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Rivet 50 Radio: Sarah Ahmed

Because of their buzzy appeal, direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands often catch the attention of VCs looking to invest in a product without necessarily knowing the industry or the customer. That was a red flag for Sarah Ahmed, founder of size-inclusive, DTC denim brand Warp + Weft, and it’s why she chose to self-fund her three-year-old business.

“For them, I was a very digestible version of a minority CEO immigrant living in the U.S., doing something as American as denim,” she told Rivet. “And I saw through that.”

Ahmed founded Warp + Weft as a way to provide premium-quality denim to the masses. Each of its styles is fit-tested on mannequins sizes 0-24 and then on real models. While this level of testing is laborious, Ahmed noted that it was necessary: any time the brand compromised on those guidelines, it would see a higher return rate.

“When you fit enough people, when you understand how a fabric moves, how it works, how it moves on the body, and how you feel when you look in the mirror, you learn to intuitively design,” said Ahmed. “A VC could never understand that.”

Not only is the brand size inclusive, but it’s also cost-inclusive: Every pair of jeans is priced under $100. According to Ahmed, the key to keeping costs low without sacrificing sustainability is vertical integration.

“We innovate from fiber to finished garment,” said Ahmed. “An average pair of jeans uses 1,500 gallons of water per jean. Ours uses less than 10. Our jeans also use less than one kilowatt of energy.”

It’s these progressive philosophies that have helped the brand become as popular as it is today. But while the next step for many companies would be to open a store, Ahmed has no plans of that. She considers stores “antiquated,” and explained that she would open an educational physical experience—in which customers are educated on the product and supply chain—before she ever opened a store.

“I think opening a store is a quick way to get eyeballs, but I don’t necessarily think that is the way to push the online shopping experience,” she said.

Click here to listen to the full conversation with Ahmed.

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This podcast episode is made possible by Cotton Incorporated, a not-for-profit company funded by U.S. cotton producers and importers, and whose mission is to increase the demand and profitability of cotton. Discover What Cotton Can Do.