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3 Takeaways Denim Leaders Say Are Key in Conquering the Industry Today

Leaders from the fashion and technology worlds shared the stage in Amsterdam at Calik Denim’s first Ever Evolving Talks last month to discuss how the denim industry can take innovation, sustainability and creativity to the next level.

Here are three takeaways from the talks, with each aimed to encourage the denim supply chain to push boundaries.

Be fearless

Want to create buzz and intrigue in new products? Take a page out of the wearable technology’s playbook, urged Matthew Drinkwater, the head of fashion innovation at London College of Fashion.

Whether it’s a hit, like the Apple Watch, or a miss, like Diane von Furstenberg sporting Google Glass at New York Fashion Week, Drinkwater said wearable technology has been “able to create extraordinary excitement” because it makes fearless moves.

“It’s really simple,” he said. “We encourage everyone to experiment. Too much of what we see out there in the industry is a fear of experimentation and a fear of failure.”

The only way the industry can move forward, Drinkwater said, is by taking that first step.

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“So my encouragement is just go play and create cool stuff. If you get it wrong, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “A lot of the stuff we’ve done hasn’t worked, but it pushes boundaries. There’s so much opportunity.”

No excuses allowed

Sustainability remains unchartered territory for many fashion brands, but Adriana Galijasevic, G-Star Raw’s denim and sustainability expert said ambivalence toward going green doesn’t hold up anymore. Particularly in Europe, where she said organizations like Ellen MacArthur Foundation, ZDHC Foundation, Fashion for Good, and more, have taken the lead in guiding fashion brands down a sustainability path.

“I think it used to be harder to do responsible business. I think now we have platforms like all of these different organization that are embracing and open for collaboration,” Galijasevic said.

“It should be happening more,” she added. “We need to be moving faster.”

Think outside the box

Would you choose the sustainable product over a price point? It’s a question Roian Atwood, director of sustainability for Wrangler, said he would hate to put in front of a consumer.

“That’s not a fair question to the consumer,” he said. “It should inherently be part of the brand.”

All companies, Atwood said, are focused on getting product to market. “If a brand tells you somehow that it’s not beholding to the almighty dollar, then that’s probably largely inaccurate,” he said.

However, Atwood urged brands to add a sustainable lens to their focus. And employees across all levels of a company are responsible to spark that change.

“We have to think like business leaders in order to influence our organization. We have to think creatively,” he added.

Atwood’s vision is to put a wetland next to a factory. “Let’s put a living ecosystem next to a factory environment, where these two things—manufacturing and biology—intersect,” he said.

It takes confidence to execute an idea like that, he said, where a natural system acts as a filtration device for wastewater treatment may seem like a farfetched vision, but the technology and know-how exists.

“There’s a lot of technical elements there, but there is the opportunity to overcome the technical challenge and create the traceability that consumers are demanding,” Atwood said.