Claire Ford applies her millennial sensibility to her sustainable denim designs.
London-based consultant Claire Ford’s expertise in sustainable denim design is evident in the collections of some of the most popular jeans brands among millennial women, including Outland Denim and Reiss.
Ford’s consultancy relies on her 13 years of experience designing denim fabric and advising denim brands and retailers on the best practices for working in the industry. Ford provides creative direction for casual and denim apparel, wash design, trims and other production elements. She also fosters relationships with factories and mills in Turkey, Pakistan and Portugal.
Through these brand and supply chain partnerships, Ford promotes a modern take on classic women’s jeans wear that feels both timeless and current—a mood she translates to her popular Instagram account dedicated to sustainable denim initiatives and design.
What will the denim industry be like in the next 18 months?
I believe the denim industry in the next 18 months will be a positive challenge. All retail businesses are influenced by consumer demand and I believe Covid-19 is changing people’s thinking and creating a crossroad. I hope consumers take the path of challenging the environmental and social impact of their clothing and understanding the cost implications of creating a positive future. I worry consumers’ financial restraints due to the epidemic will lead to people concentrating on price. Many of these consumers are still unaware of what goes on behind the scenes of fashion and getting this message to them and being transparent will help get more consumers on board with supporting sustainable fashion.
The denim community is open to opportunities for both innovation and collaboration and I believe we will see many inspiring positive moves taken by the industry. I am working with incredible clients focusing on reducing the environmental impact of creating jeans from working with recycled fibers, reducing polyester where possible, to washing using only low impact, sustainable laundry.
The social, human side of the denim industry needs to be improved. Modern slavery is a prominent issue in the garment making sector. As an industry, we need to improve transparency and protect our garment workers.
What changes would you like to see in the denim industry as a result of Covid-19?
I would like to see the garment industry take more responsibility for its garment workers. When it comes to the term ‘sustainability’ everyone discusses the environmental issues but rarely how the people in the industry are affected.
The current reality of COVID-19 has highlighted the social impact and the fragility of the denim supply network; and I believe all brands need to extend responsibility to their entire supply chains. Ninety-eight percent of garment workers do not make enough to meet their basic needs. A living wage is a human right and yet brands are cancelling orders without even thinking of the repercussion of their actions on the people who make the clothes. The impact of these cancellations on approximately 60 million workers employed by the garment industry has been unprecedented. People are left facing poverty without wages or working with reduced pay.
How do you define sustainability in a post-pandemic world?
Sustainability means so many things to me pre- and post-pandemic. Sustainability is environmental, economical, social and circularity. It means renewable resources, recycling, no harmful chemicals and caring for everyone you work with. I think the world needs to take things slower. I hope we can move away from fast fashion and that consumers realize we do not need to keep up to date with ever changing trends but will buy and invest in timeless, well-made pieces. I do see this being a great time for companies to become more responsible for their supply chain and become economically, socially and environmentally conscious.
[It is also a time] for designers to realize that we can make the change; 80 percent of the impact of each garment is decided at the design stage so we need to choose well and design well.
Describe your dream jeans.
My dream jeans are one of the first jeans I designed for Outland Denim called the Amy jeans. They are a high rise, relaxed fit that I can either wear full length or rolled up. They are made from natural indigo, rigid denim woven from organic cotton, recycled cotton and lyocell making the hand feel sturdy but soft. The fabric will wear for years and years and just get softer and more comfortable. The wash process on these jeans are made up of low impact organic washing agents, laser techniques and ozone processing all mixed in with Outland’s water recycling systems. All of these together massively reduce water usage, water pollution and power usage…And to top that all off, they are made by incredible people. Outland Denim was founded as an avenue for the training, employment and career progression for women who had experienced exploitation.
What is your most worn pair of jeans, and why?
My most worn pair of jeans were a pair of light wash cropped Levi’s 501s that I lived in until I got my hands on the new Outland Denim range. My daily uniform is a white tee or shirt with jeans and my 501s are an easy comfortable fit. I have over 50 pairs of jeans and the 501 and Amy jeans by Outland are always on me or in my travel case.
Name one word that describes denim to you.