CALI C-SUITE FAME GAME DENIM DEBATE
NO. 9 / APRIL 2020
THE LA ISSUE
TABL E OF CONT E NTS 11 23
COVER: Alberta Ferretti jacket, Missoni shirt, Adore Adorn earrings.
32 38 41 44 54 58 66 78 82
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CURATED The seven runway shows that will influence denim in 2020. DENIM DEBATE Everyone has an opinion about what constitutes as the best fiber for denim. WEST COAST WAY California takes the lead in sustainable fashion manufacturing. CALI C-SUITE Executives from leading L.A. jeans brands dish about the local denim scene. THE HOLLYWOOD MILLS Showrooms in L.A. allow denim mills to foster new and established relationships. CLASS ACT L.A.’s best kept denim secret could be an industryled crash course in jeans. EQUALS Denim from Cali brands gets paired with the hottest runway trends: leather and latex. RETAIL THERAPY A crop of L.A. retailers helped put denim on fashionistas' radar. FAME GAME From film costumes to endorsement deals, celebrities have had a long love affair with jeans. LA LADY Fashion revisits the '70s with modern interpretations of retro jeans. ELECTION EFFECT A presidential election year may mean a lot—or little at all—to spending, depending on who you ask. FIVE FOR 2025 Experts share their forecasts for where denim will be made in the next five years.
PHOTO: TIMOTHY SMITH
Tripp NYC shirt, Good American jeans, Fleet Ilya belt, 0770 corset, Stuart Weitzman boots, Guess necklace, Ali Grace rings, Bond Hardware rings, Sasai rings.
CREATING CHANGE WITH COTTON Cotton’s Blue Jeans Go Green™ program has been proven to do two things: engage with consumers on sustainability and keep more textiles out of landfills. By giving your customers an outlet to recycle their denim and help the earth, everyone wins. Join the over 50 brands and retailers that have partnered with our program since 2006. Learn more at bluejeansgogreen.org/rivet
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wo decades after the premium denim market boomed in Los Angeles, a new crop of brands are drawing attention to the city’s denim sector for a host of new reasons. With brands like Reformation and Boyish building sustainability into their DNA, and a stalwart like Guess ramping up their eco storytelling, the city is poised to become the center of the industry’s green future. This issue takes a deep dive into those efforts and the lingering appeal of L.A. denim. In “West Coast Way” on pg. 28, experts share how Californians’ love for the Great Outdoors is yielding investments in sustainable technology. In “The Hollywood Mills,” on pg. 38 players in the supply chain explain how they maintain long-term relationships with L.A. brands. Many of those brands are showcased in “Equals” (pg. 44), which pairs denim by L.A.-based labels with two of the hottest trend for fall: leather and latex. (Editor’s note: it’s time for coated denim to make a comeback.) And in “Retail Therapy” on pg. 54, we take a look back at how iconic L.A. retailers helped make premium denim brands stars in their own right. Denim and stardom go hand-in-hand as we find out in “Fame Game” on pg. 58, but the advent of social media—and the subsequent birth of fashion influencers and street style—certainly shifted some power out of the hands of traditional celebrities. However, I found myself under Hollywood’s spell while watching Quentin Tarantino’s ode to filmmaking, “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood.” I decided there in that theater that Rivet had to do a ’70s denim editorial on Hollywood Boulevard for this L.A. issue. While pulling off a photo shoot in a high-traffic area on the opposite side of the country during the start of the COVID-19 crisis provided more than its fair share of Hollywood drama, that dream came true in “LA Lady” on pg. 66, our homage to the wildly chic era of ’70s denim. And designers must have had the same instinct while watching the film, given the plethora of jumpsuits and bell-bottom jeans we had a field day with. While fashion—and particularly denim—tends to look back at prior decades for inspiration, this ’70s revival feels fresh, modern and downright badass. Though the need to reduce, reuse and recycle has led some to downplay the relevance of fashion trends, the denim industry may soon find itself in a position to need newness more than ever to lure consumers back to shopping. The economic repercussions of the coronavirus are unknown, but as the supply chain grapples with shutdowns and brands and retailers anticipate weakening sales, the excitement of fashion may be the escapism consumers yearn for once the virus and panic blows over. In this uncertain time, while many of us are home, we say take a mental break. Get lost in a movie or flip through a magazine. You might find your next inspiration.
Angela Velasquez Executive Editor, Rivet EDITO R I A L
Tara Donaldson Editorial Director, Sourcing Journal Jessica Binns Managing Editor Arthur Friedman Senior Editor Vicki M. Young Executive Financial Reporter Kate Nishimura Associate Editor Liz Warren Staff Writer, Rivet Christopher Hall Staff Writer, Sourcing Journal C O N T RIB UTO R S
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Celena Tang Sr. Designer SO U RC IN G JO U RN AL A DV E RTI S I N G
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Executive Editor, Rivet RIVET NO.9 / APRIL 2020
N E W YO R K I L A S V EGA S I TO K YO
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GOD SAVE THE JEAN Marie Antoinette would have worn embellished denim if Moschino creative director Jeremy Scott had his way. Inspired by the French Revolution, Scott brought the 1780s into the modern day with a Fall/ Winter 20-21 collection loaded with gold bullion embroidery, corsetry and denim frock coats. While pannier mini-dresses are unlikely to go mainstream in this era of comfort and gender equality, the novelty of Scott’s vision was a gentle reminder of what’s missing in the denim sector: a sense of surprise. —Angela Velasquez
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arts & crafts Denim was one piece of Antonio Marras’ F/W 20-21 collection that mimicked the look and feel of vintage fabrics. Patchwork constructions and contrast stitching added a handmade feel to men’s dark jeans. Re-worked jean jackets featured insets of plaid and paisley-like florals. The pockets of a button-down denim shirt were removed and its shirttails were tacked up to reveal
its floral lining. And yellow-tinted jeans were embellished with a dizzying array of embroidered lines with loose threads.
disillusioned youth For F/W 20-21, Gucci continued to live in a hybrid retro world that was one part ’70s hippie and one part ’90s grunge. Leather trench coats and floral print dresses were styled over wide-leg jeans, while ruffled lace shirts and smocked baby-doll tunics were paired with oversized ripped jeans. The denim pieces signal a step away from the
blue liquid Nearly half of E. Tautz & Sons’ F/W 20-21 collection was made with upcycled materials from U.K.-based recycling company ASTCO. The collection offered a mix of wearable classics. Wide-leg, pleated denim trousers had a drapey look with unseasonably bright and light casts. Denim patchwork made with a variety of washes decorated long-sleeve tops, as well as the pockets and cuffs of jean jackets. A boxy denim jacket with a plaid wool collar and a sporty denim anorak added variety to the lineup for men.
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Moschino: Domenico Stinellis/AP/Shutterstock; PIXELFORMULA/SIPA/Shutterstock; Antonio Maras: WWD/Shutterstock; Gucci: Shutterstock; E.Tautz: Pixelformula/SIPA/Shutterstock
maximalism aesthetic Gucci has fueled during the past few years.
AT ONE WITH THE EARTH 70 years ago we entered unchartered waters, with a dream to create unique denim. Today we use that heritage and vision as a new and agile company; ready to create ideas that benefit customers, communities and our planet. Join us in our journey as we change tomorrow.
Denim Garment Industries Artistic AGI denimculture
CU R ATED
modern men Denim remained an essential part of Martine Rose’s nostalgic designs. Wide-leg jeans with cargo pockets, jeans with pronounced seaming details and laser printed denim were core to the collection. Stripes decorated denim button-down shirts and jackets, and jeans smacked of ’70s swagger. Robe-like leather coats, oversized check jackets and suiting woven with the names of London neigh-
borhoods stayed true to Rose’s fondness for eccentricity.
color madness A flurry of color and references from decades past came together in Marques’Almedia’s F/W 20-21 collection. Overdyed acid washed denim in shades of electric green and purple from the ’80s mashed with ’90s-inspired rave silhouettes that were updated with the brand’s contemporary eye for deconstruction. Key items included cargo jeans with skewed pocket placement,
haute hippie True to Etro’s nomadic philosophy, the brand told a F/W 20-21 story dense with rich earth tones, statement belts and layering. A denim vest and jeans were adorned with matching floral appliques and trimmed with brown suede fringe along the hems and seams. Another jean was decorated with metallic sequins, fringe and patchwork made from silken fabrics. The pieces came together in a collection emphasizing modern bohemian luxury, with items like silk neckerchiefs and velvet coats.
RIVET NO.9 / APRIL 2020
Martine Rose: Pixelformula/SIPA/Shutterstock; Marques’Almedia: Pixelformula/SIPA/Shutterstock; Etro: WWD/Shutterstock
a slouchy utility shirt and an oversized denim straightjacket.
Stronger, Softer, Circular. artisticmilliners.com
The Rivet Awards honor the top denim collections at Project Las Vegas. wo r d s_____ L I Z WA R R EN
Leading men’s and dualgender denim brands gathered at Project Las Vegas in February to present their Fall/Winter 20-21 collections. The show’s new Denim Room featured jeans made with sustainable inputs and purpose-driven concepts, and collections from both newcomers and heritage names. The Rivet Awards honored the brands that best represent the denim industry’s mission to design outside the traditional confines of fashion. Congratulations to the winners.
BEST SUSTAINABLE COLLECTION: G-STAR RAW No stranger to innovation, G-Star Raw brought its most sustainable stretch denim to Project. The collection, which debuted last October, is updated and designed for re-use, featuring 100 percent recyclable iconic G-Star styles. The collection promotes circularity and builds off prior innovations developed in partnership with DyStar, Saitex and Artistic Milliners. All of the products are Cradle to Cradle Certified Gold. BEST MEN’S COLLECTION: DIESEL Diesel continues to push boundaries in men’s denim with styles that are as wearable as they are bold. The F/W 20-21 men’s collection told an eccentric story, with pieces featuring tie-dye effects, zipper details and utility elements, as displayed in a pair of black wide-leg jeans with horizontal zippers above the knee for a peekaboo effect. The dye techniques tell a story, too. Named after a worker in the laundry department, the Celestino effect consists of a swirled design created by twisting the denim prior to washing. BEST WOMEN’S COLLECTION: 7 FOR ALL MANKIND 7 For All Mankind celebrates its 20th anniversary by bringing back styles from the year 2000 and reimagining
17 them for today. The collection offers items like a patchwork light-wash jean updated with a high waist, and pieces made from the brand’s original ultrasoft 080 fabric. BEST SHOWPIECE: TRINIDAD3 Trinidad3's newest jean—the Barron—is named after veteran Josue Barron, the slim-fit men’s jeans feature zippers on each leg that extend from the pocket down to the knee cap—and while they add a stylish component, their purpose extends beyond fashion. Barron, like other veterans injured during combat, is able to use this feature to adjust his prosthetic limb as he sits and stands. BEST NEW BRAND: MODERN AMERICAN Following in the footsteps of of sister brand Fidelity Denim, Modern American is among the last remaining companies to cut, sew and wash all of their denim in L.A. With styles geared toward a younger, more experimental consumer, its debut collection is available in both men’s and women’s, and features watersaving technologies that use one liter of water per jean. Additionally, the brand uses organic cotton grown in the U.S., and hardware, trims and tags are all made of recycled materials.
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TOMMY JEANS At Project, Tommy Jeans' nostalgic collection reminded everyone why the brand was so beloved in the ’90s. The brand offered its classics, like a jean jacket with its famous flag logo and a light-wash denim shirt gutted and retooled with red plaid. The end result is cool nod to American fashion.
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WHERE I SHOP A real British blue blood, denim influencer and consultant Kelly Harrington, takes us to the London hotspots where she procures her original denim style.
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Couveture & The Garbstore 188 KENSINGTON PARK RD. NOTTING HILL
Around the corner from Notting Hill’s famous street market—and just steps from the throngs of tourists outside the book shop where Hugh Grant wooed Julia Roberts in the film "Notting Hill"— stands Couveture & The Garbstore, an oasis of considered design. Founded by Emily Dyson and Ian Paley in 2008, the three-story converted townhouse has emerged as a curator for millennial-centric men’s and women’s fashion, accessories and contemporary home goods. For Kelly Harrington, a social media influencer, trend forecaster and archivist for H&M, and owner of her own denim consultancy business, Trademark Blue, the store is a haven for cool-girl brands like Batsheva, Rachel Comey and YMC. A cauliflower blue corduroy shirt by Grlfrnd immediately catches Harrington’s eye. “It’s girly without being too girly,” she said. Plus, it suits her all-blue aesthetic, which has become part of her persona on Instagram and IRL. So much so that when she wears green or beige, her 49.4k followers are quick to comment. While she tends to pre-shop Couveture & The Garbstore’s online store before visiting, Harrington said she often finds herself eyeing the store’s men’s assortment, too. Buttondown men’s shirts made from upcycled fabrics, which she said look great with jeans, and
TSPTR’s Snoopy collection draw her closer. “I am obsessed with characters,” she said. And though the store doesn’t hit you over the head with sustainability, its brand list reveals a favoritism toward those that value responsible manufacturing and enduring design. Closed, Mara Hoffman and Story Mfg are among the denim labels with sustainable initiatives. Meanwhile, brands like Kapital and the store’s own collaboration with Japanese label Full Count, offer men durable 100 percent cotton mid-weight jeans made to last. “Ooh, there’s a whole blue section,” Harrington said about a merchandised table of blue items in the center of the men’s section, complete with a Kapital scarf and metallic blue toolbox by Toyo Steel. “They must have known I was coming.” It’s possible. As one of the few areas that hasn’t been overrun with standard High Street fare, Notting Hill is one of Harrington’s favorite places for independent stores and unique finds. On Fridays, when the flea market RIVET NO.9 / APRIL 2020
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50M UNIT 14-15 ECCLESTON YARDS, BELGRAVIA
Dover Street Market 18-22 HAYMARKET, WEST END
Dover Street Market is bound to be the future home for some of the indie designers at 50M. A pioneer in the experiential retail movement, the high-end department store located just a few blocks away from the bustle of Piccadilly Circus, is a must-see for local and international label hounds. “Sometimes I like to come in here and just dream about what I would buy,” Harrington said. And it seems like much of London does the same. As Harrington peruses racks of streetwear by Japanese brand X-Girl and tries on headpieces by Comme des Garçons (“I like cutesy things, but I also like wearable,” she quips about the weighty accoutrement), she runs into a photographer friend that just purchased one of the avant-garde pieces. Artsy Londoners browse the Balenciaga section, clusters of Gen Zers swarm Nike, and actress Tracee Ellis Ross is being tended to by staff.
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A visit to 50M after Couveture & The Garbstore is a shock to the senses. Instead of taking the traditional wholesale route, the concept store/coffee bar/event space created by the art collective Something and Son, allows emerging designers to rent rack space. There, wearable art like Marques’Almeida’s hand bleached jeans hang from modular displays dispersed between installations like a giant Styrofoam vase by Dom Sebastian. For Harrington, a self-professed textile junkie, 50M is a place for discovery and creative inspiration for her own work. “I just get so excited when I come in here,” she said. “It’s one of my secret places.” The store is also a place for Harrington to relish items by one of her favorite designers: Faustine Steinmetz. Harrington couldn’t resist trying-on the designer’s hand felted jeans. “She’s so cool and uber creative,” Harrington said. “I hope she never goes commercial.”
