All designs are made using eco-fibers like hemp, Refibra, Tencel, recycled and repurposed denim, natural indigo artisan textiles and deadstock fabrics. This commitment to sustainability underscores her vision for creating a future that shows more respect to the environment.


DAVID VLASERVICH l American Eagle Outfitters

senior director

As senior director of shared services at American Eagle Outfitters, David Vlaservich offers a special combination of creativity and more than 20 years of experience in the dyeing, finishing and garment wet processing areas. He provides a strong technical background needed to create innovative products and administer production support for the troubleshooting of problems in the field. Vlaservich has a successful track record of building cohesive product development teams with primary emphasis on the wet processing of fabrics and garments.

Visit our website for extended profiles: sourcingjournal.com/denim/Rivet-50


Runway Report l___JAN JAN VAN ESSCHE


l_____ET U D ES


l_____DOUB LE T

l_____COOL TM




Though it’s too early for denim to claim victory over pandemic sweats and loungewear, there’s a feeling bubbling up in the industry that there’s never been a more exciting time to be demand for looser fits, new rises and one-of-a-kind pieces is pushing designl_____V I E N


l_____GMB H

l_____JI E DA

in the business of blue. The growing

ers on and off the runway to rethink the basic jean. From icy washes and shredded surfaces to jeans that exude a type of understated elegance, the options for Spring/Summer 2020 are plenty and inspiring. —Angela Velasquez



cold as ice Though denim is on a hot streak, designers are cooling things off with glacial washes and finishes. ntense bleaching, laser effects and drastic blue and white color contrasts by cult labels like Etudes and Doublet add a literal and metaphor-






ical cool factor to denim.

outer-wow Few garments reveal personal style as well as outerwear, and designers know it. Greg Lauren and Glenn Martens for Diesel and Y/Project are among the names that sidestepped the classic denim trucker this season in

l_____DI E S E L


favor for bold and decorated styles.

shred cred l_____LOUI S VUI TTON

The destruction level of denim for S/S ’22 exceeds the wear-and-tear of l_____GR E G LAURE N

l_____CO OL TM

upcycled or vintage-inspired jeans. n another nod to the

0s, designers

like Cool TM and Louis Vuitton are shredding and ripping jeans to new extremes and the edgy theme isn’t exclusive of one style. Both skinny jeans and wide fits are a prime canvas for the dystopian look.



elevated status Clean lines and serious washes mean business. From Jan-Jan Van Essche’s effortlessly cool jeans and Officine

n rale s chambray suiting, to Vien s modern

take on retro cuffs, there’s a brigade of designers with polished and work-friend-



l_____VI EN


ly designs to counter Gen Z’s trendy favorites.


n a category ruled by 5-pocket blue jeans since its inception, it isn t easy

to surprise. Designers are stepping up to the plate with newness and new shapes, however. GMBH's off-the-shoulder silhouette, Monot’s leg-barring

l_____M ON OT

l_____GM B H

l_____SY ST EM

long skirt and System’s high-low jacket are just a tasting of fresh delights.

wide appeal loose-fit trend, but wide-leg jeans have been a mainstay on the runway for some time now. So much so, that they are no longer a novelty item in collections. Styled with proportion-enhancing tops and vintage-looking washes, wide-leg jeans are a natural fit in collections by Celine, reg l_____CE LI N E

l_____GRE G LAUR E N

l_____HE D M AYNE R

Mainstream brands are beginning to feel the impact of the burgeoning

Lauren, Hed Mayner and more.


Menswear designers examine denim through a sartorial lens. photography_____ R I CAR D O B E AS s tyl i ng_____ ALEX B AD I A








Photography: Ricardo Beas; Style director: Alex Badia; Grooming: Amanda Wilson; Models: Mohamed Cisse @Fusion, Pero Simic @ NYModels, Absalon O’Haolain Linbaek; Photography assistant: Alex Aptsiauri; Market editor: Victor Vaughts Jr.; Editor: Angela Velasquez


Rivet x Project Awards honor the best in denim. 60

w ord s _____ ANGELA VE LASQUE Z


eading denim brands gathered in Las Vegas in August for the first time since February 2020 to present their Spring/Summer 2022 collections at Project. There, the Rivet team shopped the show floor to uncover the best in denim across seven categories: Best Sustainable Collection, Best Men’s Collection, Best Women’s Collection, Best Showpiece, Editor’s Choice, Best New Brand and Best Storytelling. From modern interpretations of heritage and utility, to industry stalwarts embracing sustainable solutions, the third edition of the Rivet x Project Awards recognizes the brands bringing newness and creativity to the denim market. Congratulations to the winners.



With a $58 wholesale price point across its entire collection, new brand Morrison Denim aims to keep the jeans business simple and steady for both retailers and consumers alike. The Los Angeles-based women’s brand specializes in comfort stretch denim essentials for sizes 24-32 with a contemporary spin. Its first collection arrives in stores next spring. Though classic in fit—skinny, straight, bootcut and boyfriend (offered in both slouchy and slim cuts) round out the collection—Morrison Denim veers into fashion territory that speaks to the pandemic consumer. Bleached-out novelty effects and soft yet rigid-looking fabrications speak to vintage-loving consumers. Distressed and printed patchwork styles key into the quarantine-born DIY

trend that continues to gain momentum. Meanwhile, carpenter styles with contrast stitching, high-rise jeans with exposed buttons and bootcut jeans with deep front patch pockets embrace the authentic qualities of denim design. BEST MEN’S COLLECTION: OAK & ACORN – ONLY FOR THE REBELLES

In a sea of men’s straight-fit blue jeans, Oak & Acorn – Only for the Rebelles stands out with its heritage-meets-utility concepts. Though most of the Harlem-based brand’s designs are unisex, the collection brings inventive and sustainable denim statement pieces to the men’s market, including reversible hand-dyed vests, quilted joggers and RIVET NO.13 / OCTOBER 2021

boiler suits. Ahead of presenting at New York Fashion Week in September, founder Miko Underwood is rolling out a comfort-driven resort collection that offers harem pants and a black coverall with a tapered fit as well as a studded jacket and jean set and a quilted chore jacket with a cinched waist. BEST WOMEN’S COLLECTION: MIDHEAVEN DENIM

Midheaven Denim is former model Kathryn Boyd Brolin’s solution for tall women who, like her, were troubled by the lack of inseams long enough to fit their lengthy frames. Made with high-quality Italian denim fabrics and classic fits that rival premium brands like J Brand and Frame, the brand has gar-


lection is an example of how an established brand can evolve into a leader in sustainable manufacturing. The 30-year-old brand makes sustainable denim look good with a dual-gender collection that spans women’s pastel straight-fit jeans and wide-leg fashion statements, to men’s athletic-fit jeans and beach-ready shorts.



nered notable fans like Cindy Crawford and Nicole Kidman. Collaborations with designer Cynthia Rowley have help amplified the brand’s profile as well. Serving women size 24-32, Midheaven Denim offers jeans with inseams that range from 33-inches to 38-inches. This year, the brand is broadening its consumer base by expanding into regular lengths. The new collection, which retails for $189-$298, includes olive and ecru wide-leg jeans and matching shirt jackets, maternity skinny jeans, striped flare jeans and more. BEST SUSTAINABLE COLLECTION: MAVI

Featuring organic cotton, recycled cotton, Tencel and blends of these better fibers, Mavi’s S/S ’22 col-

