Isko CEO Fatih Konukoglu has showed how to lead with grace under the pressure of a global pandemic.

Deep Dive

Isko is not letting the Covid-19 era get in the way of its brand ethics and ethos, and it all starts at the top with chief executive Fatih Konukoglu.

Even as the company had to adapt to the pandemic, Konukoglu ensured that Isko would push through with no layoffs, and also provided an additional financial contribution to all 14,000 employees.

While the company has continued to innovate for modern times with the production of Isko Vital+ face covers and the development of the R-TWO platform, which is designed to produce responsible performance fabrics, Konukoglu hopes to set a higher standard for the denim industry at large.

In June, Isko launched its first Sustainability Impact Report, which outlines the company’s ambitious targets to continuously develop and improve its environmental impact and provides a deep dive into Isko’s products and end-to-end responsible production process.

What will the denim industry be like in the next 18 months? 

It is not an easy task to forecast what the denim industry will be in the near future. This situation will definitely make all players reconsider their perspective on life as we know it, including business. We have to be ready to face a completely different world with a completely different mind. We are ultimately going to have to adjust to a new normal.

All things considered, we expect some more changes to happen, ultimately defining what the next seasons will bring in terms of style and trends. Buying habits, in particular, might be the ones affected the most and we believe this will lead to the definition of new lifestyles, which will have a great influence on designers, too.

As the current scenario comes to an end, fabrics featuring protective and antibacterial properties, and utility garments will continue to gain momentum as the ‘home outfit’ trend becomes more and more important. Being such a versatile material that can cater to every need from style to comfort, we expect denim to perfectly suit this new, growing ‘home outfit’ trend. Our portfolio already includes several options that are particularly relevant and fitting, so our upcoming Comfy and Blue+Safe collections just meet the market’s call.

What changes would you like to see in the denim industry as a result of Covid-19?

In the past few months, we have faced with new challenges that we had to overcome by thinking and acting differently. This led us to turn problems into opportunities, albeit unexpected. I mean, we needed to find new ways to make it work and we did.

I would like, above all, this experience to bring on a more responsible and positive change. The effects of this global circumstance made clear that we are all guests on this planet, which deserves to be respected way more than what it has been done so far. At the end of the day, taking care of the environment and its resources means to take care of ourselves, too, and this needs to be reflected in our daily work, through the entire supply chain. For the development of a better industry, it is important that every player does its part.

For this very reason, we developed and launched our Isko Vital+ face covers. Our face covers are washable and reusable, made with organic cotton so they are biodegradable, yet very stylish with different color options.

I hope for these circumstances to lead to a greater level of awareness.

How do you define sustainability in a post-pandemic world?

In a post-pandemic world, we hope for everyone in our industry to rethink the sustainability concept and to redefine it as what we call ‘responsibility.’ We have always believed that sustainability is a rather vague word that at this point means too many things and can be misleading at times.

We choose responsibility instead of sustainability, because to us, it means being accountable, transparent and open about what we do. It is the result of our Responsible Innovation approach, a holistic vision based on the values of competence, creativity and citizenship, which is the driving force defining and inspiring everything we do. It is an ongoing process of continuous improvement without a finish line and it is exactly how we picture sustainability in the future: a never-ending path leading to a better tomorrow where everyone is accountable for what they do and how they do it.

When it comes to being aware of the environment, there is no one-size-fits-all [approach] because there are many aspects to tackle. It’s no longer just about implementing responsible processes or fibers through production chains, there is much more to it.

Over-sourcing is a case in point: using more material than actually needed is a serious issue that is heavily impacting the environment. It also results in a lot of waste—a good percentage of which could ultimately be avoided altogether. With responsibility in mind, we developed our revolutionary R-TWO platform, which uses a mix of certified reused and recycled fibers and allows our production to be fully responsible.

Describe your dream jeans. 

Comfort and sustainability are the two top features of my dream jeans. If I had to describe them in one word, this would be ‘responsibility’ as it is extremely important for denim to be good both for the wearer and the planet.

What is your most worn pair of jeans, and why? 

My most worn pair of jeans is a selvedge one. I love the authentic, heritage look and the classic feeling of traditional denim; it is definitely a must-have for every denim lover in the world. At Isko we are proud to offer a wide selection of different types of selvedge, each one mixing the original manufacturing processes and our most up-to-date innovation to provide deep indigo heritage styles and special roll-ups.

Name one word that best describes denim.

Possibilities. Denim is so much more than just an indigo fabric; it is a work of art and denim intelligence. Its huge versatility and innovation do not have equals in the entire textile industry, and, at Isko, we aim to push its unlimited potential with a holistic, responsible mindset.