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Turkish Denim Mills Rely on Digital Tool to Bounce Back From the Pandemic

One of the largest denim suppliers in the world, Turkey has not been immune to the economic and social impact of COVID-19. With a current country estimate of 227,000 cases and 5,600 deaths, local mills have implemented strict processes and new ways of doing business that could set the precedent for the rest of the denim industry.

According to a panel of denim experts moderated by Lenzing director global business development-denim Tricia Carey, this includes everything from enforcing social distancing inside factories to collaborating with partners and offering innovative digital solutions to shape the future of denim.

“We will keep our distance for a while,” said Dr. Sedef Uncu Aki, Orta Anadolu executive director. “That’s why we will see more and more digital and technological innovations.”

One of the biggest digital innovations for Orta has been its sales kit, featuring “concept boxes,” each with a fabric swatch and information card that includes a QR code. Users can scan the code on their mobile device and be taken directly to the fabric’s wash gallery to see exactly which washes are available for the specific material, as well as the Lifecycle Assessment (LCA) of the garment.

“It is really nice to have this online and offline experience,” said Dr. Uncu Aki. “Yes, we are in a tactile business, but I think we should brainstorm even more how we can reduce the amount of waste we’re creating.”

Calik Denim also turned to digital methods during COVID-19. The mill doubled down on its mobile app—which it launched before the pandemic in 2019—to include both a video and content component. Users can turn to the app for videos on each of the mill’s concepts as well as the latest news surrounding the denim industry.

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Calik halted business during the peak of the pandemic from March 23 to May 4, and is currently operating at 60 percent capacity. Its processes for containment, including installing thermal cameras at factory entrances and implementing safety training, have ensured a safe working environment for employees. Despite the pause, the mill has seen an uptick in online business and is remaining optimistic about the future.

Bossa has also seen an increase in online sales. Sales manager Burcu Dalaman Özek noted that the facility, which is now operating at 70 percent capacity, reopened in mid-April after receiving order and shipment requests. According to Özek, collaborating with partners has helped the business recover from the pause and spread positivity during a time when it’s needed most.

“Even though we didn’t get any on-time payments from our brands or garment manufacturers, we wanted to support the business,” she said. “So we gave extended payment dates.”

As business somewhat returns to normal, the mill is now receiving payments and orders, and is “happy” with the decision to be flexible with partners.