Denim heads know well the gems that can be unearthed in thrift stores and flea markets. A new collaboration between Royal Revival and Alla Berman, however, brings new meaning to the phrase “a diamond in the rough.” The two brands linked up to create a capsule collection centered on vintage denim. The line consists of repurposed denim jeans, shorts, skirts and jackets, each hand embroidered with a diamond pattern accentuated by small crystals. Along with reflecting both brands’ SoCal glam styles, the collection taps into two trends favored by Gen Z: Y2K bling and upcycled fashion. BEST STORYTELLING: DICKIES

Dickies packs 100 years of design and storytelling into its Spring/Summer 2022 collection. The U.S. heritage brand, which will celebrate its centennial anniversary in March, pays homage to its workwear roots and the youth-oriented subcultures that adopted it as part of their uniform in a dual-gender line of classic yet relevant fits. A three-piece set highlights Dickies’ early days as a denim bib producer. The men’s set includes raw denim overalls, a chore jacket and carpenter jean punctuated with white contrast stitching and a special anniversary patch inside the garments. A men’s twill uniform set speaks to the brand’s evolution as a purveyor of durable work uniforms. A special anniversary T-shirt outlines Dickies's journey with a design that riffs on concert merch shirts. Along with wide-wale corduroy bottoms and graphic tees making up the new Dickies Skateboarding range, the S/S ’22 collection signals a new approach to the women’s category. With utility, coordinating sets and overalls dominating as trending themes in women’s, in general, the brand is building out some of its heritage pieces to appeal to the fashion consumer. Highlights include a salmon pink cropped work jacket and matching trousers, and a shorts coverall with pop accent colors. Prints and patterns such as paisley and crosshatch help enliven other coordinating sets. RIVET NO.13 / OCTOBER 2021


Celebrating three decades in the jeanswear business this year, Silver Jeans Co. is proof that growth is key to long-term success. Known for its original scroll pocket designs, heavy stitching, and curvy fits—styles that continue to resonate with its core Midwest consumer base—the Western Glove Works-owned brand is branching out with simplified designs built to withstand seasons and trends. Silver Jeans Co.’s Universal collection offers pared-back denim essentials like high-waisted shorts, ’90s baggy shorts, paper-bag waist jeans with a self-belt and more. Additionally, a 30th anniversary collection features a new stitching motif that represents Silver Jeans Co.’s past and future and special pocket bag designs with the tagline and the name of the brand’s new campaign, “Thirty Years Young.” The brand’s biggest achievement, however, is its sustainable journey. With 50 percent of the collection earning a green score from Jeanologia’s Environmental Impact Measuring software, Silver Jeans Co. is on a path to become more responsible. Partnerships with WRAP-certified factories and its use of organic cotton and CiCLO technology, which allows polyester fibers to break down in landfills and the ocean at rates comparable to a natural fiber, are helping to advance its efforts.

l_____ MAVI



Are loose-fit shoppers in for a size surprise? w ord s_____ J E SSICA BINNS


he new cycle sweeping through denim offers a welcome reprieve for an industry largely sidelined in the pandemic. After loungewear stole the spotlight for the better part of the past 12 months, denim executives can hardly contain their glee at how jeans have reasserted their relevance to the consumer wardrobe. Relaxed-fit styles have seemingly supplanted the skinny, the Gen Z-canceled millennial ride-or-die. But as shoppers leap onto the loose-fit bandwagon and keep up with the celebrity-approved look, what this means for e-commerce returns—long a tough nut to crack— remains a question without clear answers. In the wake of lengthy isolations and perhaps a few changes to their physiques, many consumers reengaging with workplaces, social activities and the world at large found their pre-pandemic wardrobes in need of a refresh. As the “most trusted item in your wardrobe,” jeans are “one of the first things you’re going to want to update,” said Don Howard, executive director of consulting services for Alvanon, the New York City fashion fit experts.

Stretch-less rude awakening? But consumers accustomed to a bit of stretch baked into their bottoms might be in for a rude awakening with some of the newer, roomier denims. Levi’s popular, sold-out High Loose women’s jean blends 23 percent hemp with 77 percent cotton—and zero


stretch. A similar Gap women’s style, the high-rise organic cotton ’90s loose jeans with Washwell, does one better, giving wearers just a hint of ease with 1 percent elastane. It’s a far cry from the stretch-heavy jeggings and skinny styles that became the de facto norm for more than a decade. New material makeups could leave consumers questioning how less-forgiving fabrics might accommodate their measurements, which is why brands must be transparent about what shoppers should expect from these new products, according to Howard. “You just have to be very good at explaining to the customer what you've done, if in fact you have stopped using as much stretch,” he said. “There’s nothing worse than being surprised when you’re trying on your favorite jean and you want to go back and get another one in a different wash and it fits completely differently.” Fashion-conscious young shoppers might be all in on the new blue wave, but some industry veterans challenge whether this loose-fit craze has the skinny’s enviable staying power. “Everyone’s talking about the looser fit, but those are trends that come and go,” said Tanya Zrebiec, vice president of innovation and strategy for A3Apparel and 1822 Denim, which runs a direct-to-consumer e-commerce site complementing its primarily wholesale jeanswear business. Still, wholesale clients like Nordstrom have been inquiring about styles that break from the skinny mold, Zrebiec pointed out, illustrating the new cycle’s influence on fashion consumers eager to mirror the images dominating their social feeds. “Some customers are looking for a straighter leg, and some that are more on the Gen Z side might be looking for really baggy jeans,” she said, noting 1822’s 180 percent year-over-year growth since the pandemic’s March 2020 onset. And while interest in newer silhouettes is bubbling up through 1822’s wholesale and e-commerce channels, “I wouldn’t say it’s changing the game for us,” Zrebiec said, “but we are noticing some traction there.” The remixed styles reshaping denim arrive as online shopping continues to command consumers’ attention, even if e-commerce’s growth streak is beginning to cool from its red-hot pandemic heights when social-distancing mandates kneecapped brick and mortar. Still, new styles plus less stretchy fabrics plus purchasing online from retailers with generous take-back policies might turn out to be a combustible combination for merchants already buried under a mountain of rejects that consumer “returned to sender.” To Howard, a bad-fitting product is “almost unforgivable today,” meaning retailers face even

higher stakes in ensuring they not just nail fit but also spell out what will await consumers dipping their toes into trend-led, loose-fit waters. “People just won't put up with” a poor fit that misses the mark “because they've got too many choices,” he added, “so if that new trend in denim isn't for you, I'm sure there'll be other companies that will supply the one that you like.”

