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The Consultants: Less is Always More for Denim Designer Michelle Branch

The Consultants is Rivet’s regular check-in with denim industry business and creative consultants to get their take on topics ranging from the status of sustainability to future trends. In this Q&A, Michelle Branch, founder and creative director of Markt&Twigs Inc., a consulting company that has worked with companies like Jeanologia and Lenzing, discusses the importance of collaboration during uncertain times. 

Name: Michelle Branch

Location: New York metropolitan area

What was your first gig in the denim industry?

I was the production assistant in a denim dress company called Vintage Blue.

Describe your design point of view.

When it comes to aesthetics, I’m typically heritage-based because you have to know the real components of what makes a jean before you can apply a fashion element—and responsibly made of course.

And I really believe in ‘less is more’ both from the aesthetic and process points of view. You don’t need a lot of bells and whistles to develop a fantastic product, however, you do need to know the process and make smart choices.

Michelle Branch, founder and creative director of Markt&Twigs Inc., discusses the importance of collaboration during uncertain times. 
Michelle Branch Courtesy

What is the most common challenge that denim brands encounter in their design?

For most brands, I think it’s the age-old problem of aligning their message with the realities of their businesses. And I think in a post-COVID-19 environment, this will be more critical and more difficult. Being able to execute the vision you want to profess to the consumer, while remaining within the realities of cost and practicality is definitely a tricky balance. But it just makes good business sense today as well as for a better tomorrow.

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What makes you optimistic about the denim industry?

Hands down, it’s how we’ve all pulled together during this pandemic. Most of us were already on board with the changes needed in the industry, but now it feels like the process is speeding up. Now it seems like the industry will work together in partnerships to find solutions more quickly. Two minds are better than one, and hundreds are even better!

Name a denim trend you hope to never see again.

It’s a toss-up between acid wash and extreme holes and rips, which have absolutely nothing to do with reality.

Do you have a favorite industry event to attend?

I love them all because they’re where our community gets a chance to catch up. Picking one is tricky, because I have friends running all the main denim shows, and to be honest, the offerings in each don’t differ too much. But, if I have to choose one I’d say Kingpins Amsterdam because the entire city seems to participate.

What advice would you give to someone at the beginning of their denim career?

That depends on what part of the business they’re entering. If it’s design, I would encourage them to spend time in mills and production facilities. Too often I encounter young people responsible for product that don’t yet have a solid understanding of the full process.

What is your favorite jean to wear, and why?

I have lots of favorites! But lately I’ve been shopping in my own closet. At the moment, I’ve fallen back in love with a pair of NSF’s Hepburn wide leg jeans from a few seasons ago. They’re in a really open fabric construction, so they’re super flowy in a blend of what feels like cotton and Tencel. I removed the label long ago, so I can’t remember exactly. Needless to say, they are very comfy. And on top of that, they’re in a modern fit with authentic details—all whiskers and breaks are where they naturally occur.

What are you most proud of in your career?

In truth, what I’m most proud of are the friendships I’ve developed over the years. But if we’re talking about the work, I’d have to say that my biggest professional honor is the work I did with Jeanologia in creating Truth & Light [a collection of laser designs with a vintage and authentic denim look] because it was the seed that led to the change in how the industry views laser production. It will ultimately have the biggest long-term impact on the world.

But I have to say that what Lenzing’s Carved In Blue platform has evolved into during this pandemic is astonishing. And while I certainly can’t take credit for what it has become, I am proud to have been part of the team that created it.

What’s your vision for denim in 2025?

Honestly, I think there will be a shrinking of the market. It sounds scary, but it is actually a market correction. It will give us a framework for producing less but better. I envision seasonal calendars will be a thing of the past. I see all types of partnerships, collaborations, and think tanks—even across industries—working to find real solutions. And we will rely more on technology to make us communicate more efficiently and create more effectively.