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Ladies of Denim: Sarah Ahmed of DL1961

From fiber to factories, the women working in denim are making a lasting impression. In this series, Ladies of Denim, Rivet interviews the females that are driving innovation in speed, sustainability and design in the denim market. Some are self-made, others have indigo running through their blood. All are passionate about denim.

Sarah Ahmed, DL1961 creative director

RIVET: What’s your denim pedigree?
Ahmed: Indigo is in my blood. I grew up watching denim being made and I saw the techniques and processes evolve as quickly as the industry did. When I graduated from Parsons, I wanted to do something that combined my heritage with my love for design and fashion. So, I joined DL1961 and have been hard at work taking our company into the digital era with campaigns like Smart Denim and Jessica Alba x DL1961. I also developed new denim labels like The Blue Shirt Shop and Warp + Weft.

RIVET: Describe your current role in denim.
Ahmed: I touch each and every one of the departments at DL1961, from planning our creative campaigns to consulting with our design team, checking in on operations and evaluating our sales goals and deliverables. I also travel the world in search of what’s next in our industry, and keep close relations with our international buyers and agencies. We’re a global family. It’s my job to weave everyone together so we design denim that’s pushing the envelope while remaining steadfast in our reliability.

RIVET: Do you consider denim to be a boys’ club?
Ahmed: Not in our world. It’s just never an issue. Our design teams are comprised of both men and women. Everyone has their own unique strengths.

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RIVET: What is your first denim memory?
Ahmed: Walking into a mill as a young girl. It was so amazing. The facility is huge and making denim is the most intricate, technologically advanced process ever.

RIVET: Describe the perfect jean.
Ahmed: A jean you can count on. The kind that fits like a glove each and every time you put them on.

RIVET: Where do you find inspiration?
Ahmed: From New Yorkers and our style of everyday living. I believe the way people live and move in the city reflects today’s modern man and woman.

RIVET: What are some important characteristics to have in order to succeed in denim?
Ahmed: Know the industry inside and out. Know who your customer is and how to win them with excellent product, service and brand campaigns. Also, you are who you surround yourself with, so make sure you have an A-team to go with your A-game, otherwise you’re dead in the water.

RIVET: What are you most proud of in your career?
Ahmed: The year at Coterie [a New York-based apparel trade show] when we had one of the largest booths there and our sales went through the roof. I stepped back and said to myself, “we made it.” That was a pretty incredible moment. I look forward to what’s ahead, too. I know there are more amazing things to come.

RIVET: Why do you believe in denim?
Ahmed: Because it’s who I am. It’s what I do. You know what else I believe in? We’re the only brand committed to ethically sourcing and manufacturing jeans in a way that reduces our water footprint by half, and it’s amazing to stand behind that. We hope to inspire others to follow suit.

RIVET: What’s on your to-do list for 2017?
Ahmed: Scaling the company. People love our jeans and we want to expand that following while rolling out new brands like The Blue Shirt Shop. In 2017, you’ll see me continue to introduce our concept of #TheUniform, which is the everyday styling of denim with beautifully tailored shirts, inspired (and named by) the coolest places in NYC.

This article appears in Rivet Magazine. Click here to read the full issue.