No size surprises For Ronen Luzon, founding CEO of Israeli fit solutions provider My Size Inc., the loose-versusskinny debate might be obscuring the real story. “No matter the style, customers need to understand how the product will fit on them and there’s really two parts to solving the issue, especially when it comes to new looser-fitting denim,” he said. As if it isn’t tough enough that new fits now permeate the sector, consumers must also content with sizing’s maddening variations across brands, leaving them with the headache of matching measurements with numerical ranges that might seem randomly assigned. That’s why MySizeID built its technology around avatars, or digital clones that attack the fit issue, Luzon said, and “provide both accuracy and a visual component that gives even more idea, not only of how an item will fit, but how it will look,” helping first-time loose-fit shoppers make more educated purchasing decisions. Luzon believes fit technologies are now an imperative “prerequisite to success” for companies selling denim over the web, where shoppers lack the luxury of trying on garments prior to clicking the buy button. And Gap Inc.’s August acquisition of Drapr, a virtual try-on e-commerce startup that similarly uses 3D avatars mirroring a consumer’s dimensions, captures fit tech’s critical role in today’s online shopping experience, he added. “Retailers have invested so much [in] last-mile fulfillment and acquisitions of those types of solutions to differentiate themselves and provide a great customer experience, but now everyone can provide great delivery,” Luzon said. “Fit is the next differentiator in terms of both efficiency and customer experience.” Despite retailers’ manifold efforts to spruce up their digital experiences, fit remains the customer’s No. 1 “point of friction” when shopping online, said Sally Gilligan, Gap Inc.’s chief growth transformation officer, who oversaw the Drapr deal. The startup’s technology eliminates much of the guesswork for consumers who “either don’t know their exact measurements or are looking for a specific type of fit that numbers alone can’t RIVET NO.13 / OCTOBER 2021

tell them,” said David Pastewka, who co-founded Drapr and serves as CEO. Prior to the acquisition, Will Drevno, Drapr’s other co-founder, described how the startup noticed its fit solution playing a role in encouraging shoppers to branch out from their safety zone and explore a wider array of silhouettes. “With the way most brands’ product pages are laid out today, it can be really difficult for a shopper to visualize how a size or cut will change on different parts of their body,” he said. Drapr’s insights on conversion rates by body shape distribution help product teams figure out where to add and subtract sizes to truly capture sales. Plus, Drevno added, “any brand that wants to support sustainability should be trying to guide their customers toward ordering fewer sizes of the same item,” which is where fit systems like Drapr hold promising potential. My Size’s Luzon agrees that Gap Inc.’s decision to bring a fit-tech startup in house helps the company “check both boxes” of efficiency and consumer-facing experience. “It leads to customers that are more likely to buy and come back when they can virtually try on (this will extend to in-store because no one wants to wait for a dressing room) and it accomplishes the driving down of returns without needing to spend big on a supply chain/reverse logistics upgrade,” he said. But incorporating a sizing solution that stops 70 percent of returns before they start also “opens a whole new set of information to understand who your consumer is, what their body shape is, etc., and that gives a better understanding to the design and manufacturing department in terms of what should be made or ordered in the coming season,” he added.

or fi


And whether the seasons ahead will unleash new takes on the loose-fit denim cycle remains to be seen. Howard believes retailers should approach their planning with data—and caution. “From a merchandising point of view, a smart merchant would not want to load up the entire assortment” with de rigueur fashion “unless maybe you’re Aeropostale,” he said, referring to specialty retail’s reliance on of-the-moment fads and trends. The fit veteran wonders whether the popularity of looser fits will quickly peter out or truly have legs as denim’s dominant silhouette, especially for plus-size consumers accustomed to “relying on that stretch for a certain size” and comfort. “It is an interesting debate—what constitutes a trend versus a staple reality,” Howard said. “But at the end of the day, the customer votes.”









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The denim sector has weathered challenges that leaders could never have predicted. w ords_____ K ATE N I SH I M UR A


rom waxing and waning consumer appetites to production slowdowns and shipping delays, fashion at large has faced unrelenting turbulence. But amid the maelstrom, the world’s denim mills have continued to innovate, with sustainability, material innovation and operational efficiency becoming more important with each passing season. And as consumer demand returns, a good pair of jeans remain as relevant to fashion as ever. Rivet checked in with leading denim mills on the state of their business recovery, allowing them to lend a global perspective to the future of denim in a post-Covid world. RIVET NO.13 / OCTOBER 2021

Mexico: Global Denim “The national market is booming with demand and we are seeing more international brands diversify their supply chain and opt for a nearshoring option,” said Anatt Finkler, Global Denim creative director. The surge in interest from American brands “making Mexico their go to place for sourcing and manufacturing denim” has led to a strong recovery for the sector, she said. Global Denim’s operations are running at full capacity “and have been from a long while now,” Finkler added, though the mill has had to implement several safety and sanitation requirements since the pandemic began. It has also made some “minor price adjustments” considering fluctuations in raw material costs, though the company is attempting to hold the line for its customers as much as possible. Now more than ever, Global Denim’s clients are looking for sustainable fabrics to help their apparel appeal to a new generation of conscious shoppers. “They are very much aware of the impact textiles have on the world and how sustainability is no longer a trend,” Finkler said. This has led to an interest in more eco-friendly fabrications, like hemp, as well

l_____TAT FUN G


as processes like waterless dyeing, like the group’s Ecolojean technology, and recycled content. The group is also focusing heavily on outside partnerships to facilitate the production of more environmentally conscious fabrics, she added. “At the moment, we are working with Jeanologia in some capsule collections, with Archroma on some new possible developments and with some of our biggest customers on some new exciting fabric constructions,” Finkler said.

China: Tat Fung Textile Company “China’s textile sector is actually recovering quite well because the spread of Covid-19 is under control when compared with the neighboring countries,” said Tim Huesemann, Tat Fung’s sales director. The country’s successful containment of the virus has led to an influx of business for the mill, he said. Tat Fung saw a speedy recovery following Chinese New Year in 2020 since most of its workforce is based locally and did not have to travel to return to their posts. Since then, it has enjoyed consistent demand and few production setbacks. “Due to our strong relationships with key brands and our innovation and quality performance, our turnover has been already back to the pre-pandemic levels,” Huesemann added—but China, like its Southeast Asian neighbors, has also had to adjust to rising raw material costs, especially cotton. “We did adjust our pricing a bit to cope,” he said, noting that Tat Fung has maintained a large degree of stability in that arena because it stocks up on raw materials. “It allows us to be more stable in

pricing,” Huesemann explained. When asked whether client’s expectations are shifting in a post-pandemic world, Huesemann said that Tat Fung customers are passing on the demands of the end consumer: sustainability. “Almost all customers are asking for hemp,” he said, along with fibers like Lycra Ecomade, Tencel Ecovero, Refibra and CiCLO. Brands are also asking more questions about how fabrics are produced, including pre-treatment, dyeing, and finishing processes, with an eye toward water saving and energy conservation. The company consistently invests in improving the efficiency of its mill in line with these expectations, Huesemann said, and it continues on a road to zero water usage. New machinery has been purchased to ensure that the company can produce the latest sustainable fiber blends and stretch performance fabrics. During 2020, the group joined traceability platform Textile Genesis, and is currently undertaking new global partnerships with eco-focused producers globally, he added. While the pandemic’s early days saw China take the hardest hit, Huesemann is dubious that the events of the past year will impact the country’s status as reigning sourcing hub. “Some brands would like to change to an in-country sourcing strategy, but we think the pandemic proved China is still an important player in the textile industry,” he said. “Our key brands acknowledge our ability and innovation, and we feel our relationships are even stronger—that is why we increasingly export to other countries and why China recovered so well.” RIVET NO.13 / OCTOBER 2021

