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Denim Minds Under 30: Denim Dudes’ Shannon Reddy

Rivet’s Denim Minds Under 30 column shines a spotlight on young professionals committed to pushing the denim industry forward, paying special mind to the planet and its people.

In this Q&A, Rivet caught up with Shannon Reddy, a trend forecaster at denim consultancy Denim Dudes. Through her position, she hopes to elevate sustainable changemakers in fashion who can help guide the industry to more responsible ways of doing business.

Describe your current job.

Shannon Reddy: I’m a trend forecaster at Denim Dudes, which allows me to wear many hats. The main part of my job is really about analyzing how macro trends, cultural shifts and consumer behavior all intersect, drive change and shape the future of denim design and the industry. We work with denim brands and supply chain partners in different capacities from bespoke trend and future forecast reports to industry-related journalism. We also sit at an interesting spot on the consumer side of things with the real blue-blooded, denim heads as fans and followers of Denim Dudes. So on the community and social media side of things, we get to dive into really fun blog article topics, content creation and more.

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What drew you to the denim industry?

SR: I was definitely drawn to the textile itself first. In college, I found myself leaning towards denim at every turn. Whether it was a textile science class or line development, I was always most interested in working with denim. No other textile really behaves like denim does. As I learned more about the history, weave structures, indigo dyeing and wash processes, I became really intrigued by the duality of its intricacies and commonalities. I love that throughout history and culture, the basic denim jean has come to represent so many different eras, subcultures and movements. It touches every consumer segment from designer to mass market, and whether you have an affinity towards fashion or not, I’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t have a favorite pair of jeans in their closet.

What is your first denim memory?

SR: When I was in the second or third grade, we had a free dress day at school—every other day we were in uniforms. I remember being so excited to wear a new pair of jeans that I had just gotten for my birthday. Everything was going great until recess, after which I realized I had grass stains all over my jeans and I was so upset that they were ruined. I remember a teacher talked me down and eventually I moved on, but looking back I really wish I could’ve told my younger self “hey kid, don’t worry, one day Gucci will make ridiculously expensive jeans that look just like this, and it’ll be your job to explain to people why it’s so cool.”

Since working in denim, has anything surprised you about the denim industry? 

SR: It really is like a small town, where everyone knows someone who knows someone. I was really surprised by all the overlap and mutual connections when I first started working in denim. It really just goes to show why there is such a sense of community and camaraderie within the industry.

What are your short- and long-term goals for the industry?

SR: My short-term goals are to support and highlight new creative talent, change makers and sustainable industry innovation through my job as a forecaster. My long-term goals for the industry revolve around sustainable mass production solutions, greater transparency in the supply chain and proper garment worker treatment. I would also love to see the breakdown of traditional industry gatekeeping structures. Progress towards these goals is really at the center of everything we do at Denim Dudes. When working directly with brands or supply chain partners, we strongly advocate for ethical, sustainable and transparent practices. We also launched the Denim Directory, a seasonal report that aims to educate designers on the latest industry developments while helping to increase transparency and access to the supply chain.

Which brands or supply chain partners do you look up to, and why?

SR: Marine Serre is a big one. I really admire her ability to create such directional, sophisticated yet cool and wearable pieces while maintaining really high levels of recycled and regenerated materials in all her collections. I also really admire her ethos and ideas about the fashion industry and what it means to be a successful designer today. A couple other brands I admire in terms of contemporary denim design are Eckhaus Latta, MSGM, MM6 and EYTYS. I also really admire Saitex and Sanjeev Bahl’s ideologies and business practices. He and his company are setting the standard for what sustainable production on a mass scale really looks like.

What do you think the denim industry will learn from the pandemic? 

SR: I think the denim industry as a whole is learning that we can’t rely on messy and complex supply chains. The pandemic really forced brands to re-evaluate their production and sourcing methods. Especially in L.A., we’ve started to see the demand for nearshoring capabilities absolutely skyrocket, which is really exciting when you think about how many denim companies are based here and the history of the L.A. denim manufacturing scene.

What advice do you have for other young people in the industry? 

SR: It probably sounds a little cliche, but I think it’s so important to continue educating yourself throughout your career. The denim industry has so many moving parts that are all constantly changing. Once you’re in a full-time job and don’t have the mindset or bandwidth of a student to just openly absorb new information, you can easily slip into ways of thinking and doing that aren’t the most progressive. Read anything and everything you can get your hands on. And whether it’s staying up to date with the latest fiber and chemical developments, or understanding the hype behind Gen Z’s favorite new vintage dealers, it’s all connected and always changing.

What will be the biggest impact that young people will have on the denim industry in the future?

SR: Entering the workforce at a time in which the climate discussion, larger social and environmental issues are at the forefront of the denim industry’s conversations gives us a unique perspective. There has never been a time in my career or while I was in school where sustainability wasn’t being discussed. I think one of the biggest impacts will revolve around implementing ethical and sustainable practices. Since we never had the luxury of experiencing the denim industry in its heyday, only seeing what was left in its wake, I think the younger generation of the industry is really fueled by a sense of urgency to course correct and start making better choices on every level. Whether that’s a young designer advocating for more eco-friendly fabrics, wash technicians creating new processes or just the consumer pivoting toward more sustainable product choices, the implementation of sustainability is coming from every angle.

We also entered into the industry at a really interesting time in regards to design. Young designers and creatives aren’t as concerned with doing things by the book, following specific career paths or designing into specific categories. Their open mindedness, coupled with vast access to information, is really impacting and broadening the scope of denim design and enabling them to reimagine what a brand is supposed to be.