Jean Hegedus' work within the denim industry has heightened awareness of the need for more sustainable solutions.
Jean Hegedus has more than 35 years of experience in the textile industry, working first with The DuPont Company and then Invista, before moving to The Lycra Company in 2019.
Over the course of her career, she has held a variety of positions in public affairs, marketing, licensing and branding. She began working in the denim sector in 2007, bringing several important innovations to market, including Lycra XFIT, Lycra dualFX, Lycra Beauty and Lycra EcoMade technologies.
It was also her work within the denim industry that heightened her awareness of the need for more sustainable solutions, and in July 2019, she was appointed sustainability director for The Lycra Company.
What will the denim industry be like in the next 18 months?
I think it’s going to be full of both challenges and opportunities. The first challenge for most companies is how to stabilize their business after Covid-19, with all of the inventory that’s out there, and trying to clean that all up and get back to normal—whatever normal ends up being.
The second is to understand how or if consumer buying patterns are going to change as a result of the pandemic. To me, this is where the opportunity comes in. We’re seeing in some early research that consumers are becoming more concerned than ever about sustainability and about being more mindful about what they’re purchasing. We’re seeing a little bit of a trend in wanting to invest in fewer but higher quality garments that last longer and it is an opportunity because it offers brands and retailers the chance to engender consumer loyalty and also help the industry reduce its footprint, which is something we absolutely have to address.
If there’s a positive thing to come out of this, I think that it’s that the consumer is becoming more aware, more thoughtful and more mindful about what they are buying.
What changes would you like to see in the denim industry as a result of Covid-19?
One sort of unexpected outcome is that we’ve learned a new way of conducting business. We’ve found, at least for some of us, that we could use Zoom or other technologies to stay connected. We don’t always have to get on an airplane and fly halfway around the world to keep business moving. Of course, nothing will ever replace face-to-face communication, but I think we may be able to do less of it, be more efficient and reduce our carbon footprint in the process. I know I’ve had a number of discussions and Zoom meetings with customers and I think we were both able to accomplish everything we wanted to.
How do you define sustainability in a post-pandemic world?
There’s really three key aspects of sustainability as it relates to our industry. The first is that we need to focus on the science and the real environmental impact. We need to really think about how do we make and use fiber, fabric and garments with the least possible impact. There’s a lot of different options out there, but all of them with varying degrees of impact.
The second aspect is that the people in companies producing these materials need to be treated fairly and ethically, and I think the industry has made a lot of progress in that area.
Finally, I think we have to help promote the benefits of sustainable offerings to consumers. We see that once the consumer is aware of the impact, that’s really what tends to change behavior.
Describe your dream jeans.
My dream jeans would be those that first of all fit my particular shape and then maintain that fit throughout the day, and day after day. And then, they’re comfortable to wear, no matter what the season or climate so I can wear my jeans in the summer and not be hot. And I have to say I have some jeans today with Lycra dualFX that I think come pretty close to being my dream jeans because they do hold their shape, they are really comfortable to wear and I have one pair that is light enough that I can wear it throughout the year.
What is your most worn pair of jeans, and why?
About eight years ago I was in Hong Kong and while I was there I went into a Levi’s store and they were selling these jeans with Coolmax and Lycra. I tried on a boyfriend jean and it fit we really well, so I think the fit was right to start, but it was also super comfortable. And to this day, it has kept its shape and is still super comfortable. When I was flying before Covid-19, any time I was getting on an airplane, I was wearing those jeans. It’s just my go-to pair in my closet.
Name one word that best describes denim.
Forever. I think denim has gone through so many iterations because its’s like a blank canvas and there are so many innovators out there. It keeps evolving, like we do, and continues to be the garment we love to wear.