Italy: Candiani Denim Mill “Italy’s textile sector is recovering decently,” said Alberto Candiani, owner and president of Candiani Denim Mill. While the country’s manufacturing sector saw a pronounced downturn during 2020, “there is a bit of reshoring happening,” he added, “and the domestic market seems quite active at the moment, which is certainly positive in the higher end of the luxury sector.” For its part, Candiani, which serves premium brands from Levi’s to Stella McCartney, has recovered “very well, very effectively, he said. “Our 2021 looks similar to 2019 and the pre-pandemic years,” he said. “We believe this is mostly happening because of the quality of our products, our offer made using sustainable innovation, and our service.” Prices have indeed been adjusted to account for the “skyrocketing” cost of raw materials, especially organic cotton. The cost of energy and labor have also increased “consistently” over the course of the past six months, Candiani said. “That is going to reflect on our prices, with a possible increase up to 12 percent.” Despite the cost, customers are clamoring for “genuine denim,” he added, and they would prefer that it come with full traceability. “We are currently working on our traceability tools in collaboration with Product DNA, which we hope to release before the end of the year,” he said. Sustainable innovation is Candiani’s current top priority, and the company is working on a circularity program related to its Coreva collection, which is characterized by plant-based yarns made


with natural rubber to replicate the stretch qualities found in petroleum-based alternatives. Organic cotton is wrapped around the rubber core, giving the company’s stretch denim a biodegradability uncommon to the category. Now, the company is looking to ways to reuse the natural fabric. Candiani has also purchased a patent for Kitotex, a technology owned by Canepa S.p.A., which drastically cuts water, chemical and energy consumption from the fabric production process. Relying on chitosan, a polymer made from the exoskeleton of shrimp, the Kitotex denim dyeing process uses 30 percent less energy, 70 percent less chemicals and half the water of conventional dyeing processes. “We purchased the Kitotex patent so to expand the technology even further,” Candiani said.

But as business slowed during 2020, Arvind took the relative pause in business as an opportunity to form new alliances and with organizations that promote sustainability and transparency. “We have entered into a partnership with Textile Genesis, a blockchain-based digital traceability platform to support the need to track and trace of sustainable raw materials from farm to retail,” Akhtar said. Arvind has commissioned the creation of a large, in-house cotton recycling program that will allow the mill to increase usage of post-consumer and post-industrial waste, upcycling those inputs into new fibers and products. The company has

“The two waves of pandemic in India have helped us learn some valuable business lessons,” said Aamir Akhtar, CEO of lifestyle fabrics and denim for Arvind Limited. Over the course of the past few seasons, the organization has turned a keen eye toward its financial health, he said, with a focus on how it deploys working capital, how it manages inventory, optimizing production efficiency, and managing outstanding payments and debt servicing. According to Akhtar, though, the company credits its “age-old belief of continued investment in new technologies, innovation, design and sustainability initiatives” for helping Arvind “reap healthy benefits during these testing times.” Ultimately, these investments have helped the company achieve greater value for its end consumers, strengthening strategic partnerships where business is rapidly consolidating across the globe. “Our continued presence in multiple markets, products and price segments has helped us run at full capacities,” he added, noting that U.S. retail demand for Spring 2022 has been “buoyant,” with projections surpassing the company’s typical expectations for a successful, non-pandemic year. The North American market is a bright spot, he added, as demand from India and Europe remains sporadic and lead time allowances highly demanding. Akhtar admitted that the pandemic has had “far-reaching and complex impacts on costs across the entire farm to retail supply chain,” noting the rising prices of raw materials like cotton, polyester, indigo and Spandex have seen “multi-fold increases.” “Global sea freights have also shot through the roof,” he added. These shifts all took place at a time when demand was stagnant, causing the company to raise its prices to protect against volatility.

l_____A RV I ND

India: Arvind Limited

also invested in evolving its fabric finishing technologies that soften the fabric’s hand-feel and partnered with Cleankore on potassium permanganate-free laundry capabilities. Meanwhile, many of the mill’s global clients have invested in specialty cotton and natural indigo cultivation projects in India with the aim of securing dependable sources for sustainable and traceable raw materials in the same country where their fabrics are produced. When it comes to India’s textile sector, Akhtar said that the industry is working to adapt to the needs of value retail and e-commerce players, which are winning with consumers globally. As a result, more of the country’s textile makers are beginning to focus on exports to international brands to “balance off their domestic exposure.” RIVET NO.13 / OCTOBER 2021

Pakistan: Soorty In neighboring Pakistan, denim mill Soorty’s operations have resumed running at full capacity, Umer Tahir, senior manager of marketing and communications, said. The company is seeing “sizable business” demands due to the shifts in consumer appetites away from loungewear and back to denim. “Many brands have approached the Pakistan textile sector recently to place future orders,” he said. Due to government reforms and new trade policies, exporters like Soorty are feeling “much more confident” in 2021 than in seasons past. The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics reported an 18.3 percent increase in exports to $25.3 billion during fiscal 2020-2021. “We hope if this trend continues it will help many exporters to recover all the losses they made last year due to the pandemic crises,” Tahir said. The uptick is being driven largely by web-based business, and brands are increasingly craving quick turns and low volumes to respond to rapidly changing trends, he added. “The denim world is ever-evolving and now the customers are focusing on a speedto-market production model,” Tahir said. Currently, Soorty’s clients are looking for relaxed, comfortable, “slightly loose silhouettes” and subtle washes. While demand for these products is strong, Soorty, like its global competitors, is contending with a “very volatile” raw materials market that has becomes especially impactful as related to cotton. The situation is “directly affecting the overall pricing structure of fabrics and garments,” he said. Despite the raw materials challenges, the textile maker has maintained a focus on fostering innovation, launching a partnership with competitor Isko. The collaboration will pair some of Isko’s fabric technologies with Soorty’s vertical manufacturing capabilities for a project focused on the U.S. market. The company has also launched the Soorty Organic Cotton Initiative in partnership with the World Wildlife Federation in Pakistan, with the aim of uplifting the standard of living of underserved farming families through health and education. The project will bring regenerative farming practices to 7,000 acres of land, helping to produce more than 17,000 metric tons of seed cotton and 6,000 metric tons of cotton lint over the next four years. Blockchain technology and frequent GMO testing will be administered to ensure transparency and traceability, Tahir said. To improve its sustainability profile, Soorty has teamed with supply chain analysis platform Green Story so that it can closely monitor the impact of its processes. “We are constantly investing in new technologies that help us reduce our carbon footprint and improve our efficiency,” he added.


MAKING IT IN CALIFORNIA Will SB 62 help or hinder a revival of L.A.’s denim industry? w ords _____ JASM I N M ALI K CH UA


n the heart of Los Angeles, a pitched battle over the soul of California’s garment industry has drawn to a close. On Sept. 27, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 62, better known as the Garment Worker Protection Act, into law, requiring that garment workers be paid an hourly wage and expanding liability for fashion brands that have largely skirted responsibility for wage theft and other forms of worker abuse in their supply chains. California’s apparel industry is the largest in the United States. The bulk of it is concentrated in downtown Los Angeles, which is home to some 2,000 garment manufacturers and whose 45,000 workers produce $5 billion in clothing and footwear every year. Many are small factories that operate without proper registration or oversight, fueling a climate of exploitation that leaves workers with little recourse to pursue wage claims, according to the Garment Worker Center, a local labor-rights group. This will now change. “California is holding corporations accountable and recognizing the dignity and humanity of our workers, who have helped build the fifth-largest economy in the world,” Newsom said in a statement. “These measures protect marginalized lowwage workers, many of whom are women of color and immigrants, ensuring they are paid what they are due and improving workplace conditions.” SB 62 has sought to improve the livelihoods of a workforce that has been “exploited for far too long,” according to State Senator Maria Elena Durazo, its co-author. Most workers in the state are compensated using a piece-rate system that pays them pennies for every hem, cuff or sleeve they stitch. While the structure is widely employed by the industry, Durazo says it has become the “de facto below-minimum wage strategy that’s used by many employers,” promoting wages of less than $5 an hour instead of the state-mandated $13 or $14. RIVET NO.13 / OCTOBER 2021