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skews fashion, she hunts for vintage pieces and bric-a-brac, touching and feeling fabrics along the way and avoiding garments made with polyester in favor of those made with cotton. “I like to mix quirky designers with vintage pieces,” she said.
Weâ€™re from Santa Barbara. We make jeans.
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home-laundered 5 times
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*Accelerated Martindale abrasion testing according to ASTM D4966 with sandpaper and 9kPa weight. Fabrics laundered 5 times according to AATCC 135 (3, V, Aiii) prior to testing.
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CORDURA.com © 2020 INVISTA. CORDURA and the CORDURA logo are trademarks of INVISTA.
DENIM DEBAT E
A fabric with limitless applications, denim is perhaps more beloved than any other material in fashion. But every passing year brings changes to denim’s genetic makeup. Now, there are many different ways to make a jean, and every brand and manufacturer has their own favorite recipe. From virgin cotton to BCI, recycled fibers, Tencel, polyester, hemp and more, denim aficionados spar about which fibers and formulations perform best—and which will prove the most sustainable. Here, Rivet asks the industry’s leading experts to vote on their fiber frontrunners.
on a mix or a blend of reused cotton and recycled polyester. When raw cotton is processed into yarn, 10 percent of it is typically expected to be lost as waste. At this stage, Isko differentiates itself by continually tracing and monitoring this loss and reusing the cotton by adding it back into the spinning process. We pioneered this verification process in partnership with our yarn supplier Sanko. Reused cotton is also certified with the Content Claim Standard (CCS) from Textile Exchange. Recycled polyester comes from clear plastic bottles or, alternatively, it can come from other certified waste. This is ground into plastic pellets that can
PAUL DILLINGER Vice President of Global Product Innovation, Levi’s Any brand that claims to have made “The Best Jean Ever” or “The Most Sustainable Jean Ever” is just showing a preference for hype over substance; trying to drive unnecessary sales by offering an unknowable value. There are no easy solutions for the challenges of environmental stewardship and resource conservation in the denim industry. At Levi’s, we’re excited about progress in the development of cottonized hemp as an alternative to virgin cotton. We’re also pursuing post-consumer man-made cellulosic technologies like Evrnu. But everyone has their own approach and it would be myopic and counterproductive to assert any of these opportunities is the ‘best.’ The best, most sustainable jeans out there are the ones already in your closet—the ones that make you feel confident when you go out, the ones that are comfortable and easy to wear, the ones that you never want to wash because they look and fit perfectly and you don’t want them to fade or shrink.
ANNE OUDARD Freelance Denim Designer When choosing fibers, I have two concerns: Is it biodegradable? And, how much impact does the fiber production have on the environment? To me, the strongest and best looking jeans are made with 100 percent cotton. But can we really afford to make all these jeans with cotton, knowing how damaging cotton plants can be and how much water is needed to grow them? For the past couple of years, I’ve been using great alternatives to virgin cotton, like Refibra by Lenzing, with recycled cotton (pre-consumer waste) and Tencel (from sustainably managed forests). Another option that is becoming quite popular at the moment is hemp. I see a growing offering of cotton and hemp blends for denim. Hemp can be easily grown locally, its growth cycles are 2 to 3 times faster than cotton, it requires no pesticides and it needs a lot less water. I feel like there’s still a bit of work to make it look super appealing (especially for women’s wear), but I think we could get there very soon. I don’t see polyester as an option anymore, and I’m trying to completely ban it from my selections. I don’t think I need to mention how damaging petroleum products are for the environment, and recycling polyester has its limits. It
A caustic political atmosphere shouldn’t taint the concept of healthy debate—especially in the ever-evolving world of denim
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Global Marketing Director, Isko Most recently, we have been striving to be as democratic as possible, making sure that our menu includes fabrics that can be utilized and afforded by all sectors of the market, from mass market retailers to high-end luxury brands. We have also been focused on sourcing efficiency and in making sure that we do not source more raw materials than is absolutely necessary. With this in mind, our chosen fabric is our new R-TWO platform. This platform relies
then be re-spun into new fiber filaments, which, depending on the content percentages, can be either Recycled Claim Standard (RCS) or Global Recycled Standard (GRS) certified. A major environmental asset of employing recycled polyester is the energy required to produce it, which is less than the amount required to manufacture virgin polyester. By using more recycled polyester, we effectively reduce our dependence on petroleum as a raw material, ultimately reducing the overall carbon footprint of Isko fabrics.
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DENIM DEBAT E
MOHSIN SAJID Creative Director of Endrime For me personally, there just is no future in cotton and polyester. Cotton’s main problem is its water table destruction in practically every country it’s grown in, and polyester is becoming an alarmingly obvious cancer on our earth. Polyester itself is a derivative of crude oil, which sheds plastic microfibers every single time it’s machine-washed. Every polyester garment should have a warning label like they do with cigarette packets in the U.K., saying how harmful they are if swallowed. For me the future is a non-virgin cotton concept. In recent years, Tencel Lyocell has come a long way forward, especially mixed with other more sustainable yarns like hemp or recycled yarns, like Refibra. It’s been proven to be a replacement, espe-
cially when it comes to eco-laser finishes, and it stands up to practically everything. Hemp also is coming up as a suitable practical option since the ’80s, and has been gathering pace again for its low water consumption, and the fact that it can be grown in practically any soil type—unlike cotton. It takes half the amount of time from seed to harvest compared with cotton, it’s anti-bacterial and anti-microbial. In recent years, spinning technologies and alchemy have made hemp feel a lot like cotton. But unfortunately, more and more cotton mills are opening in Asia and [the] rest of the world. The future should be spending millions on hemp, Tencel, and other recycled yarn developments. We should also ban all high street and fast fashion companies from using virgin cotton and polyester altogether, and force them to only use recycled or sustainable yarns through legislation.
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Global Ready-to-wear and Denim Director, The Lycra Company I choose Lycra fiber, as it has transformed the jeans industry by bringing comfort, fit and freedom of movement to this iconic garment, making it modern and contemporary. Now, in addition to enhancing comfort and fit, we are driving more sustainable production and consumption in line with the circular economy. New Lycra fibers help to reduce waste, like our EcoMade fiber with recycled content, or our Lycra 166L used in wovens that has achieved Gold Level Material Health certification from the Cradle 2 Cradle Products Innovation Institute, undergoing a robust analysis of 17 different ingredients. Additionally, we offer branded fibers that help extend garment wear life, such as Lycra dualFX technology, Lycra Tough Max technology, and Lycra Xtra Life technology. The bottom line is that consumers don’t need to sacrifice comfort and fit to be more sustainable. So it is for all these reasons and the fact that The Lycra Company operates its businesses with high integrity, standards of ethics and compliance that makes Lycra fiber my first choice.
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can only be recycled a certain amount of times and when it’s blended with cotton (which is usually the case in denim) it becomes quite hard to separate it. Regarding recycled poly, like Repreve fiber, I sadly feel like we’re just postponing the problem to the next generation of product. We remove plastic bottles from the ocean and we create non-biodegradable jeans that will most likely end up in landfill. We just have to stop using plastic in general.
TRICIA CAREY Lenzing Director of Global Business Development, Denim For the past two years, we have been discussing on our denim blog, Carved in Blue, the concept of the modern definition of denim. This includes the fact that there is no longer one fiber or a set fabric construction for denim. There are many options today, depending on the aesthetic and performance goals, as well as the ability to achieve the right wash effects. Now mills are developing the right fabric blends for light sensitivity with laser, which Tencel Lyocell has proven to provide benefits. There are even developments using yarn spinning technology with multi-fiber blends utilizing no cotton to mimic the aesthetic of a traditional denim. In the future, we will be addressing textile-to-textile recycling and will see more all cellulosic blends in denim. This is the democracy of denim. RIVET NO.9 / APRIL 2020
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The Future is dyed in shades of
Conscious Responsible Innovative
Explore the new collection by Global DenimÂŽ
Visit us at Kingpins NYC June 2-3
W OR LD'S FINE S T COTTONS
G R O W N i n AME R ICA | MADE b y AE THE R
Decades after the premium denim boom, the Los Angeles denim sector balances its heritage with quality, creativity and a practical outlook on sustainability.
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WEST WEST COAST COAST WAY WAY RIVET NO.9 / APRIL 2020
California is poised to become the sustainable fashion capital of the United States. w ords_____ JA S M I N M A LI K CH UA
llbirds. Levi Strauss & Co. The North Face. Patagonia. Reformation. Think of an American brand with an earth-conscious bent and chances are it's roots are in California. The Golden State’s legacy of environmental protection runs deep. For decades, it has led on pollution, chemical and conservation policies that have often served as proof-of-concept models for other states and even federal authorities. John Muir's brand of grassroots activism sprang out of California, as did the organic and farm-totable movements. The concepts of “green buildings” and “wellness” started in California, too. And it was California that first required products to include cancer warnings if they contain hazardous chemicals. Even today, Sacramento plays offense on the climate-action front, not only by fighting the Trump administration's regulatory rollbacks but also by establishing emissions standards stricter than those set out by Washington. The state is working on sweeping legislations that would curb the use of single-use plastic; in 2019, it became the first state to ban fur. Part of it has to do with the way Californians simply are. (It isn’t for nothing, after all, that the Golden State still telegraphs a counterculture vibe.) Another is its geography. “California is unique in that it's close to mountains, it's close to the ocean, it's close to
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deserts,” said Jordan Nodarse, creative director of Boyish Jeans, a Los Angeles-based women’s denim brand that employs better-for-the-planet materials like recycled and deadstock cotton. “Everyone, even people living in cities, are very in tune with nature, with going to the beach, with going hiking and just being out and involved.” All of that lends itself to thinking about sustainability, even without the intensifying wildfires and droughts that have thrown the state’s new global-warming reality into stark relief. For the designers who live there, sustainability isn’t just a buzzword, it’s an imperative. Just think of outdoor brand Patagonia’s mission statement ("We're in business to save our home planet”), Allbirds’ self-imposed carbon tax or Levi’s pledge to cut its supply-chain emissions by 40 percent by 2025. “Californians have a very can-do, edge-ofthe-Western-world point of view,” said Lynda Grose, chair of the fashion design program at the California College of the Arts, one of the first design schools to incorporate sustainability in its curriculum. “There’s also a history of dissent and nonconformity, which I think enables thinking to go beyond the traditional fashion industry that might be more restraining on the East Coast or in Europe.” Plus, they’re also happy to share what they know. Matthew Mathiasen, a manager and buyer at the California Market Center, says collaboration over competition is almost a mantra with Golden State fashion professionals. “We see them interacting at networking mixers or in between seminars just to talk shop and be like, ‘Oh my gosh, you found a new vendor. Let’s share contacts, let’s get lunch with them,’” he said. “So it’s very much community driven out here because we want everybody to win and succeed.” In other words, if any state could lay claim to the “sustainable fashion capital of the United States” moniker, it might as well be California, where small-scale and industrial farms, textile mills and sewing factories lie in neighboring proximity. “There's an opportunity to create essentially a very small, tight geographic supply chain that would be difficult in in most other parts of the country,” said Jason Kibbey, CEO of Higg Co., the Bay Area firm that manages the Higg Index suite of sustainability-measurement tools. Indeed, New York City may have showrooms, marquee brands and flashy catwalks, but
California has the supply-chain muscle. L.A., which employs twice as many workers as New York City to cut, sew and finish garments—45,000 versus 22,600, according to census data—is widely considered the nation’s garment production capital. But creating sustainable fashion in general, and denim in particular, in California remains a challenge. Globalization and the migration of jobs overseas have left gaps in the supply chain, and even the facilities that stayed behind grapple with outdated and inefficient machinery. “When I first started working in denim in L.A. you could find a cut-and-sew and wash place every 10 minutes, but they're few and far between now,” said Adam Taubenfligel, creative director of Tencel-focused denim brand Triarchy, who was initially drawn to the city because of its reputation as the premium denim capital of the world. That stature has waned over the years, however. The biggest roadblock at the moment, Taubenfligel said, is infrastructure—and cost. Sustainable laundries, for instance, are expensive to set up because the technology is still new. “So until we can find a way to bring the cost down or get help from the government, it's challenging,” he said. Otherwise, why shouldn’t L.A. or California be the sustainable fashion capital of the United States—or indeed the world? Many of the key elements already exist, whether in terms of raw materials or demand. And with its generally temperate summers and mild winters, California is ideal for fiber farming. “It's a little easier for us to have access to potentially more scalable fibers, than in, say, New York,” said Andrea Plell, co-founder of the Sustainable Fashion Alliance, a member-based community of fashion professional in the Bay Area. “And the collective culture here is very much supporting sustainable fashion. It’s just part of how we live.” Nicholas Wenner, the lead process engineer at Fibershed, a natural textiles collaborative from San Geronimo, describes building out a regional fiber-production system like piecing together Legos. But work is coming along. In March, the group launched an initiative to “catalyze” fiber production on the West Coast using a soil-to-fiber,
carbon-negative philosophy that is “supportive of people and place.” It’s an expansion of efforts such as the “climate beneficial” wool project, which promotes regenerative techniques that feed rather than deplete the soil. Already, The North Face has incorporated some of the fluffy stuff into its “Cali Wool” range. More brands could climb onboard by experimenting not only with local wool, but also alpaca, llama and industrial hemp. Natural dyes derived from domestically grown plants, such as indigo, are another option. “We just need to bootstrap things back into place after all of the infrastructure left,” Wenner said. “But there's a strong desire to get that ball rolling again.”
in San Francisco. The Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, which manages one of the most rigorous social and environmental standards for fashion, lies a stone’s throw away in Oakland. Some of them are mulling California-specific programs that could shore up resource efficiency or address pollution in existing factories or mills. With Silicon Valley in the north and Hollywood in the south, the Golden State is predisposed to innovative thinking. Fashion and textile startups such as Bolt Threads, Unspun, Mango Materials, Circular Systems and Ambercycle have gained eager investors looking to “disrupt existing models”—another classic Californian inclination, according to Lewis Perkins, president at the Apparel Impact Institute—by using 3D-weaving technologies to eliminate waste or turning agricultural waste into textiles. “There is also a great amount of wealth that allows for a larger body of influencers to take leadership and turn their financial backing toward solving problems,” Perkins said. “So tech money, entertainment, industry money and every other type of money that we have in the state of California flows back into progressive policies. I think that's the real advantage to California.” Sustainability proponents like Nicholas Brown, West Coast coordinator for the nonprofit Fashion Revolution U.S.A., would like to see some of these textile-recycling technologies scale up locally. “So much manufacturing goes on in the L.A. area, and there hasn't been any place for textile scraps to go,” he said. Still, Brown remains optimistic. The L.A. sanitation department is piloting curbside pickup for textiles. Last year, the L.A. mayor’s office, launched its version of the Green New Deal to meet zero-waste, zero-carbon targets in line with the goal of the Paris Climate Accords to limit temperature increases to a further 1.5 degrees Celsius. Even now, the city is expanding public transportation in preparation for the 2028 Summer Olympics, which it says it wants to make the most sustainable Games in decades. “I see it as everyone is coming together and tackling these issues,” Brown said. “It's just a matter of when it's going to happen.”
