In a tactile-heavy industry that has always relied on travel for inspiration, the Covid-19 pandemic posed a unique challenge for denim. Instead of planning showroom events and building trade show booths, mills and brands have had to scramble to adopt digital methods that mimic the in-person experience. And as many who have been thrust into the work from home routine can confirm, Zoom meetings can only go so far.
Enter new mobile apps with exclusive trend reports, digitally integrated sales kits with detailed supply chain information and online stores full of exclusive collaborations. Denim mills are paving the way for digital communication in the industry, and all that’s required is an internet connection.
“It’s an undeniable fact that being fast is very important in a world that is becoming digital with each passing day,” said Tolga Ozkurt, deputy general manager of sales and marketing, Calik Denim.
The Turkish denim mill developed an app to provide customers with the ability to explore global denim trends, match them with Calik Denim fabrics and then request a sample.
But this idea wasn’t born overnight—it wasn’t even developed in response to the pandemic. Calik Denim’s app was launched in May 2019 long before countries around the world were forced into isolation.
“The world turned more towards digital tools during the lockdown and we were lucky because we had already established our infrastructure for digitalization,” Ozkurt said.
With the initial framework complete, Calik’s mobile app was in position for enhancement as the pandemic grew more intense. The company updated its capabilities to include a blog, as well as a section on new technologies and innovations.
The new capabilities have a large editorial push, including video and written content from denim influencers such as Samuel Trotman of Denim Dudes, Ani Wells of Simply Suzette, and Robin Meijerink and Will Varnam of Robin Denim.
Turkish denim mill Orta Anadolu also developed new digital methods for its customers. The company introduced six digitally equipped “Here4Good” kits—one for each concept—that consist of fabric swatches and QR codes that take users on an interactive content journey.
By scanning the code with their mobile device, clients can access educational videos, wash galleries and information on the garment’s Lifecycle Assessment (LCA).
“The Here4Good kit is designed for our brand partners for a seamless online and offline experience that delivers a heightened sense of touch—emotional, social and physical—in today’s extraordinary business climate and contactless social interactions,” said Zennure Danisman, Orta marketing and washing manager.
Along with the concept boxes, Orta introduced a members-only website where partners can access trends, innovation insights, environmental impact assessment and high-definition visual assets.
“At Orta, we believe that more than ever, now is the time to be more social,” Danisman said. “We live in a co-dependent world, and Covid-19 has taught us how fragile our systems are. But for us, this collection wasn’t about pulling back—it is about pushing forward with more resilient design.”
The company is also gearing up to launch a members-only website, Orta Prime, which will allow it to sell small quantities of sustainable fabrics to small brands and independent designers.
Mills are communicating to the end consumer through digital methods, too.
Italy’s Candiani recently launched its first e-commerce platform presenting a wide range of unique jeans styles for men, women and children made by their brand partners. Along with selling jeans, Simon Giuliani, global marketing director at Candiani S.p.A., noted that the website is another way to support brands through rich storytelling and to help consumers form a deeper understanding of quality.
“As a store, we want to give everyone the chance to get a hold of our special collaborations, which represent a win-win situation for the Candiani Mill, the brand and the final customer as these collections are based as much on fashion as on education,” he said. “As a mill we believe that this is the most effective, even if not the easiest, way for the industry to help the final consumer develop more conscious shopping behavior.”
The online store, much like the mill’s physical store which opened in Milan in 2019—sells special-edition collaborations with some of its partners, and has already shown signs of success, just one month after launching. And with international travel on pause for many, its a way for the global denim community to experience Candiani retail.
“While it is still premature to give an evaluation of online sales, the physical store is growing steadily into a destination shop with an increase in sales, which is surprising, given the difficult times,” Giuliani said. “This is only the beginning. Once you focus on digital, the sky’s the limit.”