69 “They try to say that’s an opportunity for some of these workers to make so much more based on their skill, which is not true,” she said. “The workers have no control over what the piece rate is, they’re never [able to] negotiate what the piece rate is, and if they get to do better, it’s at enormous costs to their bodies and health.” Wage violations are rampant in the sector. When the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division swept through 77 randomly selected garment contractors in Southern California between 2015 and 2016, it found that 85 percent of them owed $1.3 million in back wages to 865 workers. Labor campaigners say that many garment workers are Latino immigrants who are undocumented or don’t speak fluent English, so they seldom file wage claims or otherwise seek redress because they fear repercussions. When complaints do happen, they’re paid out through California’s restitution fund, which was meant to be used only on occasion but has since become “the rule,” Durazo said. This means that the financial burden of compensating workers has fallen to the state and, by extension, taxpayers. One of the most contentious parts of SB 62 is its desire to hold so-called “brand guarantors” liable for any wages and other compensation owed to the people who make those items, no matter how many layers of subcontracting stand between them. The sourcing squeeze by brands often encourages suppliers to accept prices that are lower than what is necessary to comply with wage laws, said Marissa Nuncio, director of the Garment Worker Center. “Brands profit from this dynamic but have no legal liability for the wage theft they create in their supply chain,” she said. “SB 62 proposes joint liability to correct this problem and ensure that all actors share the responsibility for wage compliance.” Before businesses fled to cheaper climes in Asia, South America and elsewhere, Los Angeles was once the premium denim capital of the world. Critics of SB 62 say they fear it will finish off what offshoring



started, encouraging companies to “contract with manufacturers outside of California, thereby limiting the demand for the state’s garment manufacturers,” according to the California Chamber of Commerce, the state’s largest business advocacy group. In a letter dated March 26, Steve Lamar, CEO of the American Apparel and Footwear Association, a Washington, D.C.-based trade group told Governor Newsom that the “well-intentioned” but economically damaging bill would, among other things, “impose unprecedented joint liability on businesses with no control over garment workers.” He added that if the provision became law, it would “drive garment manufacturing out of California and lead to the loss of jobs in California’s garment manufacturing sector, not because companies don’t want to do the right thing, but because there would be [a] heightened risk of being penalized precisely for doing the right thing.” Nuncio said that criticisms are not only misguided but inaccurate, since this form of joint liability already exists in sectors such as port trucking. “We also know from Department of Labor studies that it is not true that ‘brand guarantors’ have no control over the factories that supply them but instead the contract prices they set for their garment orders have a tremendous impact on the factory’s ability to comply with wage requirements,” she said. Because SB 62 only merely proposes to ensure the existing legal minimum wage, brands would be held liable only face liability or additional costs of doing business in California only if their supply chain is was harboring wage theft to begin with, “which they should want to eliminate rather than profit from,” Nuncio said. She noted that ethical businesses that manufacture in California are all for tougher enforcement, and the lack of safeguards like SB 62 may be preventing others from joining their ranks, stymying the possibility of a domestic revival in the wake of Covid-19. “Our ethical business allies tell us that wage theft is deterring companies who want to set up shop in California, but are concerned about its atrocious labor track record,” she added. More than 140 businesses, including denim purveyors Boyish Jeans, Reformation, Triarchy and Saitex have publicly expressed their support for SB 62. In a letter dated July 28, they demanded that the California Chamber of Commerce remove the bill from their “job killer” list, adding that “sweatshops will not come to an end” until brands are jointly liable. “The sustainable business community wants a level playing field, enabled by strong labor laws, because we believe it is crucial for California fashion to flourish well into the 21st century,” they wrote.

“SB 62 is right for the fashion businesses of California. SB 62 proposes grounded, sensible solutions to the shameful wage theft that exists in our industry by proposing to expand liability along the entire supply chain, closing loopholes that have long allowed brands to enjoy tremendous bargaining power with their suppliers but none of the liability.” Donna Watts, an instructor in the Department of Retailing at the University of South Carolina, said the bill appears to be “helpful and long overdue,” at least at first glance, because it compels companies that their social duty to “up their game.” “No one argues that worker conditions in Los Angeles are in many cases substandard and that workers deserve better treatment and higher pay,” she said. “Certainly, it is disappointing to consider the requirements placed upon many workers and laws most definitely need to be in place to prevent their unfair treatment. They have been neglected for a long time and deserve to be adequately compensated for their hard work.” Watts said she’s concerned, however, that SB 62 could inadvertently backfire because manufacturers, like all businesses, want to make a profit. “If they are forced to pay workers more money, their prices will no doubt increase and consumers will ultimately feel the pinch,” she said. “Factories will also find other ways to cut expenses. Unfortunately, research shows that these cuts will often come in the form of reduced worker benefits. Manufacturers may choose to increase automation, outsource to countries with lower wages or move entire operations to other countries. I certainly hope not, but time will tell.” One manufacture who isn’t cowed by the prospect of SB 62, however, is Sanjeev Bahl, CEO of Vietnam-based jeans manufacturer Saitex. He also sees automation as a good thing. Saitex recently established a denim “microbrewery” in L.A., where it plans to make 1 million jeans a year, or one-sixth of the company’s current output from Southeast Asia. The 200 workers at its L.A. outpost currently receive $13 to $14 an hour to operate semiautomatic sewing machines, robotic sprayers and advanced laser cutters, a tack that allows Saitex to be ethical, sustainable and profitable. Bahl said that Saitex’s burgeoning business model—80 percent production in Vietnam, 20 percent in the U.S.—could provide a new way forward in a post-pandemic world that needs to shorten and diversify its supply chains to protect against future disruptions. Making shortcuts with labor doesn’t have to factor into it. “I think we abolished slavery a long time ago,” Bahl said. “In 2021, we’re still grappling with it in the United States? Really? Ridiculous. Why is labor RIVET NO.13 / OCTOBER 2021

such a big conversation around cost? Why isn’t the conversation shifting to making the right investments into technology [that has] a far more efficient output? People should not be compromised or exploited. I think there has to be a level playing field for human beings—forget about business. Business comes second.” For Adam Taubenfligel, founder and creative director of Triarchy, it’s fresh infusions by companies like Saitex, not ignoring wage theft, that will help resurrect L.A.’s denim stature. Triarchy used to make all its jeans in the city, but then Covid-19 hit, making it more financially viable to shift to Turkey. Tubenfligel is plotting his way back, but the type of facilities that offer the services he needs are few and far between. “I think the only way that denim will remain, or get back the status of denim production capital is by spearheading sustainability, and really becoming the sustainable denim manufacturing capital of the world,” he said. “And people need to make a minimum wage—that goes without saying. I do agree that if this gets reset in an on-the-level way, where the manufacturers are responsible for their employees, we can make it work together.” It’s a sentiment with which Carrie Freiman Parry, Reformation's Director of Sustainability, agrees. Nearly half of the sustainability-centered brand’s cutting and sewing is done in L.A. “L.A. has a rich history of manufacturing, particularly within the denim sector; the conversation around SB 62 is a clear sign of investment in the city as a manufacturing hub, and something we’re energized to see as a brand that produces a portion of our Ref Jeans collection in the community,” she said. “Producing locally has many benefits which we believe will only increase in the coming years, incentivizing investment in California. This bill will force brands to look hard at their social compliance programs and purchasing practices, and invest more in the necessary improvements at both the brand and supplier level which will, in turn, help manufacturing in L.A.” Parry said that now, more than ever, there is a need for brands to understand how their decisions impact workers in their supply chain while doing “everything we can” to mitigate negative impacts. “The criticism around the bill’s joint liability raises awareness about the industry-wide change that is desperately needed around improving purchasing practices, so that brands take accountability and actually support suppliers in providing decent working conditions,” she said. “SB 62 is an opportunity for the industry, brands and the government to come together and create a race to the top to protect workers throughout the supply chain.”