"CA L IF OR N I A NS H AV E A V ERY CA N-DO, EDG E-OF-T H E-W E S T ER N -WOR L D POIN T OF V IE W.” — Ly nd a Gro se, C ali for nia C ollege of the A r ts There are other bright spots, particularly in L.A.: Ustrive Manufacturing, which specializes in knitwear recently became the first and only vertical clothing manufacturing facility in North America to be certified to two of the world’s leading textile standards, the Global Organic Textile Standard and the Organic Content Standard. In 2017, Reformation opened a factory—chockablock with sustainability features such as wind power and LED lighting—to churn out its cool-girl threads. And sometime this fall, New York textile-reuse enterprise Fabscrap will be setting up a satellite branch there. Expertise abounds in the Golden State, too. Organizations such as the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, which Patagonia and Walmart founded in 2009, and its spinoffs, the Apparel Impact Institute and the aforementioned Higg Co., hold court
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CALI C-SUITE Executives of Los Angeles-based brands dish on what it means to be a part of the city’s denim community. w o rd s _____ L IZ WARRE N
YAEL AFLALO, founder and CEO, Reformation How would you define your brand proposition?
At Reformation, our mission is to bring sustainable fashion to everyone. I started Reformation in 2009 to prove that “green” fashion didn’t mean compromising style. Reformation is about changing the world’s view on the fashion industry, educating consumers about the powerful effect we can all have on the environment, and using our brand to inform the industry that it can be done in a sustainable way. Is premium denim today dictated by cost or some other measure?
Premium denim is still defined by how it’s manufactured. But what is changing is the awareness that denim is pretty much the worst clothing for the environment. Our main priority with Ref Jeans is to create great-fitting denim, with the smallest environmental impact as possible. What are the challenges of manufacturing in L.A.?
Reformation created America’s first sustainable apparel factory in L.A., and in 2019, 68 percent of our production was L.A.-based. A big challenge has been scaling production and product assortment to keep up with customer demand—there are certain items that can’t be made in our factory or in L.A. at all, forcing us to expand to other sustainable manufacturing partners in the U.S. and abroad. For any partner factories that we work with, we have a rigorous screening process to make sure they share our values of sustainability, transparency and accountability. We require all of our direct cut, sew and finish manufacturing partners to adhere to our Code of Conduct (which represents international standards for fair labor prac-
tices and safe working conditions) and to be monitored for compliance and continuous improvement. What’s new for F/W 20-21?
With new collections, we’re always looking for ways to bring sustainable fashion to ever yone—whether that’s through sizing, design or fabrication. We’ve been introducing even more vintage-inspired styles in new cuts and fits to our Ref Jeans collection, and we’re using sustainable and innovative fibers like organically grown cotton, recycled elastane, Tencel Lyocell and Refibra. What does it mean to be part of the L.A. denim industry’s legacy?
L.A. is known for producing some of the world’s best denim, and it’s exciting to be a part of that legacy, but it’s also time for us to set the new standard with sustainable denim production. Traditional denim requires a large amount of cotton, water and harmful chemicals; a typical pair of jeans takes approximately 1,500 gallons of water to make. According to our RefScale tool, a pair of Reformation jeans uses an average of 200 gallons to make, saving over 1,300 gallons per pair. We also save approximately 80 percent of the waste and more than 70 percent of CO2 emissions compared to a typical pair of jeans. We’re excited to be leading the way in sustainability and to make sustainable RIVET NO.9 / APRIL 2020
l_____R EFOR MATION
manufacturing the status quo; our goal is to push not only the L.A. industry, but the entire industry forward and to encourage change among other denim brands.
YUL KU, CEO, AG Jeans How would you define your brand proposition?
Our brand proposition is simple: Fabric is king and construction is queen. There is a noticeable difference between the denim we source from Italy or Japan and a lot of the denim you see in the market—that and how we choose to construct that denim sets us apart. AG’s vertically integrated model allows us to own the entire process in a way that other companies can’t. It allows us to pivot quickly and innovate mindfully. Not only can we keep a close eye on the quality of our products, but we can change the way we manufacture as soon as we find new solutions.
Is premium denim today dictated by cost or some other measure?
The difference between fast fashion and premium denim isn’t dictated by cost, but by the product. What makes a premium denim product “premium” is the construction, fabric source, industry experience and ethical manufacturing. Combined, these aspects can be costly for both the denim maker and the denim wearer, but it’s a commitment you have to make as a leader in denim innovation. The decision to invest in quality, by product standards and in business, isn’t for us; it’s for the future of denim making as a whole. Premium denim brands are rightfully being held to a higher standard, and we plan on raising that bar even higher. What are the challenges of manufacturing in L.A.?
There are a lot of factors working against an L.A.based denim manufacturer. The overhead cost alone has already led many denim factories to close their doors over the last 10 years. It’s definitely not easy, but I think the biggest challenge of being in L.A. is also our biggest strength. Our factory is company-owned, meaning I can go directly to the factory and check the quality of our product at any time. When I have that kind of access to our production, I see what other companies may not notice until months later. Through this flexibility, we not only respond more quickly, but we deliver results faster.
but taking that concept and modernizing it with our current times and what it means to be pursuing that ideology today. Fall ’20 marks our 20year anniversary, so it’s an important collection for us. It will continue to be inspired by vintage, but focused on sustainable fashion. New fabrics like 100 percent Tencel are made from certified compostable and biodegradable fibers. Not only is it better for the environment, it’s extremely soft, just like your favorite flea market T-shirt. For
"PR EM IU M DEN IM B R A N DS A R E R IGH T F UL LY B EING H EL D TO A H IGH ER S TA N DA R D ...” —Yul Ku, AG Je an s
What do L.A. brands excel in?
The history of denim and the history of California are intertwined. California is the birthplace of the five-pocket jean as we know it now, and L.A. has long since been the epicenter of global denim manufacturing. With its abundance of expertise in raw materials and production, you can’t put a price tag on what being an L.A.-based brand means. There is nothing that comes close to the years of experience and historical ties that L.A. brands have. For example, there are people who have worked alongside me in the denim business for over 20 years. I see generations of families come through AG’s doors. There is a certain loyalty when you’re dealing with something that has so much history. So, no matter where you’re making your jeans, there is always an aspect of the city in the denim. It’s just that much better when you’re in L.A., being part of the history of denim. What’s new for F/W 20-21?
Our fall collection is a nod to Americana—an era of quality manufacturing and American style,
point of innovation and continually pushing the industry to commit to better practices, including reducing our carbon footprint while increasing our sustainability and philanthropic footprints.
SAMUEL KU, president and founder, CQY How would you define your brand proposition?
When designing CQY, we're targeting the customers who are looking for the best in design and quality. She knows great product when she sees it, and doesn't need a paid spokesperson to tell her what's cool. Is premium denim today dictated by cost or some other measure?
This depends on the brand. Some brands produce high quality product, and some don't. What are the challenges of manufacturing in L.A.?
There are too many to list. That being said, currently the benefits still outweigh the challenges if you want the best factories and the best final product. What do L.A. brands excel in?
Generally speaking, the brands who produce in L.A.—and aren’t just based in L.A.—tend to have the best fits and washes. Working with factories only a couple of miles away allows for design and development teams to nail silhouettes and washes because we can work directly with factories and technicians. What’s new for F/W 20-21?
men’s denim, we are introducing a new type of denim that uses organic and recycled cotton. It’ll be dyed with a dry indigo process and use 89 percent fewer chemicals. Even though the fall collection will conclude the last 20 years for AG, it will pave the way for the next 20 years of our legacy. What does it mean to be part of the L.A. denim industry’s legacy?
Being a part of the L.A. denim industry’s legacy means continuing to be a torch bearer for the industry. What we’re doing in L.A. is investing in better business and helping pave the way for other companies to follow suit. This means pushing our technology past the
What does it mean to be part of the L.A. denim industry’s legacy?
We're proud to be a member of the community. I think the most important part of this is that we need to continue to support the makers and factories. Without them, we will lose every advantage that we have being here. ____l C QY _
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For Fall ’20, we've got a couple of interesting fashion groups. One is a group we're calling Salvage, and we've taken one of our best vintage washed jeans and jackets and deconstructed and reconstructed them in a beautiful way. With another group, we've used Sherpa to line the hood of a denim jacket, and fully-lined a denim vest with Sherpa. Lastly, we've got a military-inspired group and added a Native American-inspired striped fabric mixing to the garments.
ADAM TAUBENFLIGEL, co-founder and creative director, Triarchy How would you define your brand proposition?
Is premium denim today dictated by cost or some other measure?
It does not need to be dictated by cost, as a lot of brands manufacture in the same facilities with similar fabrics and wash treatments. Once the jeans leave the building, the brand determines what they want to sell them for. A lot of times, there’s no difference between a $180 pair of jeans and a $900 pair of jeans except the name on the label. The only time it makes sense to pay more is if the brand is offering products made with sustainable washes, because that actually does cost more to produce. What do L.A. brands excel in?
L.A. brands excel at being L.A. brands. The city is the epicenter of denim in the world. Denim may have originated in France, but they found their home in L.A., and L.A. brands are the stewards that keep this legacy alive.
l_____G O O D A ME R ICA N
Triarchy is a team of people who have a lot of love for one another and the result is generation-less denim. We make an excellent product. We make it with the planet in mind and we make it as accessible as the current market cost of the technology we use allows. Our mission is to keep doing what we do so the prices can keep getting lower. We want to make sustainable denim for everyone.
What’s new for F/W 20-21?
Bio-stretch. It’s pretty exciting to be able to reintroduce stretch. We eliminated it last year, as there were no options that took end of life into account. Now there are, so now we’re bringing it back. What does it mean to be part of the L.A. denim industry’s legacy?
It makes Triarchy proud, not only to be part of the L.A. denim industry’s legacy, but to be forging the legacy ahead with sustainable and circular models that will allow it to thrive for generations to come.
EMMA GREDE, co-founder, Good American How would you define your brand proposition?
Good American was born out of a conversation between Khloé Kardashian and I around what it means to be a confident woman
today. We realized that a large percentage of women are ignored when it comes to fashion and so we created the first fully inclusive fashion brand to offer trend-forward designs made to fit women of all sizes. Our goal is to eliminate the stress that comes with looking for fashion that actually fits and empowers women to celebrate their bodies with confidence.
capital of lifestyle. It’s a meeting point of the best industries to draw inspiration from and is such an exciting place for creative and innovative businesses to thrive. L.A. is known for having an edge on the latest wellness and fitness trends, but we also merge these worlds with the best of entertainment, tech, art and fashion communities.
Is premium denim today dictated by cost or some other measure?
What’s new for F/W 20-21?
Premium denim, to me, is dictated by how you feel wearing it. The material used, the way it fits and the design all coming together to make you look and feel your absolute best. What do L.A. brands excel in?
To steal a quote from my husband: L.A. really is the RIVET NO.9 / APRIL 2020
We are also investing in more sustainable and environmentally friendly materials. Denim is what our brand was founded on, however, it is a category that is traditionally unfriendly to the environment. We’ve been working to address this and just this past month we launched our first responsible denim styles alongside our 2020 sustainability roadmap. Our first wave included 35 styles featuring
For more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
TENCELâ„˘ is a trademark of Lenzing AG
sustainable components including organic materials, recycled fibers, biodegradable packaging and environmentally safe washes. We spent extensive time to ensure we could maintain our customers’ favorite fits, and couldn’t be more excited about this next step in leaving a smaller footprint on the planet. We have lots more in the pipeline to share soon, but one of our biggest moments will be our L.A. flagship store coming later this year.
We’ve learned that all women want to be included in the fashion conversation, and we’ve seen that the industry can change, albeit slowly. The work we’re doing at Good American is just the beginning, and I’m hopeful that our impact on the denim industry’s legacy is one that shows us pushing the L.A. denim industry towards inclusivity.
JASON TROTZUK, founder and creative director, Fidelity Denim How would you define your brand proposition?
I currently have two brands in the marketplace for different reasons. Fidelity Denim is for my love of denim and the art of making blue jeans. It is my outlet for creating beauty and art in a blue jean without compromise. On the other hand, I started Modern American to make a difference for my children. Technology today allows for me to make denim with less impact on the planet, and this brand reflects all of the new innovations in sustainably made denim.
L.A. brands excel in wash, fit consistency and turnaround. I can make a jean in L.A. a lot quicker than anywhere else. The best thing about L.A.-made is control and predictability. I can oversee the whole thing from my own backyard. What’s new for F/W 20-21?
What’s new is old. Denim is back in a whole new way, mainly due to the younger market falling in love with denim. Premium has been around for over 20 years and has cultured a very specific customer. True denim has come back in a major way and it’s not premium—it’s what denim was meant to be: the working class jean, the non-pretentious, low key, authentic material.
L . A B R A N DS E XCEL IN WASH, F I T, CONSIS T ENCY A N D T U R N A ROU N D.” —J a son Trot z uk , F ideli t y Denim
Is premium denim today dictated by cost or some other measure?
What are the challenges of manufacturing in L.A.?
Challenges to making jeans in L.A. are finding quality and ethical manufactures. Due to all of the regulations and labor law restrictions, L.A. manufacturers are finding it hard to stay profitable.
What does it mean to be part of the L.A. denim industry’s legacy?
It makes me sad to see L.A. denim die a slow death. I'm proud to be one of the last denim makers still making jeans here. It is a privilege for me to be part the greater legacy that L.A. has to offer. L.A. is known for movies and manufacturing, but the latter is slowly going away. I remember coming to L.A. in the ’80s and ’90s when half of downtown was garment manufacturing, but now, it’s almost completely gone. Though, with quality and excellence always a part of L.A.’s denim legacy, it’s nice to know it still holds a place on the world stage. RIVET NO.9 / APRIL 2020
TIM KAEDING, co-founder and creative director, Mother How would you define your brand proposition?
We have built our brand around storytelling and humor. We draw on our childhood experiences—what we were wearing, what we were doing and who we were getting in trouble with. We connect with customers through this unique language. Is premium denim today dictated by cost or some other measure?
For us, it’s dictated by fit, the latest technology or innovation and our unique wash process. Cost is always a factor but it’s not the dictating factor, which is why we still keep our production in L.A. While it costs a lot more, it allows for hands-on development and production and a better overall product. What do L.A. brands excel in?
We excel in creating distinct and innovative washes. L.A. has been the hub for premium denim for so many years that it’s created an incredible pool of talent and expertise unlike anywhere else in the world. What’s new for F/W 20-21?
The proportions are new—as rises continue to go up, the lengths have continued to go down. For years, we have grown accustomed to seeing cropped jeans and now the pendulum is naturally swinging back, and we are seeing full lengths come on the scene. It’s a new silhouette that we haven’t seen in a while. What does it mean to be part of the L.A. denim industry’s legacy?
E R _____l
For the most part, premium denim is dictated by cost. Candiani Denim is still the best denim maker in the world and its quality of yarn, spinning process and indigo are difficult for other mills around the world to replicate. Sewing quality and pattern precision are very important to an excellent, balanced fit. Lastly, the wash process has the greatest overall impact for the jean and is the most costly to do properly for premium denim. If you want premium quality, you have to pay for it, as all of the components in premium denim cost money.
M OT H
What does it mean to be part of the L.A. denim industry’s legacy?
What do L.A. brands excel in?
I have been in L.A. in the denim industry for over 20 years and have been working with the same people between the factories, wash houses and suppliers. There is an ease and trust that has been built that is priceless. It’s incredible to have a community where you can keep building on the talent and craft without having to start over.