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LABOR PAINS Though CSR programs are common in the denim industry, are compliance audits up to par? w ord s _____ JASMIN M ALI K CH UA


ames Bartle, founder and CEO of Outland Denim, knows that happy workplaces make for better bottom lines. When your staff feels safe and secure, when they’re paid properly, it’s much more efficient, in every way, for the business,” he said. But no supply chain, no matter how ethical it claims to be, is completely fool-proof. With productions sites often far afield from the headquarters of the Western companies that commission them, social compliance audits have become a critical means of managing risks in low-wage nations with shaky labor regulations and spottier oversight. They’re not without their problems, however. Labor groups such as the Clean Clothes Campaign have long cast doubt about the reliability of traditional factory visits as a means of ferreting out human-rights abuses and safety issues. They also criticize inspection systems, especially those whose main goal is avoiding reputational backlash rather than detecting or remediating violations. For one thing, the typical audit, which can take

place over several hours, or at most a couple of days, is too brief to uncover anything more than superficial problems, said Sarosh Kuruvilla, a professor at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, where he heads up the New Conservations Project on sustainable labor practices. “You can’t figure out whether the women workers are being sexually harassed or whether the company has taken their passport because [the auditors] don’t have enough time to talk to the workers,” he said. “It’s not a simple issue of where the fire extinguisher is or eyeballing someone and saying, ‘Hey this person looks really young.’ Auditors cannot figure this out in three hours at the factory.” Inspectors, particularly those who are outsourced by brands through third-party organizations, don’t always receive sufficient training or pay, either, which limits their expertise and reduces audits to a low-cost box-checking exercise. With millions of dollars of existing or potential orders hinging on a positive assessment, factory owners have also been known to deceive auditors with falsified records. Data shared with the New ConversaRIVET NO.13 / OCTOBER 2021

tions Project by a leading auditing company, which classified information received by its auditors as trustworthy or not, revealed that the global apparel industry averaged at 41 percent on the unreliability scale from 2011 to 2017. In China, an entire industry has sprouted around providing suppliers with “consultancy services” that can guarantee they’ll pass the audits of major brands. Such firms might tout software that can generate hundreds of documents for payroll records, hours worked and leave requests with a single click. Consultants might coach workers to supply auditors with the desired responses to their questions, or help factories organize their floors so they look clean and organized. Bribery is also rife. “It’s an open secret,” Kuruvilla said. Audits have proven so unreliable in some cases that inspection firms have withdrawn their services, such as in the case of China’s northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, where draconian restrictions preventing open access to factories where forced labor of Muslim minorities is suspected of taking place has led companies such



as Bureau Veritas and Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production to suspend their work there. In places where audits continue to take place, the brutal pace of repeated inspections can be draining. With multiple, often disparate standards for assessing compliance, it isn’t unusual for a single factory to receive dozens of audit requests from different brands every month, diverting time, money and resources that might be better spent elsewhere. “In the past decades, we’ve seen many social compliance programs initiated that are mainly managed by the private sector and/or NGOs,” said Janet Mensink, executive director of the Social Labor Convergence Program, a 240-member-strong multi-stakeholder initiative that seeks to reduce audit fatigue while freeing up millions of dollars every year for improving labor conditions. “These initiatives have led to some progress; however, recent research shows there is little improvement in core labor standards such as working hours, wages and health and safety.” The problem, Mesink said, is that audits, while useful in certain cases, cannot drive better working conditions or solve “deeply entrenched practices” in isolation. “They must be embedded in capacity building, better buying practices and worker representation.” Brands’ buying practices shape much of the factory-worker relationship, said Mark Anner, director of the Center for Global Workers’ Rights at Pennsylvania State University. Factories whose orders fluctuate constantly due to the lack of long-term commitments or are being squeezed on margins with demands for steep discounts are more likely to increase production targets or shortchange workers on wages. Such practices can further disenfranchise workers by creating an incentive for employers to discourage freedom of association for fear that workers will rise up to collectively bargain for better wages, benefits or working hours. And when workers are not given this space to speak out, they often choose not to because they’re afraid of retaliation. But frontline employees are the first to feel the impact of any wage violations, safety issues or other problems. “Good communication with your workers can help detect problems early on before they fester and spill over,” Anner said. “The brands that sign on to these CSR programs are not doing more to really look at the question of why there is a limit on the CSR programs and these audits when it comes to freedom-of-association rights. It just seems to me that they haven’t placed the right emphasis.” Some brands, like Mud Jeans in the Netherlands, will only work with factories that have worker rep-

resentatives. Others, such as Gap and Levi Strauss in the United States, Nudie Jeans in Sweden and Outland Denim, which is based in Australia and operates its own factory in Cambodia, specify grievance mechanisms that allow workers to anonymously report violations. But for the most part, denim companies still rely on third-party factory inspections, which provide only a “snapshot in time,” Outland Denim’s Bartle said. “It’s an indication of maybe something, but it certainly isn’t a guarantee of what's actually happening.” Outland Denim has been trying to supercharge its own on-site visits by partnering with a company known as Floor and Field, also from Australia, that claims to be the world’s first “continuous” social and environmental audit service for work sites. The firm employs 24/7 equipment and cloud-

"GOOD COM M U N ICAT ION W I T H YOUR WOR K ER S CA N H EL P DE T EC T PROB L EMS...” — M ar k A nner, C enter for Glob al Wor kers' R ights based services to crunch multiple data points and provide a “comprehensive view of operations and give ongoing, actionable insights” that cannot be manipulated at any stage, according to co-founder Mike Crawford. By flagging issues for early intervention, reducing duplication efforts and feeding into a continuous action plan, the platform can boost the effectiveness of in-person factory inspections, the former Google employee said. “Even well-intentioned companies running annual scheduled audits have limited visibility on conditions, or the ability to stimulate lasting change,” Crawford said. “So we proved it could be done better by providing additional tools like sensors and privacy-preserving algorithms running on camera feeds. The benefits of ongoing visibility and RIVET NO.13 / OCTOBER 2021

relationship were immediately apparent.” Bells and whistles aside, worker-rights advocates say that binding agreements that create legal and financial liabilities for brands that might otherwise turn a blind eye to worker exploitation or abdicate any responsibility are necessary to move the issue forward. With voluntary programs, “if a supplier is found to sort of systematically have child labor, the brands will cut them off and never use them again, so there are real consequences [right now] but they’re for suppliers,” Anner from the Center for Global Workers’ Rights said. “There are no real consequences for the brands and the retailers that have purchasing practices that contribute to those abuses.” Anner said that the ability for workers to pursue their complaints through an arbitration process, similar to the one provided by the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh in the aftermath of the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex, is critical. “There’s a misperception about that every case is going to end up in the court,” Anner said. “That's absolutely not the case. It’s a last step, but it’s a deterrent.” Another important aspect is the concept of co-governance. By including unions and labor groups at the table, he said, there is the opportunity to make decisions that are beneficial to all stakeholders and not only those that wield the most power. One rare example of such a system is currently in force in the small African nation of Lesotho, where the Taiwan-owned Nien Hsing Textile Co. came after scrutiny in 2019 for allegedly promoting a system of “gender-based violence and harassment” at facilities that made jeans for The Children’s Place, Levi Strauss and Wrangler owner Kontoor Brands. The brands, Lesotho unions and organizations such as the Worker Rights Consortium and IndustriAll Global Union ultimately signed an enforceable contract, dubbed the Lesotho Agreement, that required Nien Hsing to comply with a worker-led program to protect its 10,000 workers from sexual harassment and abuse or face the loss of orders. The agreement also helped create an independent office with the authority to investigate worker complaints and push for the punishment or termination of the perpetrators of abuse. The move was hailed as a “breakthrough” for better working conditions in the garment industry, as well as a potential model. “I think we need to do more and more things like in Lesotho,” said Laura Vicaria, sustainability manager at MUD Jeans. “We should begin thinking more outside the box and creating stronger layers of compliance.”




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A new landscape is forming for jeans sourcing. w ords_____ ARTH UR FR I E D M AN

The global denim apparel manufacturing landscape is seeing a major shift from the domination of years past by China and Mexico to a more diversified sourcing picture, with a decided move by U.S. companies to use production in the Western Hemisphere. This was evidenced by substantial increases from key Central American countries and strong first-half performance by Mexico. Jeans imports from Mexico jumped 54.8 percent in the first half of 2021 to a value of 2 .2 million and an 1 .0 percent market share, according to the Commerce Department s Office of Textiles & Apparel OTE A . Imports from Nicaragua increased 48.59 percent in the period to $53.97 million. The two countries contributed, along with such regional players as Guatemala and Colombia, to a . percent gain in the first half for the Western Hemisphere to a value of 2.5 million, according to OTE A data. Robert Antoshak, CEO of consultancy Textile rojects, said there is a definite move of some denim production back to the Western Hemisphere. “The denim mills in South America are really waking up and buying a lot of yarn, if Vidalia Mills’ business is any indication,” said Antoshak, who consults for the Louisiana-based denim fabric and yarn maker. “We’ve seen a lot of renewed interest out of Colombia, some out of Brazil. We’ve also been selling yarn to Central America, and it’s a bit of a surprise.” Part of the Western Hemisphere growth is a desire for more localized supply and the problems and concerns over bottlenecks and production in the Asian supply chain.


“A just-in-time model doesn’t do well when there are logistical problems in the supply chain,” he said. Davide Piazza, the commercial director of Liztex, a woven textiles supplier in Guatemala, said the company is “two days shipping by boat to Miami or Los Angeles.” Liztex has been expanding into full-package production of bottoms due not just to strong demand but also to an imperative to expand beyond yarns and knits. The company has also focused on adding fabric finishes such as temperature control, wicking, wrinkle free and soil release.

54.8% how much Mexico's imports increased in the first half of 2021 Antoshak said Mexican denim production has also picked up, which is helping lead the move back to the hemisphere. Julia K. Hughes, president of the United States Fashion Industry Association said import data reflects a clear shift by many companies to diversify their sourcing base and moving away from China to other key suppliers. “For denim, Mexico remains strong for men’s and Bangladesh remains strong for women’s,” she said. “But there also is a lot of production moving to other countries, too.” Most of that production movement can be seen in the Asian powerhouses, and from some merging suppliers in the region that have either solidified their prowess or have taken the opportunity to grab market share from China, added Steve Lamar, president

Ot he rs


China’s imports to the U.S. were also well below its Asian rivals, including top supplier Bangladesh, which saw a .25 percent hike in the half to reach 2 . 5 million and a year ending 20. percent market share. mports from akistan soared . percent


how much China's imports decreased in the first half of 2021

20.74% 27.7%


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and CEO of the American Apparel & Footwear Association. Lamar said with internal movement in China to produce for the growing domestic market and importers moving away from the country and its labor, tariff and geopolitical woes, opportunities have arisen for factories in other countries in Asia to develop relationships with American brands and retailers. “In mass market denim, there’s renewed interest in India, despite some problems, and there’s renewed interest in Vietnam,” Antoshak said. “China isn’t going away overnight, but gradually the air will come out of the balloon. t will always be a significant player for the foreseeable future, but they have a problem with cotton that is steering people away.” mports from China were up 2 .1 percent to 1 . 1 million in the six months through June but were down 1 . percent to 5 . 1 million for the year ending June 0. China s gain was also below the 2. percent increase of all U.S. blue denim apparel imports in the first half, reaching a value of 1. billion.



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am Vietn

Major Shippers Report U.S. General Imports By Merged-Category /2021 Data

to 150. million, giving it a 25. 5 percent market share, and shipments from Sri Lanka jumped . percent to 2 .5 million. India has also gained ground in the sector and its shipments increased . 1 percent in the period to 1 . million. Not faring quite as well was No. 3 supplier Vietnam, which saw its imports to the .S. increase 5.22 percent in the first half to 151.0 million and an 11. percent market share. Sourcing experts also point to Africa as fertile ground for jeans production growth and the first half OTE A data backs that up. Among the Top 10 suppliers, imports from Egypt rose 11. 2 percent to 5 .


million and shipments from Lesotho gained 5 . percent to 2 . million. Notable gains from second-tier producers came from Madagascar, with imports up 54.88 percent to 22. million, contributing to a 2 .2 percent gain for Sub-Saharan Africa countries to a value of .12 million. Antoshak noted that several European countries have revived their denim production of late. This included Turkey, which posted an . percent increase in the first half to 2 . 2 million, and taly, with a 10 .2 percent jump in the period to 11.2 million. The high-end Japanese denim market also spiked with a 39.7 percent increase in the six months to $9.74 million.




Denim’s key ingredient is seeing lower production and higher demand. w ords_____ ARTH UR FR I E D M AN


Higher cotton prices are on the horizon. The International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) reported that the cotton trade is recovering after the slowdown in 2019-20, especially as the global economy improves. Exports in the 2020-21 crop year have increased 11.75 percent compared to 2019-20 and should remain at that level in 2021-22. The organization’s price projection for the year-end 2021-22 average of the Cotlook A index of global prices is 89 cents per pound. That’s based on a recovery for consumption and trade in the current season. After a seven percent decrease last season, production is projected to return to pre-pandemic levels next year, according to ICAC. “Even better, global consumption has recovered from 2019-20 to post a 12.5 percent increase to 25.59 million tons in 2020-21 and is projected to improve further to 25.8 million tons next season,” ICAC stated. However, Cotton Incorporated said in its analysis that lower production combined with higher demand will cause ending stocks to decline for the first time in four years to stand at 20.96 million tons–a level similar to what was recorded in 2015-16. Ending stocks are forecasted to decline further in 2021-22 to 20.77 million tons, as mill use is expected to exceed production.