TENCELâ„¢ is a trademark of Lenzing AG
HOLLY MILLS THE
to test wash blanks and samples with clients and create developments using local laundry houses. “We live in a very fast world, were time is of the essence, so being able to provide a fast service and a fast response to our clients gives us an advantage and also creates a stronger and more trustful relationship with them,” she said.
38 L.A.’s denim industry remains on the radar of international denim mills. wo r d s _____ ANG E L A V EL A S QUEZ
enim manufacturing is a global business, but Los Angeles remains a nerve center for new fashion, premium brands and sustainable newcomers. Advantageously, denim mills like Turkey’s Isko, Mexico’s Global Denim and others, keep a presence with L.A. showrooms and agents. The fabric business remains steady in L.A., despite the fact that many of the mill’s clients are choosing to produce outside the U.S., according to Andreas Herr, Isko marketing and business development manager, despite. “Having a showroom in L.A. has been incredibly beneficial to our clients based in Southern California, as here we can provide a personal service to each one of our clients, showcasing fabrics that need to be seen, touched and sampled,” he said. In the case of L.A. showrooms, if you build it, brands will come—in part because they have to. With lead times shortening and budgets shrinking, there are fewer opportunities for brands to meet on mills’ home turfs. Couple this new normal with situtations like the COVID-19 outbreak, which forced the cancellation of trade shows and led companies to restrict employee travel, and the need for regional showrooms becomes even greater.
At Artisan Cloth’s showroom in Downtown L.A., designers have access to Kurabo’s denim and PFD fabrics from Japan and Thailand, denim from Tavex Mexico and denim from China-based HW Textiles. However, instead of pitching Artisan Cloth as an agent or sales company, CEO Brad Alden Mowry puts his background in creative and technical product development to use, acting as a support system to both sides. “I have had a presence in L.A. with laundries, factories and apparel brands for 15 years and it helps our mills greatly to understand the needs, interests and trends from the West Coast apparel community,” Mowry said. And for brands, he said “we listen to every need and try our best to give better service than expected.” Mexico-based Global Denim opened its Arts District showroom in 2019 as a way to be closer to brands and designers. Between 10 percent and 15 percent of the mill’s business is done in L.A., said Global Denim creative director Anatt Finkler. In general, the denim industry fluctuates, Finkler said, but having a footprint in L.A during the last year has helped stabilize business during global trade uncertainty, evolving sourcing strategies and the ongoing demand for speed and lower prices. “But, even in this situation, with our showroom in L.A. and our relationship and presence within its brands while being here, we feel we have been able to maintain and even increase our business in the area and fortified our relationships with our clients,” she said. The showroom, she added, is an opportunity to have Global Denim’s collection on display and have samples accessible at the moment customers need it. It allows the mill
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Style watchers Los Angeles remains a hub for what’s next in denim fashion. Newness is what ultimately drives Artisan Cloth’s clientele. “Customers are always asking for newness in fabric, fit and styling,” Mowry said. They’re not looking for just a basic jean. Brands, he said, are broadening their assortment to include trend items like jumpsuits and non-denim fabrics in denim silhouettes. Fabrics with strong stretch and recovery properties, a good hand feel and vintage look continue to be on the upswing among Global Denim’s Cali clientele. The L.A. market is also ripe for unusual fabrics, which Finkler said reflects local brands’ desire to stay true to their identity. In L.A., mills have an opportunity to introduce and sell novelty and high-end fabrics at a higher price point that a regular mass brand wouldn’t be able to buy, she said. From Isko, Herr said customers are asking for a range of fabrics from the high-stretch skinny look, to the authentic vintage vibe that’s rich in character, all made with sustainable attributes. The mill is also seeing ramped up requests for non-denim fabrics, which it is responding to with Arquas, a collection of fabrics that cater to the activewear and sportswear industries. The fabrics stand out in the industry for being woven, although many of them have the look and hand feel of knits, Herr said. Sustainable steps Isko’s showroom also serves as “an important internal touch point” for the mill. The
Y WOOD meeting space, Herr said, provides “local insight to our design and R&D teams, which work to keep us at the forefront of responsible innovation by developing cutting-edge new solutions each season.” Though many players in the supply chain have fond memories of the city’s golden age of premium denim, a new generation of L.A. denim
" I T H IN K T H ER E ’S A N OPP OR T U N I T Y F OR SM A R T ER , MOR E EF F ICIEN T M A N U FAC T U R ING A N D WASH ING.”
is consistent with the mindset of the local consumer, Herr said. Working with companies like Reformation and Outerknown—both of which put sustainability at the forefront of their designs concepts—Isko has stepped out as a partner in this crusade by hosting events in L.A., including sustainable denim seminars. “Sustainability continues to be at the core of our conversations,” he said. “We are happy to notice that brands are increasingly oriented to implement responsibility in their collections.” For Global Denim, sustainability is an opportunity that arrived at the right time. The mill is heeding requests for more responsible production and sustainable fibers, like recycled cotton and recycled polyester. “We are making a lot of initiatives and advances in this area,” Finkler said. As demand grows in the market, the more mills can do to innovate and improve, the better off the industry will be, she added. Mowry urges the companies he works with to evolve with brands and consumers, though he said more can be achieved. “I think there’s an opportunity for smarter, more efficient manufacturing and washing,” he said. “But this will require new investments to keep a local industry alive.” “If we can think of the end game from the very beginning, it will change our approach,” he said.
— Brad A lden Mo w r y, A r tis an Cloth brands, like Boyish Jeans, Modern American and Triarchy, are changing the narrative. With sustainability built into the DNA of most new brands, suppliers are making moves to offer products that better reflect their responsible manufacturing. Sustainability, health and wellness continue to trend for the L.A. market, which
RIVET NO.9 / APRIL 2020
Ozone & Laserâ€™s New Best Friend
*Compared to liquid indigo dye.
CL ASS ACT
L.A.’s best kept denim secret could be an industry-led crash course in jeans. w ords_____ K ATE N I S H I M U R A
he Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) is situated steps away from Los Angeles’ bustling fashion district. Known for its high profile alums, including Project Runway contestants and a reality TV starlet or two, the school’s glamorous public reputation is fitting given its proximity to Hollywood. But over the past three years, FIDM has been incubating one of fashion education’s most specialized advanced study programs—and it centers around a singular, iconic material. Rivet spoke with the school’s vice president of education, Barbara Bundy, about FIDM’s burgeoning Business of Denim program. The ultra-exclusive curriculum attracts the most passionate denim aficionados and thrusts them into a rigorous crash course in everything indigo. In classes taught largely by industry insiders and innovators, students learn what it takes to not just create great jeans, but to chart a path toward a more sustainable future. RIVET: What are the fundamentals of FIDM’s Business of Denim program? Barbara Bundy: When it
comes to denim, it’s all about the washing and the finishing, and what you do with it after you get the pure, raw fabric. Our students are doing actual hands on processing—both wet and dry—so that they truly understand how denim is different, and that it’s a category totally unto itself. They start in the cotton fields. We take them up to central California and they follow [the process] from the growing to the picking to the ginning and carting. They also make two directed study tours. They go to Japan, where they visit some of the mills in the southern part of the country,
and get an understanding of what makes its mills so special. They also go to Amsterdam for Kingpins and visit with a lot of the denim brands there. And of course, with Los Angeles being the home of premium denim, we work with the brands and labels here. The students also travel to North Carolina, which is about the only place left in the U.S. where they can do hands on washing, processing and finishing. RIVET: Are you seeing more students coming to FIDM with an interest in denim? BB: Yes. The industry tells us that they don’t
just need designers and product developers—they need people that truly understand what denim is, and why it’s different from every other fabric. What does it take to make it so special, and to create great garments from it? Our denim advanced study program is in its third year, and it was really born out of a request from the industry. They said, ‘We’re getting great graduates coming in, but they don’t really understand denim. Let’s partner so that we can teach them what we wish they would know to hit the ground running.’ RIVET: How is FIDM advancing the industry with regard to sustainability education? BB: About 8-9 years ago, students started
asking questions. They would be at a mill and see all the gunk from the indigo dye that was being used on the denim, and they were asking what happened to that waste water. A push to save the environment emerged—to protect the oceans, to conserve water. The students are very attuned to sustainability because of today’s culture. We’re working with Guess on sustainability classes that we do both for our RIVET NO.9 / APRIL 2020
students and for people at Guess, and that’s been terribly exciting. Today, this is what millennials and Gen Z-ers want. They want to give back and save the earth, and make sure that whatever they touch is truly sustainable. They want transparent processes, and when they go and visit a mill and see what happens to the indigo, they want to see that it does come out as pure water in the end. That’s the wonderful thing about students—they don’t know how things used to be, or which things have been proven not to work. So they might find out through their experiments that there’s a better way to do things. They play with the chemistry, with testing and mixing chemicals to achieve a desired effect on the denim, and a more sustainable one. They’re also taking and repurposing existing denim garments and making them their own. What we see more and more of in our program is the trend toward re-purposing and vintage. Some of our favorite projects are taking existing garments and repurposing them. RIVET: Are you seeing Gen Z leading the charge toward a more sustainable future? BB: Millennials were the ones who really brought
it home to roost by getting into more natural foods and eating more healthily, and Gen Z has run with that. They’ve decided what kind of world they want to live in, and they’re going to run things. They’re asking a lot more questions, and they have a lot more awareness. The younger generations have made those of us who are a little bit older look at things differently. We need to be much more aware, to make sure that we’re properly recycling, and to ask ourselves whether we need a new garment or whether we can take something old and repurpose it. RIVET: How do students coming to FIDM for a fashion education reconcile their passion with the need to understand environmental issues, sustainability and the global supply chain? BB: We believe in promoting reality. If a prospec-
tive student comes in, we ask, ‘What do you think a fashion designer does?’ They don’t sit in nice, fancy
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42 RIVET: What’s your outlook for the denim category? BB: Will it be a force? Yes. It is
offices and draw pictures all day. There are very few people in that position. Design today—whether it’s fashion, interior, or graphic—is about so much more. You have to have an understanding of the whole world operating around you. If you’re going to make a pair of jeans, who is your market? If it’s a Uniqlo or H&M market, you might make hundreds of thousands of pairs of those jeans, and how can you do that so that you’re helping to save the planet? You need to understand fit, sustainability, the supply chain, and the processes of making things. Most importantly, you need to understand business. You can’t make things exactly the way you want them—with all of the darts and the seams and details—and still turn it out to retail for $19. We tell our students that the most important jobs they can have while they’re at FIDM are in retail. Go listen to the consumers in the stores. It’s our responsibility to give them a dose of reality and to give them the tools they’ll need to be successful in the industry. They need to understand that there is no brand loyalty anymore. You can create a brand overnight if you can provide the right consumer experience. Slapping a label on something no longer makes it supreme. It has to have the right story, and it has to be priced right for the consumer you’re trying to attract.
ubiquitous in today’s world. People no longer get really professionally dressed to go to work every day—they might be wideleg, narrow, long, overdyed, washed out, whatever—but they’re wearing jeans. You pair them with a nice sequined top to go out at night, with a T-shirt during the day, and for a business professional look, with a blazer. Denim answers so many needs. When I flip through Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and Elle, there’s never an issue that doesn’t have denim in it. RIVET: What are students’ aspirations after graduating with a denim education? BB: This is an education that blends the theoreti-
cal with the technical, and you’re getting hands-on experience. I don’t think there’s any other program that allows students to go into a dye house and process things themselves. Some students might go into it thinking that they want to be designers, but we’re seeing others coming out of it wanting to be specialists in sourcing, compliance and supply chain. Others get so interested in the washes and finishes and different processes that they want to basically become chemists. It’s always great to see when the students have their ‘aha’ moment and say, ‘This is where my passion lies.’ We’re working with everyone in the L.A. area—and we have support from all of the brands. They snap the grads up as soon as they’re ready to go into the industry. There’s a very high demand, and they’re grateful to us that they don’t have to do the training they’ve had to do in the past. RIVET NO.9 / APRIL 2020
ROLL CALL REANNE WANG BUSINESS OF DENIM STUDENT Our exposure to the industry is the number one thing—I wouldn’t be able to get this education anywhere else. We’ve been able to meet industry leaders and go to places that are directly focused on what’s going on in denim. Being able to network with the people we work with has been the greatest part of the program.
ELLIE SMITH INTERNATIONAL MANUFACTURING STUDENT ( AND PROSPECTIVE BUSINESS OF DENIM GRAD) When I got to FIDM, I didn’t know the difference between cotton and nylon. I signed up for Guess’ Zero Waste Pattern Making class and they taught us the aspects of reducing waste in marker-making. It taught me to think about things in a different way. Once I learned how denim was made, and how it’s conventionally so unsustainable, and now companies are trying to make it more sustainable, I was hooked.
ERIN SCHULENBERG BUSINESS OF DENIM STUDENT My passion has always been fabric and sustainability, and I determined that those two things combined are what denim is. My goal is to work in a design role that centers around sustainability in denim, but long term, I’d like to become a sustainability consultant for the industry and be able to help many brands further their initiatives.
Leader in the innovation and distribution of apparel fabrics and interlinings.
Competitive global value Unparalleled global service We are “local” in every region and support: • • •
QIZ (Egypt & Jordan) NAFTA/CAFTA ASIA (China, Sri Lanka, Africa, India, Vietnam, Bangladesh)
All our products are made Sustainably within the guidelines of our Renaissance™ program.
Corporate Social Responsibility A clear focus on making our world a better place for future generations through recycled product innovation and a reduced carbon footprint. Cotswold uses only RECYCLED polyester in all our products and US Cotton or BCI Cotton where possible. Ethical behavior, concern for employee health and safety, care for the environment and community involvement are paramount and the daily focus of management.
Cotswold Asia Cotswold Asia Ltd. Room 505-506, Building 3 #58 East Xinjian Road, Minhang district, Shanghai China 201199 Tel: +86-21-34976915 Email: email@example.com
EQ UA Leather, latex and denim are forces to be reckoned with. photo gra phy _____ TIMOTHY SMITH styling_____ WWD STAFF
ON HER: The Range dress, FI x DL harness, Dickies Girls jeans, Justine Clenquet earring, Guess necklace, Dr. Martens boots. ON HIM: Rag & Bone top, Agent Provocateur bra, 7 For All Mankind pants, 0770 harness, R13 boots, Bond Hardware chain as necklace.
THIS PAGE: Kiki de Montparnasse bra, Cotton Citizen jeans, Vex gloves, Fleet Ilya choker. OPPOSITE: Schott NYC button-down shirt, The Saint At Large corset, Victoria Hayes necklace.
THIS PAGE: ON HER: Alexanderwang bodysuit, Slvrlake jeans, The Saint At Large collar harness, Fleet Ilya harness, Justine Clenquet earring, Ali Grace rings, Bond Hardware rings, Sasai rings. ON HIM: Tripp NYC jacket, Levi's jeans, R13 boots. OPPOSITE: By the Namesake leather jacket, Guess jean jacket, Ali Grace rings, Bond Hardware rings, Sasai rings.
The Frankie Shop coat, Steele skirt, Levi's jeans, R13 boots.