Price check In other words, demand will exceed supply, which generally leads to price increases. Cotton Incorporated noted that while several prices slipped around the middle of June, most benchmarks were slightly higher than their levels a month earlier. Values for the December NY/ICE futures contract dipped to 85 cents per pound by early July from 88 cents around the middle of June. The A Index was comparatively stable, holding near 96 cents per pound. The Chinese Cotton Index decreased in the second half of June to $1.11 per pound from $1.15, but later recovered. Values were near $1.16 cents in mid-July.



World Cotton Export (20/21 July)


Supima status For the week ending July 15, 2021, and shipments through July 8, 2021, Supima cotton averaged $2.03 per pound for export, while U.S. spot prices were in the $1.50 range. Export sales for the current crop year now total 833,700 bales–143 percent of the sales level at the same time last year. The top five leading importers for the 2020-21 crop year were led by India with purchases of 297,000 bales. China, Vietnam, akistan, and eru round out the top five with purchases of 176,300 bales, 77,800 bales, 73,100 bales, and 54,900 bales, respectively.

One Year of Daily A Index and NY Nearby Prices



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U.S. spot cotton prices averaged 85.02 cents per pound for the week ended July 15, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This was up from 83.59 cents the prior week, or 43.8 percent reported a year earlier. The latest USDA report featured a downward revision to global production in 2020-21 and an upward revision to global production for 2021-22. Figures for milluse were increased for the old and new crop years. The estimate for 2020-21 rose 564,000 bales to 118.6 million bales and the figure for 2021-22 rose 1 ,000 bales to 123.2 million. The current projection for global ending stocks generates a global stocks-to-use ratio of 71.2 percent. This value is above those between 201 -1 to 201 -1 , when figures ranged between 66 percent and 69 percent. “Apart from those three crop years, however, the current forecast for the ratio would be the lowest during the past decade,” Cotton Incorporated stated. “The past decade was a period where global stocks shifted markedly higher. During the preceding decade, the global stocks-to-use ratio generally

As for how other factors affect future prices, Cotton Incorporated said Chinese appetite for cotton imports “is a key question for the price outlook.” Over the past year, China was a driver of global demand. U.S. export commitment to China for the upcoming crop year is only 239,000 bales. This is the lowest level posted in early July since 2015-16, when China was aggressively destocking reserves, and is more than 1 million bales below the level one year ago, according Cotton Incorporated, with total U.S. export commitment for the upcoming 2020-21 crop year down 35 percent year-over-year. The Phase 1 trade deal China signed in 2020 supported U.S. sales to China in 202021, but it is unknown what might follow the expiration of the agreement at the end of the 2021 calendar year. “While any extension will be central for .S.-China trade flows, the global economic growth that is expected to follow the eventual end to the global pandemic could support demand growth across

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million 480 lb. bales

markets,” Cotton Incorporated stated. “However, Covid has yet to disappear, and several countries are still resorting to restrictions on consumer behavior to slow the spread of the virus.” In addition, economic growth has already been registered in a range of countries and that has fed concern about inflation. f central banks in the U.S. and other markets move to rein in stimulus measures, the resulting effects on the global money supply and on the trajectory of global economic growth could also influence cotton price direction, Cotton Incorporated added.

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ranged between 40 percent and 60 percent. Since 2011-12, the global stocks-to-use ratio has generally ranged between 65 percent and 95 percent.


DENIM BRINGS HAUTE COUTURE COLLECTIONS BACK DOWN TO EARTH. The allure of dressing comfortably has reached the French couture ateliers. Though there’s a side of fashion that is in deep fantasy mode, a troupe of free-thinking designers strayed from the pack (and tradition) with Fall 2021 haute couture collections that toed the line of ready-to-wear. Denim, in its many forms, was an unexpected foundation to several of these looks. Schiaparelli, Balenciaga, Ronald van der Kemp and Jean Paul Gaultier in collaboration with Sacai each presented their vision for denim through a crystalized couture lens. “Although denim couture may sound like an oxymoron, designers like Schiaparelli and Ronald Van Der Kamp demonstrated how the fabric can be elevated and repurposed to fit in the realm of couture,” reported Heuritech, a data-driven fashion trend forecasting firm. Celebrity-darling Schiaparelli applied its Midas touch to denim with golden embroideries and Surrealist ornamentations in a collection called “The Matador.” Intended to push past boundaries of what couture is, creative director Daniel Roseberry stated in the collection notes that he “felt the freedom to make something fiercely, undeniably, unapologetically pretty—because sometimes you have to rebel against beauty in order to return to it.” This included a “denim matador-inspired cropped jacket embellished with embroidered barrel sleeves and black silk tassels, worn over a structured tulle skirt” and a pair of high-waisted jeans with an exaggerated yoke worn backwards with a molded bra top. Another fitted jacket, made from vintage denim jeans, was embroidered with gold thread, three-dimensional padded flowers and resin anatomical elements like eyes, mouths and nipples. “No more cookie-cutter fashion. No more pieces that look like they could have been made by anyone. No more cynicism. No more irony. No

more timidity. No more coolness…,” Roseberry stated about the collection. Van Der Kamp continued his tradition of experimentation with upcycling, this time with blue jeans. A cropped jacket was made with woven strips of denim and floral denim appliques. A looser weave was used to create a cagelike skirt. Accordion pleats added drama to striped wide-leg jeans, while denim scraps were used to mimic the look and feel of faux fur on a cubby jacket. Jeans were part of Balenciaga’s 50th couture collection—the first since 1967. Under artistic director Demna Gvasalia’s guidance, the men’s and women’s made-to-measure pieces were a homage to the luxury label’s past and future. Loose fit jeans made with Japanese denim woven on antique looms, contrasted with collection’s voluminous suiting and signature cocoon-like silhouettes. A classic Trucker jacket was styled off-the-shoulders. Other jeans were paired with jackets that replicated the texture of fur with densely embroidered loose threads. Sacai creative director Chitose Abe brought a streetwear vibe to the Jean Paul Gaultier Paris Sacai haute couture collection—the French house’s first collaborative effort since Gaultier announced his retirement last year. The collection was a marriage of both labels’ signatures, including Gaultier’s cone bra and riviera stripes and Sacai’s deconstructed denim silhouettes made with upcycled fabrics. The casualization of couture, however, doesn’t start and end with denim. Designers also challenged the notion of couture’s roots in formal fashion with items like hoodies, cropped tops and miniskirts. “Moreover, the designers who explored more ‘daytime’ couture looks tended to incorporate more prints and less embroidery into their collections compared to their more formal counterparts. This theme represents the diffusion of ready to wear trends in the realm of haute couture, thus blurring the divide between couture and ready-towear design,” Heuritech stated. —Angela Velasquez RIVET NO.13 / OCTOBER 2021



EXCEL ALONG THE BLUE WAY It started in 2000, with an idea for a responsible textile industry. The idea became the Bluesign mission: to provide service-based solutions that help the industry realize responsible manufacturing, globally. THE BLUE WAY is a mindset towards advancements for supply chain inputs and outputs. From improvements in resources and chemical usage to emissions and waste reduction – THE BLUE WAY creates a positive impact and better textiles. As global society begins to catch up, we are taking our momentum into the next 20 years. We look forward to walking the walk together with you.


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