THIS PAGE: Willy Chivaria top, Schott NYC chaps, AG jeans, Ariat boots, Victoria Hayes necklace, Ethangi cuff. OPPOSITE: Tripp NYC shirt, Good American jeans, 0770 corset. Models: Daria @ Muse, Tripp @ New York Models Photography Assistant: Oren Siddo Hair: Nikko Weddle Makeup: Jaleesa Jaikaran Market Editors: Andrew Shang, Emily Mercer, Thomas Waller Fashion Assistant: Kimberly Infante, Victor Vaughns Editor: Angela Velasquez
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RETAIL THER APY Before celebrity stylists, social media and influencers, Los Angeles retailers gave denim brands their big break. w o rd s _____ ANG E L A V EL A S QUEZ SOFIA V ERGA R A _____l OU TSIDE OF BA R N E Y S
he parking lot outside Fred Segal’s original Melrose location was hallowed ground for anyone with Hollywood ambitions in the 2000s. There, paparazzi waited for Paris Hilton to step out with an arm-full of shopping bags, and for Victoria and David Beckham to pull up in their not-so-inconspicuous convertible. Meanwhile on Robertson, Britney Spears shopped at 2:00 A.M. at Kitson, and three then-relatively unknown sisters, the Kardashians, opened a women’s boutique called Dash. And over at Barneys in Beverly Hills, Winona Ryder infamously helped herself to a five-finger discount. In short, Los Angeles’ retail scene was popping in the 2000s. And premium denim brands reaped the benefits of these retailers with celebrity cachet. As the curators of cool, American Rag, Fred Segal, Kitson, Rob Robinson, Scoop NYC and Barneys—on both coasts—made jeans by brands like 7 For All Mankind, Chip & Pepper, Citizens of Humanity, Earl Jeans and more, the new Hollywood status symbol. Before that, according to Adriano Goldschmied, the “godfather of denim” and House of Gold president, jeans were a commodity item in
the U.S. “Those stores elevated the image of denim,” he said. “They created a new emoticon in consumers and also they offered a lot of different brands to choose from.” “At the height of their powers, these stores were the official arbiters of taste,” added Brian Trunzo, head of sales for Informa Men’s. “From underground cool kids to mainstream trendsetters, they crossed the spectrum like no one else.” Premium denim brand Chip & Pepper organically grew a celebrity clientele for its vintage rock 'n' roll jeans and tops in the 2000s. Celebrities like Britney Spears and Beyonce shopped at the brand’s Melrose store, but its partnership with Barneys did what no single celebrity or PR company could do, co-founder Chip Foster said. “They would build your brand and support you,” he said. “Barneys was smart because if you sold to Barneys you had to hold off on selling to retailers like Nordstrom, but we were doing millions with them. There was no need to sell to anyone else. You walked onto the third floor of Barneys on Wilshire and it was just a massive Chip & Pepper store.” In its prime, Trunzo said stores like Barneys had cachet with “twenty-something aspirationRIVET NO.9 / APRIL 2020
al shoppers who listened to Kanye West and watched ‘Entourage,’ as well as the well-heeled women who ate at Cipriani and watched ‘Sex and the City.’” “These stores,” he added, “were incredibly nimble in appealing to the tastemakers of every tribe, really. They had the trust of the emerging brands, and it paid big dividends in the form of hype and major selling events.”
Waning stars Alas, a confluence of events, like the 2008 Great Recession and the subsequent retail downturn, led many of these megawatt retailers to lose their luster.
Following several lawsuits, Kitson, which sold labels like 3x1 and Genetic, shut its stores in 2015, but was saved from bankruptcy by Spencer Spirit Holdings, owner of the novelty mall store Spencer’s and Halloween costume shops. After nearly two decades of business, Scoop NYC closed its stores in 2016, though Walmart resurrected it last year as its trendy in-house brand. Today, prices for Scoop denim start at $25, a far cry from $200plus premium heyday. And Ron Robinson, which got its start as a shop-in-shop at Fred Segal, shifted to an online-only business model in 2019. Then there’s Barneys, which was sold off to fashion licensing company Authentic Brands Group in 2019 for $271.4 million. Following liquidation sales, Barneys stores closed for good in February. However, the new owners plan to reboot Barneys as a shop-in-shop at former rival Saks Fifth Avenue. In Barneys case, Foster said buyers panicked when more premium denim brands entered the space. At the peak of the premium denim market around 2004-2006, there were an estimated 2,500 denim companies in the Los Angeles area, according to Foster. Every entrepreneur, celebrity and athlete wanted to have a jean brand, he said. Companies were competing for pattern makers and technical designers, while simultaneously dealing with the constant theft of ideas. “Everyone was jockeying for position,” Foster said. “It was ruthless, but it was fun because millions were being made quickly.” However, it also meant denim brands were competing for retail space. “The buyers were under pressure to get the next latest brand seen in People magazine into their stores,” Foster said. And as a result, the brand stories they originally created on their sales floor were diluted.
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There is one other unmistakable difference between retail in 2000 and retail in 2020. The majority of U.S. consumers did not have the internet at the start of the new millennium, and those who did were using dial-up connections to connect to the World Wide Web. There were no social media platforms to plug consumers into fashion from around the world. The only influencers curating edits were buyers and the editors of fashion magazines—an industry that took its own nosedive in the late 2000s. Before the internet, Trunzo said these hotshot retailers had buying teams with impeccable taste. They had a direct line to all the young creators in every market. “If something interesting
was happening in Tokyo, they knew about it, and they were willing to put their full force behind these brands and products—to highlight them in interesting ways, to put them alongside major established luxury and designer labels,” he said. The mainstreaming of the internet and the development of smartphones put that power into the hands of influencers and consumers. As a result, Trunzo said the internet and social media has flattened culture and curation. “Consumers no longer look to official centralized authorities the way they once did,” he said. “Tumblr and then Instagram gave a platform to curators and allowed up-and-coming creators to showcase their wares to the world. Motivated consumers could find trend and taste at any corner now.” And with access to heaps of information, consumers’ values have shifted, too, Goldschmied added. “They can select products that are more durable and better quality at the best price,” he said. “Transparency and interest for sustainable products are also things that [were] not even existing at the time.” Goldschmied, for one, doesn’t care to lament about the good old days of denim retail. “We don’t need any more stores for fashion victims,” he said. “Fashion is much more democratic and consumers [nowadays] give much more attention to the real value of products.”
" W E DON' T N EED A N Y MOR E S TOR ES F OR FASH ION V IC T IM S.” —Adr iano Gold schmied, House of Gold Fresh perspective Social media and the internet hasn’t cancelled denim retail all together—it just has to work harder. “Good retail is still very important, but it’s not just a place to buy a jean,” Goldschmied said. “It is more about creating emotions and giving a trend direction to consumers.” Trunzo agreed: “It’s not just about ‘putting on’ new brands, he said. “Retailers need to think about the entire experience.” Though it closed its doors in 2017, Trunzo said Colette in Paris created the blueprint for experiential retail. Retailers like Dover Street Market (with five stores around the world), Farfetch-owned Browns in London, Boston-based Bodega and MartinPatrick3 in Chicago, he said, have taken the concept to the next level. RIVET NO.9 / APRIL 2020
Meanwhile, Galeries Lafayette is wooing Gen Z consumers with its new Champs-Élysées store dedicated to inclusive beauty brands, up-andcoming labels and limited-edition drops. Likewise, 111-year-old Selfridges has turned over a large portion of its London flagship to denim, sneakers and luxury streetwear brands, complete with its own indoor skate bowl. And though L.A.’s retail scene has more global and online competition, there is still a place at the table for stalwart retailers like Fred Segal, which is making moves to reclaim its denim powerhouse status as it nears its 60th anniversary in 2021. Last fall, the store—now located on Sunset Blvd.—hosted a six-week popup for the exclusive launch of Wrangler’s Archival Capsule Collection. This year, it is teaming up with Diesel for a six-month residency that offers items from Diesel’s exclusive Red Tag collections and its core ready-to-wear lines. Stefano Rosso, Diesel CEO of North America, described Fred Segal as “one the most amazing environments which represents the best of what the modern lifestyle looks like and stands for today.” “It’s an exciting time for retail,” Trunzo said. “Forward-thinking stores with the ability to tell stories and execute interesting concepts will attract the best brands and the most loyal consumers.”
Sofia: BDG/Shutterstock; Paris: BDG/Shutterstock; Fred Segal: Charles Sykes/Shutterstock; Kitson: Matt Baron/BEI/Shutterstock
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t took just one line to change the way denim brands would forever market their jeans, when in 1980, Calvin Klein tapped then-15-year-old rising starlet Brooke Shields to utter: “Do you know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.” The provocative commercial did exactly what it intended to do. It shook parents and was banned from major television markets, but Calvin Klein—and jeans—emerged on the other side of the bad publicity and into a new echelon of fashion. Calvin Klein was selling more than jeans now—it was selling sex. And in the process, it made young women want to look and dress like Shields. “Denim and celebrities have always gone hand in hand as a marketing mix,” said Stacy Jones, CEO of Hollywood Branded, a Los Angeles-based product placement and influencer marketing firm. “They truly are together the epitome of pop culture.” Hollywood has long been an epicenter where fashion trends thrive and die, but denim became an instant Hollywood classic when films in the 1950s began dressing strong characters in jeans as a sign of their fight against societal expectations, she said. Jeans defined James Dean’s rebel mystique, Marilyn Monroe’s girl-next-door sex appeal and John Wayne’s rugged persona. And young cohorts of the time took note. “The trend—on screen and off—only continued to grow with denim becoming the primary wardrobe of the 1960s and 1970s, of the youth movements replicated on movie screens across the nation and worn by celebrity protestors in the news,” Jones said. As a result, denim-clad celebrities “became billboards of dreams for millions of youth.”
Denim brands have long-relied on the buzz of celebrity ad campaigns, but a new type of stardom is taking shape. w ords_____ A N G E LA V E LA S Q U E Z
20TH CE NTURY FOX/KOB A L/SHUTTE RSTOCK
As denim’s star ascended in fashion, it has also evolved into a lucrative endorsement business for famous faces. When magazines started replacing models with celebrities on their covers in the ’90s, brands followed, churning out iconic campaigns like Mark Wahlberg flexing for Calvin Klein in jeans and tightie-whities. Levi’s rolled out an all-star tribute for the 50th anniversary of the Trucker jacket, featuring celebrities like Justin Timberlake, Snoop Dog and Solange. Meanwhile, The Gap has welcomed everyone from Awkwafina, to Cher and Luke Perry to front their campaigns. Then there are those celebrities who have built their own denim empires, beginning with heiress Gloria Vanderbilt, who became the “queen of jeans” in the ’70s with her shapely designs. Three decades later, reality TV star Khloé Kardashian is emphasizing fit and shape, too, with her premium denim line, Good American. But a famous face (or body) isn’t enough to sway millennial and Gen Z consumers in 2020. With a brand’s authenticity under a microscope, denim labels are seeking celebrity partnerships that help convey their values to the consumer. “Today’s consumer cares about authenticity to a higher degree than that of any prior demographic,” Jones said. “Today, the focus is on brand values and ensuring that the values of the brand are aligned with the brand of the celebrity, because if either is not, it will hurt the overall partnership.”
l_____ 1952 MARI LY N MONROE
Natural star Authenticity comes from the feeling that a celebrity actually likes the product, said Evan Morgenstein, founder of CelebExperts, a celebrity and influencer booking agent. The best way to convey that connection, he said, is for celebrities to be involved in the design. Tommy Hilfiger has taken this approach in collaborations with ‘It’ girls like Gigi Hadid and Zendaya that each unmistakably capture their personal styles. The Tommy x Gigi collections reflect the model’s all-American athleisure style, while the Tommy x Zendaya line of glammed-up disco fare aligns with the actress’ fashion-forward aesthetic. If a celebrity can honestly tell their followers they were present during the design process or in the factory, and the product looks like it belongs to them, it legitimizes a brand’s story, Morgenstein said. Joe’s Jeans looks for a personal connection with their celebrity partnership. “The first thing we consider is how organically they would connect with the brand,” said Jennifer Stender Hawkins, senior vice president of marketing and innovation at Joe’s Jeans. “They become part of our brand family and it becomes a close working relationship. Most of those we have partnered with have long been fans of the brand.” Case in point: Joe’s Jeans is teaming up with Erin and Sara Foster, stars of the VH1 reality TV show “Barely Famous,” for a Spring/Summer 2020 capsule collection and campaign. The collection includes jeans that reflect each sister’s personal style—a high-rise straight for Erin and an ultrahigh-rise skinny for Sara. But the collection isn’t the first time Joe’s has worked with the sisters. The brand also hosted a jean jacket activation at Erin’s Nashville wedding in January. “This partnership with the Foster sisters speaks to our desire to engage the social commuRIVET NO.9 / APRIL 2020
nity with our brand in different ways by stepping outside of the box and tapping into relevant personalities that we feel will not only elevate the brand but will also speak to the consumer,” said Joe’s Jeans CEO Suzy Biszantz. And during a time when female empowerment and entrepreneurship is being celebrated, entrepreneurs themselves are gaining star power. In the lead-up to Valentine’s Day, Joe’s partnered with wedding jewelry designer Stephanie Gottlieb for a playful collection of jeans embellished with hearts and crystals. Gottlieb, an influencer in the bridal space with more than 333k Instagram followers, was at the center of the collaboration. “Stephanie is an amazing content creator and often includes denim in her photography,” Stender Hawkins said. “We shared some mutual business contacts and were both excited to be introduced and work together. Her product turned out beautifully and her fan base responded very positively to it.” Likewise, DL1961 released a 24-piece capsule collection last year that was co-designed by Marianna Hewitt, co-founder of skincare brand, Summer Fridays. “Finding the right celebrity to endorse a product is a delicate process that involves thoroughly checking into that individual's personal activities and history, along with considering whether their reputation meshes with our brand values,” Ryan Lombard, DL1961 PR manager, said. With 998k Instagram followers, Hewitt is a bonafide influencer, but it was DL1961’s history of strong female leadership that made the entrepreneur a good fit for the brand. “Working with DL1961, a women-run company, is inspiring, and I love how much passion goes into making each piece and knew I wanted to share their quality denim with all of my followers,” Hewitt said at the time of the launch. While collaborations are not new to DL1961 (the brand has partnered with celebrities like Jessica Alba and Emily Ratajkowski in the past), the scale and strategy with the Marianna Hewitt capsule was different from its previous partnerships. “We took a holistic approach that was digital first, but in combination with in-store events at Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s,” Lombard said. As a result, the brand was able to interact with customers at many different levels, he added, by “having content that lived on social media and layering that with media content, department store digital platforms and in-store displays that were all designed in one tone and message to maximize impact, and of course sales.”
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Measuring the success of celebrity partnerships can vary. Lombard said the brand value added by celebrities tends to be “immediate and palpable.” “When a celebrity signs an endorsement deal with our brand, an element of legitimacy is suddenly present in the brand, simply because of the power of the name backing it up,” he said. For some, Joe’s Jeans engages with them for press and exposure, while others also drive significant revenue. “We definitely see purchases being influenced by celebrity and social partnerships,” Stender Hawkins said. Unofficial celebrity ambassadors help, too. Joe’s Jeans notices how sales increase for specific products when celebrities are seen wearing them. Meanwhile, DL1961 has seen sales climb anytime Meghan Markle wears the brand’s Emma lowrise skinny jean. “She's had a huge impact on the brand and the demand for the brand since wearing them,” Lombard said. “It’s been really good, she’s a natural fan of the brand.” The definition of celebrity has evolved since Shields put on her Calvins, but celebrity partnerships will remain a strong part of premium denim’s marketing strategies. And the best partnership for a denim brand may not be a globally-known name. “There are opportunities for denim brands of every budget level today, ranging from nano and micro influencers’ social posts, to celebrity gifting lounges where a brand can get in front of celebrities, to product placement in today’s top films, TV shows or streaming series, or comprehensive influencer marketing campaigns and high-profile celebrity endorsements,” Jones said. “Celebrities and celebrity influencers drive fashion today and make a major impact on the fashion trends of tomorrow. Partnering with those who share your brand’s voice is key, and finding a way to authentically share both of your voices with your customer is what will lead to overall campaign success.”
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GUESS WHO Los Angeles denim brand Guess created its own genre of celebrity partnerships with its “Guess Girls,” a menagerie of famous women that exude the brand’s sexy and glamorous Hollywood attitude. From the first official Guess Girl in 1986, a then-unknown French model Estelle Lefebure, to Jennifer Lopez, the 2020 Guess Girl with her own Super Bowl Halftime show, here’s a look back at some of the brand’s famous beauties.
l_____1989 C L AU DIA S CHIFFER
indigo children Younger generations are seeking mystical guidance for everything, from their health to their next fashion purchase.
w ords_____ LI Z WA R R E N
n the not-so-distant past, astrology had no place in the board room. But now that research firm IBISWorld has valued the psychic services industry at $2.2 billion, the zodiac has become a legitimate matter of business—and one the denim industry may want to explore. Consumer brands of all kinds are turning to a higher power to connect with the millennial and Gen Z cohorts embracing these philosophies. From Starbucks’ astrological drink recommendations to Spotify’s cosmic playlists, major corporations are weaving mysticism into their products and marketing strategies to meet consumers where they are: in the stars.
While astrology has always intrigued, the latest mystical movement is being attributed to mounting political tensions, economic uncertainties and worsening ecological conditions that have become so dire they’ve sparked a psychological phenomenon referred to as eco-anxiety, complete with an entire set of symptoms and treatments for people experiencing overwhelming climate-related dread. As younger generations start to feel this
pressure, they seek comfort in a higher power—but not in the traditional sense. While their predecessors may have looked to religion, or medication, for answers during hard times, today’s society opts for mystical guidance. According to internationally acclaimed astrologer and TED speaker Leslie McGuirk, astrology can give people a sense of control when they feel anything but. “People feel dislocated, irritated and shaken up. Whatever was safe and secure no longer feels that way,” she said. “Astrology is one of the very few things that brings a higher viewpoint to explain our current situation on this planet. Astrology explains human patterns, and when you can understand something, you can deal with anything.” And as unconventional as astrology may seem, many prominent figures throughout history have acknowledged its credibility. Everyone from politicians—former U.S. president Ronald Reagan was known to follow astrology—to artists and psychologists all have ties to the stars. “It used to be you couldn't get a medical license if you couldn't read an astrological chart,” said McGuirk. “Hippocrates—the father of modern medicine—understood, as did
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Leonardo da Vinci, Carl Jung and many others, that astrology is a phenomenal system that helps explain why people are the way they are.” Still not sold? It doesn’t matter. Astrology is such a major social topic that even its skeptics are contributing to its popularity. Instagram accounts @notallgeminis (576k followers) and @trashbag_astrology (413k followers) provide satirical astrological content that regularly goes viral. At the end of the day, those who follow astrology, even just ironically, are still consuming mystical content. That’s why it’s crucial for fashion to get on board—and major players like Uniqlo Japan and Vetements already have. In 2018, Uniqlo Japan launched Uniqlo IQ, a digital shopping assistant that uses Google Assistant and machine learning to recommend products based on a person’s daily horoscope, as well as other data points. And even though Uniqlo decided to take a technological approach to the matter, Vetements is proof that it doesn’t need to be that complicated. The luxury streetwear brand launched a collection of horoscope-themed shirts at the beginning of 2018 that featured nothing more than a zodiac sign and a brief description on the back of a basic black tee. Pieces from the simple collection sold at retail for $116-$266.
The fad isn’t just a part of Western culture, either. The Chinese zodiac has also become the subject of fashion, with major denim brands like Diesel, Levi’s and Rag & Bone celebrating the Year of the Rat with unique capsule collections in 2020. Consumers born under the Rat zodiac (birth years 1948, 1960, 1984, 1996, 2008) represented their animal in style. According to research from retail data and analytics firm Edited, there was a 76 percent increase in Chinese New Year products in the luxury market year over year across the U.S. and U.K. Gucci, Bottega Veneta and Burberry were the biggest contributors. What’s more, only 8 percent of Chinese New Year-themed items were priced under $50, meaning there’s big spending potential for this kind of customized fashion. And customized fashion is something the denim industry is particularly familiar with. In recent years, there’s been a surging demand for more personalized products, to which many brands, including Levi’s, have responded. The heritage denim brand has opened popups, in-store customization stations and an online platform that allows shoppers to add patches, embroidery, chain-stitching and a slew of other personal touches to their denim—and the offering has been a win with consumers.
As with all forms of trend, a brand’s integration of astrology needs to be authentic. If a brand gets this wrong—as was the case for Amazon Prime, which was dragged by the Twitterverse and social commentary sites like Slate for its zodiac-themed shopping guide—they risk doing more damage than good. According to the astrologists in Slate’s piece, one of the glaring issues with Amazon’s shopping guide was that it featured daily horoscopes that lacked mention of a planet or a moon cycle. In layman’s terms, this means it was overly simplified and there-
fore inauthentic. In millennial and Gen Z terms, this means Amazon could be on its way to getting canceled. “There should be an authenticity to the product,” said Amy Zerner, author of “Astrology for Wellness: Sun Sign Guides for Body, Mind & Spirit Vitality.” “Brands can get it wrong if it’s obvious they’re just trying to cash in on a trend.” Zerner, who has designed zodiac-themed collections sold exclusively at Bergdorf Goodman, knows the intricacies of astrology and how to translate that into mainstream success. Her now-sold-out line of talisman astrology necklaces feature a gold
"R E TA IL ER S SHOU L D SEE [ AS T ROLOGY ] AS A FASCIN AT ING N E W WOR L D...” — Mar ie - Michele Lar i v ee, fa shion c on sul tant pendant with an artistic interpretation of the sign on one side, and on the other, a word. For Aries, that word is “courage;” for Sagittarius, it’s “luck,” and so on. The line’s minimalistic design may have been the key to its success. Fashion trend consultant Marie-Michele Larivee explained that simplicity is what today’s stressed-out consumers crave most. “Using astrology is a good strategy if it reduces the number of decisions for the buyer,” she said, adding that brands should focus on alleviating stress for consumers who are likely inundated with options. With the growing stressors of everyday life, the paradox of choice can become paralyzing. “Retailers should see it as a fascinating new world that can provide relief from the current state of ongoing anxiety.”
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It might be a new world for some, but astrology’s biggest moment actually took place during the New Age movement of the ’60s and ’70s, a period dominated by zodiac signs, peace signs and hippie culture. For the fashion world, the mood was expressed in paisley prints and high waisted, flared denim, much like the designs seen on the runway today. It’s no coincidence that as the mystical revival makes its way back, so do the sartorial staples of that time. “Trends come and go like a pendulum swing,” Larivee said. “As society circles back to a time of uncertainty, astrology and modern spirituality arise. The movement may come in a new form each time, but the basis stays the same.” Today’s mysticism takes the shape of its younger consumer base, with social media and interactive popups cultivating a community of individuals who connect on a personal and spiritual level. For brands, it’s a ripe environment for engagement, which they can harness through social media events, like one-on-one sessions with credible astrologists, as well as mystical in-person activities like mini natal chart readings and astrology-themed book signings. The mystical revival is directly related to society’s growing obsession with alternative wellness practices. The same demographics that look to the stars for guidance are often simultaneously seeking healthier lifestyles. Wellness in all of its forms is such a massive movement that fashion trend forecasters have called it out as being one of the defining trends that will shape fashion through 2022—and it’s a major reason why brands are introducing crystals, CBD, hemp and other forms of mystical culture into their collections. “We as a culture are shifting toward wonderful holistic protocols and mindfulness regimes for optimum well-being,” Zerner said. “The zodiac especially can provide entertaining, yet penetrating and useful information about one's personality, and there is enormous potential for quality products that address this group’s interests and beliefs.”
sign of the times Your next pair of jeans may be written in the stars.
(March 21 - April 19)
(April 20 - May 20)
(May 21 - June 20)
(June 21 - July 22)
You love having everyone’s undivided attention, and you’ll undoubtedly get it in these bottom-baring jeans. Just be careful where you sit.
The Taurus fashionista places luxury and comfort over everything, and this velvety soft pair of premium denim jeans check both boxes.
Represented by mythical Greek twins, Geminis are known to have dual personalities—much like these black and white jeans.
The most nostalgic sign in the zodiac deserves an equally nostalgic fit, like these high-waisted, sailor-inspired jeans that nod to the ’70s.
(July 23 - August 22)
(August 23 - September 22)
(September 23 - October 22)
(October 23 - November 21)
You’re so extra, Leo, and everyone around you knows it. Wear these fringe-bottom jeans to match your fabulous lioness mane.
An earth sign that’s notoriously hardworking and artistic, Virgos love a good carpenter pant. Try one in an earthy hue .
You love balance, and you have a hard time making up your mind. Libra, meet your two-toned, symmetrical denim match.
Ouch, Scorpio! Your classic sting is extra powerful in this studded denim. Wear with caution—though that’s never been your thing.
(November 22 - December 21)
(December 22 - January 19)
(January 20 - February 18)
(February 19 - March 20)
One of the most playful signs of the zodiac, Sags will gravitate toward these upside-down jeans that literally turn fashion on its head.
Capricorn, your responsible and resourceful tendencies make you the human version of a cargo pant—but a cool one.
The humanitarians of the zodiac, Aquarians will especially appreciate these high-waisted skinny jeans made with sustainable stretch denim.
Represented by two fish, Pisces can channel their sign with coated denim that gives off a just-steppedout-of-the-water sheen.
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Mighty Company jacket, Victoria Beckham turtleneck, Mother jeans, Velvet Canyon glasses, Adore Adorn earrings and rings; Etro necklace, RJ Graziano necklace and bracelets, Jessica Biales rings. (Jewelry worn throughout. )
L A L ADY The latest â€™70s revival calls for modern interpretations of retro silhouettes and styling. photog raphy_____ TIM OTH Y SMITH styling _____ W W D STAFF
THIS PAGE: Gucci jacket and pants, Victoria Beckham turtleneck. OPPOSITE: Choiss jacket, Elisabetta Franchi turtleneck and denim button-down shirt, Gas Bijoux necklace.
THIS PAGE: Etro jacket, belt and necklae, Victoria Beckham turtleneck, L'Agence jeans, Coach shoes, OPPOSITE: Coach coat, shirt and vest, Sandro shorts, Marc Jacobs boots.
THIS PAGE: Prada shirt and jacket, Velvet Canyon sunglasses. OPPOSITE: Alberta Ferretti tunic, Wrangler jeans.
THIS PAGE: Frame jumpsuit, Victoria Beckham turtleneck, Cinq a Sept shirt. OPPOSITE: Marc Jacobs blouse, jeans, boots and belt.
THIS PAGE: Drome coat, Lolitta crop top, Cinq a Sept jeans. OPPOSITE: Marissa Webb jacket, Lolitta bodysuit, Mother jeans, Zadig & Voltaire boots. Model: Helena @ Vision LA Hair: Jerrod Roberts @ The Wall Group Makeup: Nicole Walmsley @The Wall Group Market Editors: Andrew Shang, Emily Mercer, Thomas Waller Fashion Assistant: Kimberly Infante, Victor Vaughns Editor: Angela Velasquez
ELECTION EFFECT A presidential election year may mean a lot or little at all to consumer spending, depending on who you ask. w o r d s _____ TARA DON A L DS ON
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n a world where coronavirus and strained trade relations with key sourcing countries still command the lion’s share of companies’ concerns, few may have considered what a U.S. presidential election year may mean for the apparel industry. Turns out the answer is, not surprisingly: it depends. As consumers prepare to get out and vote in November, more appear concerned about the not-yet-thwarted threat of tariffs, though they’re still showing some resilience despite that. For January, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported consumer spending on goods up $2.2 billion, with overall spending for the month up 1.7 percent year over year. For clothing and footwear, specifically, spending was up 2 percent in January 2020 over January 2019.
For brands and retailers, spending could either be subdued or robust, depending on who you ask—and depending on how much they’re impacted by other headwinds, like tariffs. Regardless, the wealth of uncertainty amid this year’s challenges will make it difficult to tell whether any actions are driven purely by what’s happening on the Hill. “One of the things that an election year always does is it creates more uncertainty, especially if it’s a close election, you don’t know what policies are going to continue,” said Steve Lamar, president and CEO of the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA). Considering that uncertainty tends to have a cooling effect on investment, 2020 could see some companies holding back on business creation opportunities. Whether it’s consumer spending, trade or business activities, here’s a look at what the election year could hold for the apparel sector. RIVET NO.9 / APRIL 2020
Impact on consumer spending Historically, the notion has been that consumer confidence trends higher in an election year, with economic activity abuzz and a sense that there’ll be less uncertainty ahead. Often, there’s a post-election honeymoon period, where consumers feel spendy and the stock market performs better. There’s little telling whether this presidential election year will shape up similarly, but retail sales so far indicate confident consumers and strong spending. (Note, however, that those numbers don’t yet account for the impact coronavirus will have at retail). In projections at the end of February, the National Retail Federation (NRF) said retail sales will increase between 3.5 percent and 4.1 percent, to more than $3.9 trillion. “The nation’s record-long economic expansion is continuing, and consumers remain the driv-
ers of that expansion,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said. “With gains in household income and wealth, lower interest rates and strong consumer confidence, we expect another healthy year ahead. There are always wild cards we cannot control like coronavirus and a politically charged election year. But when it comes to the fundamentals, our economy is sound and consumers continue to lead the way.” The forecast, NRF cautioned, however, had assumed coronavirus would not become a global pandemic. Now that it is, NRF’s conjecture that, “business confidence and retail sales could be impacted if factory shutdowns in China continue, particularly if delivery of holiday season merchandise is affected,” looks to be coming true. And worse yet, production stoppages owed to canceled retail orders for factories beyond China, are sending fashion supply chains into peak crisis. Total retail sales spending in January was up a seasonally adjusted 4 percent year over year to $463.27 billion, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. At clothing stores, sales at the start of this year were flat to last year at $22.3 billion. By comparison, clothing store sales at the start of the 2016 presidential election year, when Donald Trump was first elected, were $15.5 billion, a 1.07 percent year over year decline. By December after the election, clothing store sales were up to 1.42 percent higher than the year prior. When President Obama was reelected in 2012, retail sales at clothing stores in January were $14.3 billion, a 4.73 percent uptick over the first month of the previous year. Post election, retail sales were up 1.27 percent year over year in December. It’s difficult to draw much correlation so early in the year of the election, but it’s telling, at least, to see whether sentiment started off high, and what after-election retail sales looked like. Impact on trade When it comes to trade this election year, much of what will shake out will have to do with how President Trump views his reelection challenges, according AAFA’s Lamar. Throughout his presidency thus far, Trump has had a bone to pick with China over its unfair trade practices—particularly those surrounding intellectual property and forced technology transfer—which last year resulted in an ongoing volley of tariffs between the two leading nations. In December, the U.S. and China agreed on a phase one
l_____TH E CA N IDATES: FOR MER V ICE PR ESIDEN T JOE BIDEN , PR ESIDEN T DON A LD TRU MP A N D SEN . BER N IE SA N DER S EACH EN V ISION A DIFFER EN T FU TU R E FOR TH E U.S.
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trade deal, which, signed in January, dialed back certain tariffs, but left a sizable burden on the apparel sector, with 25 percent tariffs remaining on items like thread, yarn, textiles and some apparel products. For some, Trump’s actions with China were long overdue and his efforts to restore prospects for domestic manufacturing were welcomed. For others, his tariff-fueled actions were over the top, damaging and an offbeat approach to rectifying the two countries’ trade challenges. And all of it has fueled an ongoing “undercurrent of nervousness and anxiety,” according to Julia K. Hughes, president of the United States Fashion Industry Association (USFIA)—and the sentiment may not let up anytime soon. “From the perspective of today, it seems to me that if we have another four years of the Trump administration, we’re going to see even more trade wars, trade disputes, and even more attacks on the multilateral global trade system,” Hughes said. What remains to be seen is whether Trump determines he’s gotten the response he wanted or there are more demands to be made on China. “[Trump] could look at China and think that China is not doing enough and show that he’s enforcing the deal more, and he might want to raise tariffs,” Lamar said. “Or even if he doesn’t actually take action, he may want to put some of those comments out to show that he’s being tough on China. His Democratic opponent could be doing the same thing.” As such, there could be threats to a full, phase two U.S.-China trade deal. “That may suggest that phase two could be further off and we could see the tariff situation grow worse this year,” Lamar said. “Regardless of what happens in the election, the U.S.-China relationship will continue to be an area of prime focus for whoever is taking the oath of office on Jan. 20, 2021.” Impact on supply chains Traditionally, when a Democratic candidate wins, the importance of global supply chain management gets elevated, according to Burak Kazaz, Steven R. Becker professor of supply chain management at Syracuse University. “We signed NAFTA (yes, we revised it) and GATT agreements during the Clinton era and many firms created their supply chains in a way to benefit from cost differentials; in the process,
Biden: Charlie Riedel/AP/Shutterstock; Trump: Shutterstock; Bernie: MediaPunch/Shutterstock
firms in different geographies learned from each other. Skills extended to many continents,” he explained. “The current Republican administration, on the other hand, is pushing for higher custom taxes that goes against this globalization effort; however, because of the fact that tariffs increased uniformly (rather than lower tax rates for semi-finished goods with higher tax rates for finished goods), the U.S. firms are reluctant to backsource their operations to the U.S. Thus, the intended benefits, such as reduced trade deficit and operations in the U.S., are not present in today’s environment.” If a Republican wins the White House in November, Kazaz said “expect more of the same,” adding that he’s “skeptical about the future success of current policies.” If the vote swings Democrat, we could expect a higher degree of global agreements. “Sustainability and environmentally-conscious supl_____NAVY ME N ON DU TY ply chains are the first to come AT A B AS E I N TH E PACIFIC to mind,” he said. “Moreover, I LI NE UP OUTSIDE A B UI LD I NG D ESIGN ATED anticipate a higher emphasis on AS T HE B ALLOTIN G supply chain finance because of C ENT ER F OR TH E BA SE, the movement in capital in addiNOV. 6, 1944 . tion to the flow of goods.” That said, the generally higher degree of uncertainty in What’s more, the novel coronavirus has 2020 may contribute to a higher degree of preparaintroduced a new headwind that could see tion for supply chains. preparations pan out differently than in previManufacturers may keep higher levels of safety ous presidential election years. “Many apparel stock and seek more forward buying commitments, companies are presently scrambling to get supplisaid Kazaz, who is also the chairperson of iFORM ers in Cambodia and Vietnam,” Kazaz said. “The (interface of finance, operations, and risk manageincreased level of uncertainty might require an ment), part of the Institute for Operations Research even larger investment than other election years.” and Management Sciences (INFORMS). “Proactive preparation means a higher deImpact on business gree of commitment to smoothen the potential In an election year, companies tend to negative effects,” Kazaz said. “If one predicts that ramp up promotional efforts, often launching the incumbent party will win the election in 2020, get out the vote programs, both to encourage then it is likely that, one, firms will commit to a activity at the polls and to boost brand awarehigher purchase quantity from Chinese suppliers ness—and the political engagement appears to until a different supplier is identified in a different pay off. But more than paying off, aiming for geography, and, two, a different supplier/operation participation over politics could increasingly is invested in a different geography. Both actions become a priority in a market where consumers require a higher degree of investment.” RIVET NO.9 / APRIL 2020
expect the brands they buy from to take a stance on something. A Harvard case study following the 2018 midterm elections (which saw the highest turnout of any midterm election since 1914), found that not doing civic duty has become a business risk. For the midterms, Target and Gap Inc., which were part of Harvard’s study, sent emails to customers reminding them to register and vote. Patagonia closed stores so staff could head to the polls. “Our employees were already looking to us to speak up and it felt like a miss not to,” Gap Inc. told Harvard. “There was more risk in doing nothing and not having any communication about this election.” Levi’s is one brand that has been using its voice on politically-charged issues. Company CEO Chip Bergh signed a letter— with more than 140 American CEOs—last fall urging senators to pass stronger gun control laws. Bergh also spoke out about President Trump’s divisive 2019 travel ban on several largely Muslim countries in what he deemed a national security measure. What’s interesting about Levi’s, is that while its actions skew left, its customer base skews right. According to YouGov data, Republicans like Levi’s more than the average American. Data from its brand index shows right wingers are nearly twice as likely to love Levi’s than their left-leaning counterparts. Regardless, any political messaging Levi’s decides to embrace will have to align with its brand ethos, because authenticity is arguably the leading way to sway consumer spending these days. Participation in what’s now being looked upon as corporate social responsibility rather than pure politics, will be one way brands can compete for consumers’ attention in the midst of all that’s going on in 2020. And Kazaz thinks they’ll pay up to do it. “I expect a higher degree of investment for those brands that are proactive,” he said. “Coupling political uncertainty with the coronavirus epidemic, they might have to spend more on luring their customer base for additional purchases and services.”
FIVE FOR 2025 82
As the denim sourcing map shifts, experts share their forecast for where denim will be made in the next five years. wor ds _____ A RT H UR F R I EDM A N
There’s no doubt the denim sourcing scene has a new landscape that’s been repainted by the U.S.-China trade war and companies’ concurrent desire to diversify their production. Shifts among the top suppliers were dramatic in 2019 and the reshuffling has continued into 2020. Last year saw a decline in imports from the top three suppliers–China, Mexico and Bangladesh–and strong upswings for the next three–Vietnam, Pakistan and Egypt. China, which still leads by volume for denim production, saw its U.S. imports of blue jeans plummet 25.8 percent to 7.28 million dozen in 2019, while Mexico, the No. 1 supplier in value terms, had shipments to the U.S. dip 1.84 percent to $802.55 million for the year. At the same time, the gains made by Vietnam, Pakistan and Egypt were impressive given that U.S. jeans imports declined 3.16 percent to $3.73 billion in 2019. When it comes to denim
sourcing, it seems that gender matters. China, for one, has long dominated in women’s denim and Mexico has been a key force for men’s. But things are shifting as countries scale back on Made in China. “We’re seeing the surges from the production that moved from China to a number of different places,” said Julia K. Hughes, president of the U.S. Fashion Industry Association. And these major swings in jeans manufacturing, she added, beg the question: “What will the future hold and how can companies start to plan for it?” To get some insight into what denim manufacturing will look like in five years, Rivet did a deep data dive, bringing in experts to weigh in on which countries will be the top five denim suppliers in 2025.
No. 1: Vietnam Vietnam has been among the biggest beneficiaries of compa-
nies looking to minimize what they make in China, as many are turning to the Asian neighbor as an option. U.S. jeans imports from Vietnam increased 28.62 percent to reach 3.69 million dozen in 2019.
14 the number of major ports in Vietnam “One of the things that’s happened is that Vietnam is importing fabric from China because of the tariffs, which is helping both countries' industries,” said Robert Antoshak, managing director at the textile consultancy Olah Inc. And the
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boon is expected to be ongoing. “Vietnam is becoming something of a global manufacturing powerhouse and has clearly reaped the benefits thanks to its younger and lower-wage workforce, its preferential trade policies and its logistics–the country boasts 14 major ports,” Michelle Russell, an apparel correspondent at GlobalData, explained. “Vietnam’s garment sector has clearly benefited from the ongoing tit-for-tat trade spat between the U.S. and China as producers and buyers diversify their supply chains.” Beyond the U.S., the European Parliament backed the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) in February, which will remove most tariffs between the two parties over the next 10 years. Yet challenges will remain for Vietnam, Russell noted, including relatively inexperienced suppliers, and like most developing nations, she said, the country “is grappling with transparency and ethical issues.”
2 8 .6 2 %
U.S. Denim Imports YTD December 2019
8 .6 9 %
TEM G UA 1.43 D OZ M I L L I ON EN
G UA ARA NIC
ND OZ E N LIO MIL 7.35
N LIO MIL
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ND OZ E N LIO MIL
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“Improving productivity by enhancing research, training and development, and investment in technology will all help, as will the completion of infrastructure projects that improve transportation and energy, and speed of production,” she said. After reaching a peak at 7.1 percent in 2018, real gross domestic product (GDP) growth in Vietnam in 2019 is projected to slightly decelerate, led by weaker external demand and continued tightening of credit and fiscal policies, according to the World Bank. Real GDP growth is projected to remain robust at around 6.5 percent in 2020 and 2021. Strong foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows
reached almost $18 billion in 2018, accounting for nearly 24 percent of total investment in the economy.
stan, India and Bangladesh, he said, have a much larger labor pool, “so I see them being in the game in five years.”
No. 2 Pakistan With strong vertical manufacturing and large mills, Pakistan solidified its position as a key denim apparel supplier last year, despite ongoing geopolitical problems. U.S. imports from Pakistan rose 8.69 percent to 2.85 million dozen for the year. Over the next five years, Antoshak says a lot of countries with a limited labor force, like Vietnam, will see capacity start to top out, with workers moving move into other industries for better jobs. Countries like Paki-
what real GDP growth is projected to decelerate to in 2020
Separate from labor, there have been two main issues facing the denim industry at large: the currency exchange rate, and the high cost of raw materials, like cotton, dyestuffs and energy. “Although Pakistan competes with Bangladesh and
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Vietnam in garment manufacturing, Pakistan makes its own fabric and produces its raw material, while competitor countries have to import,” Ebru Ozaydin, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Pakistan’s Artistic Milliners, said. It’s a position that has proven key amid the coronavirus crisis that has crippled raw materials supply for manufacturers in many countries. “The country has very strong denim mills that heavily invest in innovation and sustainability, which makes it a very strong ‘vertical denim supply’ country.” Artistic Milliners’ focus has been value-added products backed with high-technology and sustainability. The compa-
ny’s vertical set-up, according to Ozaydin, “offers flexibility for the brands, either as a fabric mill, garment manufacturer or both.” Pakistan’s GDP growth slowed to 3.3 percent in fiscal year 2019, a 2.2 percent decline compared to the previous year, owed to stabilization measures undertaken by the government, according to the World Bank. Over the past year, the exchange rate was allowed to depreciate with a cumulative depreciation of 25.5 percent, which is considered above average fluctuation of a few percentage points annually. For example, in response to the financial crisis in 2008, the Federal Reserve embarked on three
Pakistan’s adjustment entails a rebalancing from domestic to foreign demand, the World Bank noted. While domestic demand will slow down quickly, net exports are expected to increase gradually.
No. 3: India In India, things are looking up for its denim manufacturing. Jeans imports to the U.S. from India increased 10.89 percent in 2019 to 452,005 dozen, while growing 21.8 percent in value to $45.57 million. “India makes a lot of the denim fabric, so it’s vertically integrated and that helps a lot,” said Nate Herman, senior vice president of policy at the American Apparel & Footwear Association. “India will be a major player in the next five years.” According to Jindal Worldwide Limited, one of the largest denim manufacturers in the country, the Indian denim industry has been growing 15 percent annually for the last five years, and is now projected to grow at an annual rate of 14.5 percent through 2026. Denim— mostly fabric—capacity in India increased substantially from a few years ago and now stands at 1,700 million to 1,800 million meters a year. “An organized retail sector, a young population, online penetration of denims and the increasing popularity of engineered or distressed pieces will continue to fuel the growth of this segment,” Jindal said in its
15% the pace the Indian denim industry has been growing annually for the last five years 2018-2019 annual report. India, as well as Pakistan and Sri Lanka, boast strength in women’s jeans production, which demands more flexibility and proficiency, according to Hughes. “South Asia is where a lot of the big production will be in five years,” Antoshak added. According to the World Bank, India’s GDP growth is projected to be 6 percent this fiscal year, rise to 6.9 percent in 2020-21, and to 7.2 percent the following year.
rounds of Quantitative Easing (QE), causing the dollar to depreciate more than 10 percent in six weeks. On the supply side, industrial sector growth slowed to 1.4 percent compared to 4.9 percent the previous year. Real GDP growth is projected to decelerate to 2.4 percent in 2020, as the government tightens fiscal and monetary policies.
No. 4: Africa & The Middle East The immediate capabilities and long-term potential of a wide array of countries in Africa put the continent in a strong position to be a key denim apparel supplier to the U.S. and the world in years to come. Egypt solidified its position as an important producer last year, as its denim shipments to the U.S. gained 8.96 percent to 1.51 million dozen, landing the cotton-rich country among the Top 10 U.S. suppliers. Nearby Jordan in the Middle East, which, like Egypt, benefits from duty-free status, saw imports skip 1.34 percent to 651,127 dozen, and the country is considered a key player with staying power.
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Then there are burgeoning African countries, including Madagascar, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania, that are part of the African Growth & Opportunity Act (AGOA). These countries have been seeing investments from Western companies and from China as part of its Belt & Road initiative, according to Herman. In February, the U.S. said it intends to initiate trade agreement negotiations with Kenya. “Kenya is a recognized leader across the continent, an important strategic partner of the United States, and there is enormous potential for us to deepen our economic and commercial ties,” U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said. “We believe this agreement with Kenya will complement Africa’s regional integration efforts, including in the East African Community and the landmark African Continental Free Trade Area.” Overall, jeans imports from Sub-Saharan Africa rose 7.35 percent in 2019 to 2.08 million dozen, giving the region a 5.38 percent market share. “In Africa, I think of Egypt and Jordan, and the Mediterranean Rim, with countries like Morocco,” Antoshak said. “Places with free trade agreements, a large labor force and a desire to expand the business have the potential.” AGOA exprires in 2025, but experts expect it to be renewed. If this happens, Herman said Africa will be a major player. In the Middle East, he added, “Jordan will be a major player.”
The Western Hemisphere has long been an important alternative to sourcing in Asia thanks to the logistics and duty-free benefits it brings. While leader Mexico had an off year, with imports dropping 6.78 percent to 7.16 million dozen in 2019, it is still seen as a major supplier that will maintain its position, especially with the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) set to be enacted. It’s pending Canada ratification, where it faces some opposition, but its passage is ultimately expected. Mexico, however, has lost some ground to other countries, like Nicaragua and Guatemala, which are part of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Imports from Nicaragua were up 16.91 percent in value terms in 2019 to $131.01 million, while volume was down 3.73 percent to 1.43 million dozen. Guatemala’s shipments rose 5.49 percent in the year to 182,276 dozen in volume, and increased 16.91 percent in value to $131.01 million in 2019. The Western Hemisphere is “starting to show resilience,” according to Antoshak, who noted that Colombia and the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement are seeing action. In the U.S., there may be potential for U.S. jeans manufacturing to see a revival on the small upscale side, said Antoshak, who has been involved in the launch of Vidalia Mills in Louisiana, and is hearing rumblings of others looking to follow suit and open mills in the U.S.
Honorable mention Two of the biggest denim suppliers right now–China and Bangladesh–are conspicuous by their absence. In China’s case, there are mixed feelings as to where what was once known as “the world’s factory” will stand in five years. Many agree with Antoshak’s “don’t count China out yet,” mantra, while others lean toward Herman’s prognostication that China’s position will continue to decline. “I can see China’s denim market share at about 15 to 20 percent in five years and falling,” compared to around 19 percent in 2019, Herman said. Bangladesh, which posted a 3.5 percent increase in value to $585.92 million in the year— but saw volume fall 2.49 percent to 72.08 million dozen—has its share of plusses and minuses. On the positive side, it has a large labor pool and factory base, but experts says it seems to always be a crisis away from losing its position as a top tier supplier. l_____H E MP J E ANS BY BL UE D IAMO N D
No. 5: Western Hemisphere
Across the Pacific House of Gold and Huntcity make a case for “Made in China” denim by building a long distance vertical factory. Los Angeles-based denim firm House of Gold, is throwing its support behind China manufacturing by partnering with Chinese factory Huntcity. The companies have come together to create a vertical factory. House of Gold’s Blue Diamond fabric mill supplies the raw material, House of Gold designs and markets it, and Huntcity handles the manufacturing. Adriano Goldschmied, House of Gold president, said the relationship with Huntcity fits with the trend of brands looking to buy more finished garments. “We picked Huntcity because of their quality and their flexibility in production,” he said. The “vertical sense of this partnership,” isn’t usual in China, said House of Gold vice president of sales and operations, Vincenzo Marrocco. What has also been a benefit to the business is that Huntcity is U.S.-owned and headquartered in Los Angeles. During the trade war, which made input imports pricier for U.S. brands and retailers, Huntcity was able to commit to not raising prices and elected to share in the tariff burden. This relationship, Marrocco said, allowed House of Gold to beat competitive prices by 20 percent to 30 percent. The ongoing success of the relationship, according to Steven Jolna, an owner of Huntcity/Nine Stone Denim Jiangsu Co., in Taixing, comes from being able to “reverse engineer” a price point. As the two companies work toward a common end—the order from the brand or retailer—they are not trying to squeeze extra margin at every step of the supply chain. “For us and our customers, it is important to have one manufacturer to talk to and deal with,” Goldschmied said. —A.F.
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A D V E R T O R I A L
The benefits of Advance Denimâ€™s state-of-the-art water saving technologies in its Shunde, China facility.
DVANCE DENIM has the dis-
tinction of being the first denim manufacturer in China and has dedicated its efforts around the core beliefs of innovation, service, quality, people and sustainability. These beliefs drive our efforts at being a world leader in denim but also a responsible local manufacturer that cares about our region. In 1988, Advance Denim opened its current 120,000-square-meter facility in the Shunde district of Foshan city on the Pearl River Delta in China. Shunde is a traditional and modern city that is located in a region that is known for its fisheries, agriculture and silk farming. Advance Denim feels that its efforts at being a sustainable manufacturer are rooted in the respect for the people and history of Shunde and the Pearl River Delta. It is because of this respect for people and traditions that Advance Denim has not just looked at our industry partners to supply sustainable inputs such as indigo and sustainable fibers. In fact, we did make the pledge to shift 90% of all our fibers to green fibers by 2023, and also Advance was the first mill in China to run Archromaâ€™s aniline-free indigo. These were positive steps, but to really effect change, Advance has looked inward to improve its manufacturing process. In keeping with the regionâ€™s many marshes and rivers, Advance has focused on not only clean water but water savings throughout our whole process. The first step toward cleaner water was to look at our waste water treatment plant and make sure
that the water that we consume in our dyeing and finishing leaves our plant as clean as it was when it entered our plant. To this end, we installed a state-of-the-art treatment plant that uses both anaerobic and aerobic systems capable of processing up to 9,000 tons per day.
Our Bigbox dyeing process replaces 10 to 12 dye boxes and saves 99% of water usage compared to traditional dyeing and results in 99% less. waste water. The next step was to look at our overall water consumption in manufacturing and try to cut down on the overall amount of water that we consumed to make denim. The two areas that consumed the most water were dyeing and finishing. In finishing, we installed a reverse-osmo-
sis recycling system that will enable us to recycle 100% of the water. This was a considerable investment but Advance felt that it is necessary to reach our water savings goals. The next step was to look at the dyeing process which traditionally uses considerable water. This was a much greater challenge because of the heritage and specific shade characteristics of indigo. We felt it very important to find a cleaner way to dye true indigo, rather than substitute other dyestuffs in an attempt to mimic indigo. The goal was a true liquid indigo shade with significant water savings, and to that end, we were very proud to introduce Bigbox dyeing. Bigbox dyeing is a revolutionary liquid indigo dye process that replaces 10 to 12 dye boxes on a traditional dye range to 1 Bigbox. The revolutionary process saves 99% of the water used in traditional dyeing, and as a result, saves 99% of the waste water we send to our treatment facilities. Bigbox is the future of clean waterless true indigo dyeing. Advance Denim, since its founding, has dedicated its efforts to becoming a global leader in denim manufacturing. We believe that in order to achieve long-term success we need to invest in both sustainable inputs from our suppliers but also tools and machinery to be the cleanest denim manufacture that we can be. The real changes come through investments in new clean technology. It is through these investments and revolutionary innovations that Advance can show its respect for the many rivers and streams that make up the Pearl River Delta.
S O TU KR TC KI N G
RIVET 50 SPEAKS Denim’s most influential say function will trump fashion in the near future. w ords_____ A N G E LA V E LA S Q U E Z
enim is in the business of fashion, but experts in the industry agree that the supply chain, designers and consumers are shifting their focus from trend to function. At Bluezone in Munich in February, members of the 2019 Rivet 50, an index of the most influential people in denim, shared what’s next for the industry. And while skinny and stretch ruled the 2010s, the next decade will bring new ideas. “What I see is that we're going to live in a world that is not going to be very friendly, so the next fashion will be function,” Bluezone curator Panos Sofianos said. “I'm convinced that the technical fabrics will be the future.” For Tilmann Wröbel, founder and creative director of consultancy company Monsieur-T, jeans will be the uniform for life on Mars. Wröbel predicts people will be living on Mars by 2030, working and developing a society. Denim will be a functional piece of home for these pioneers. Back on Earth, Ebru Ozaydin, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Artistic Milliners, said news about climate change and viruses may lead to consumers asking for more protective clothing. “Denim has the protective qualities, the ingredients and the technology,” she said. Fashion trends based on decades and colors are a “vicious cycle” and will always be present, Ozaydin said, but consumers are outsmarting
fashion brands with questions about where their clothes come from. “The focus isn’t on the fits, style and washes, but on how jeans are being produced,” she said. The classic 5-pocket jean isn’t going anywhere either, but Boyish Jeans creative director Jordan Nodarse said the most difficult thing about the product is communicating to consumers what the difference is between how a low-cost jean from a fast-fashion retailer is made, versus the process of producing a sustainable jean. “Sustainability shouldn’t have to cost more,” Nodarse said. “However, innovation does cost money and it takes time. And when we don’t have support behind it, the money has to come from somewhere.” And rather than fashion, Tricia Carey, Lenzing's director of global business development for denim, sees attention turning to the stories that jeans can tell. “Now we have the technology to tell the stories about who made our jeans,” she said. “I think that will continue to resonate with the consumers. That will be a part of the trend, to be able to tell the story about where their jeans came from and stories about the people behind our products.” Upcycling denim garments provides both a fashion and storytelling aspect to jeans while reducing waste, said Alice Tonello, R&D and marketing manager for Tonello. The role of the designer is also changing. “Designers need to consider new fibers, fabrics and ways to wash jeans,” she added. RIVET NO.9 / APRIL 2020
As a fabric designer, Alberto Candiani, owner of Candiani Denim Mill, starts with the fiber and engineers the process down to his final target, which is regenerative farming. The goal, he noted, is no longer lower or neutral impact, but to make a garment that will improve the environment. For fashion designers, upcycling may be a model that's just as effective. Endrime designer Mohsin Sajid encourages design students to make garments with no waste. The results are sometimes less desirable than a fashionable 5-pocket jean, Sajid admits, but oftentimes the jeans are clever, wearable and functional. “It’s a fun challenge and there’s a lot more no-waste products that are coming through recently,” he said. However, if the success sneakers are experiencing proves anything, it’s that there is still demand for unique design. Denim lost its groove, as the industry concentrated on being more sustainable, said Andrea Venier, managing director of Officina+39. However, sustainability should be a minimum requirement now, he added. Venier is optimistic that denim designers can reclaim denim’s cool factor. “Designers are starting to make beautiful jeans again, and I think that is what has been missing in the last 10 years,” he said. Or, as denim artist Ian Berry suggested, the next wave of fashion may already exist. “Maybe we should all dress like art students in secondhand clothing and don’t wash them,” he quipped.
A D V E R T O R I A L
DENIM’S CORE STRENGTH:
A favorite of Iconoclasts for decades, denim remains strong, powerful and pure.
HE DICTIONARY DEFINES DENIM AS COTTON. But beyond a technical
definition, cotton is the core strength of denim, and the denim fiber preference of most global consumers. When Cotton Incorporated was established in 1970, denim was a category to be defended against the encroachment of synthetic fibers. The company’s early advertising delivered a message of authenticity. Fifty years forward, denim remains a key cotton category, and Cotton Incorporated’s most recent denim promotion, “Rosie Reborn,” has shifted focus to strength—the strength of women that are shattering professional norms paralleled with the strength of cotton as the denim category’s go-to fiber. Denim has a rich history of outfitting the iconoclasts. It was the workwear of the Gold Rush in the 1840s; the literal uniform of the original Rosie the Riveters during World War II; the figurative uniform of societal rebels of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s; and a fashion statement during the designer denim days of the 1980s. Iconoclasts do not typically adhere to norms, but the common thread of their literal and figurative uniforms has been denim—cotton denim. In the U.S., 75% of consumers say they prefer their denim be made of cotton or cotton with stretch according to the Cotton Incorporated
Cotton Incorporated and THE GREAT. collaborated on a Rosie the Riveter-inspired jumpsuit featuring 1940s-era denim in the design illustrating denim’s strength and durability. Lifestyle Monitor™ survey. The same source also reveals that nearly 70% of U.S. consumers cite “made of cotton” as important to their purchasing decision; and 58% say they would pay a higher
price to keep cotton from being substituted with synthetic fibers in denim jeans. It has been said that innovation drives the denim category, and denim continues to evolve to meet
A D V E R T O R I A L
75% of U.S. consumers say they prefer their denim be made of cotton or cotton with stretch. modern consumer wants. Among these are performance features. According to Lifestyle Monitor data, 60% of U.S. consumers say that performance features are important to their denim purchasing decision. Along with stretch, performance features like enhanced durability and water repellency have been addressed through textile technologies such as Cotton Incorporated’s TOUGH COTTON™ and the STORM DENIM™ finishes. Denim has retained its appeal by keeping up with the times without sacrificing its core authenticity. When Cotton Incorporated was first established in the 1970s, its early print advertising addressed authenticity with the line “If it’s
not 100% cotton, it’s not denim.” This ad ran at a time when synthetic fibers were threatening cotton’s market share. Fifty years forward, Cotton Incorporated updates the authenticity message to merge the enduring strength of denim with the strength of women breaking gender barriers in the workplace. The “Rosie Reborn” campaign takes inspiration from Rosie the Riveter, the name representing women who donned denim jumpsuits and joined the manufacturing labor force during World War II. The modern iconoclasts are women succeeding in traditionally male-dominated professions such as STEM, sports, and the arts. Tapping the talent of ready-to-wear brand, The Great., the “Rosie Reborn” campaign features six extraordinary women wearing an updated version of the iconic Rosie the Riveter denim jumpsuit: • THE GREAT. founders, Emily Current and Meritt Elliott • Professional soccer athlete and World Cup Champion, Carli Lloyd • Famed metal artist/welder, Barbie the Welder • Black Girls Code founder, Kimberly Bryant • Architecture thought-leader, Julia Gamolina The campaign tagline: “Cotton Makes Denim Strong. You Make It Powerful” encapsulates both the power of women and the strength of denim. It is said that change is the only constant. This
Cotton Incorporated tapped into the natural roots of denim from the start, a print ad example from 1970s. is true of denim as an apparel category. But as denim evolves to meet consumer wants, and is adopted by champions of the current cause, its enduring appeal is rooted in its authenticity. As that print ad from the 1970s implies, authentic denim is cotton --- maybe with a little stretch.
HAIL TO THE CHIEF
l ____TO P: RON ALD R EAGAN ; L E FT TO R IGH T: J IMMY CARTE R , G E O RG E H .W. B U S H , BIL L CL IN TO N, GEO RGE W. BUSH , BAR ACK O BAM A, DON ALD TRU M P
There’s more to the presidential wardrobe than just blue and red neckties. On average, U.S. consumers own seven pairs of jeans, according to data by Cotton Incorporated. However, the President of the United States is no typical civilian. Suits, trousers and button-down shirts are the DNA of a presidential uniform, but each POTUS has a stash of jeans for days when he needs to relate to the everyperson. Jeans are for hitting the campaign trail and conversations at coffee shop town halls. And for many commanders in chief, jeans are a relic of their roots. They were a natural fit for former peanut farmer Jimmy Carter, and a necessity for Ronald Reagan’s life on his California ranch. While jeans were an essential part of George W. Bush’s Texan wardrobe, the buck stopped there when he famously gave an executive order that banned Oval Office staff and guests from wearing jeans. And for other chief executives, their denim style is fodder for fashion pundits. While Bill Clinton’s ’90s style is relevant with cool kids today, it was just saggy jeans and frumpy sneakers during his presidency. Barack Obama got flack for his loose-fitting jeans, too, but has been redeemed with a sharp-looking post-presidency look of slim jeans and Rag & Bone bomber jackets. President Trump remains an outlier having never worn jeans publically since taking his oath in 2017. Ever the businessman, few images of a denim-clad Trump even exist, save for a handful of shots from a charity event in 1996 and during a bit at the 2006 Emmy Awards, when he sang the theme song to "Green Acres" dressed in Carhartt denim overalls. —Angela Velasquez
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