Piyumi Perera’s role is an example of how in 2020 being a designer also requires deep knowledge in materials and technology.
It isn’t enough anymore for a denim designer to focus only on aesthetics and creativity. Modern times call for designers who take a deep responsibility in selecting environmentally-friendly materials and finishing processes that result in covetable and sustainable jeans.
It’s a challenge Piyumi Perera tackles each day as the head of design at Hirdaramani Industries’ Discovery Lab (HDL), a co-creation space built to support sustainable product creation for the garment manufacturer’s clients.
Working with global brands, Perera is responsible for leading a team of creatives to generate seasonal collections for key customers, and developing HDL’s own concepts and projects.
Perera’s role is an example of how in 2020 being a commercial denim designer in the supply chain also requires being a source of knowledge in materials and technology, as well as being a conduit for new design inspiration.
What will the denim industry be like in the next 18 months?
Denim has proven over the years to be mercurial. It’s constantly being reinvented to be relevant. In the context of a global pandemic, it’s once again become relevant by being one of the top five fabrics identified as an initial barrier against microparticles.
We will definitely see denim production slow down. People don’t have the same flow of income for fashion, but on the bright side, this should open up the space for better-made denim with more intrinsic value, meaning products with protective finishes, great fit and environmentally responsible production. This type of denim should become front runners in denim buying trends in 2021.
Customization—from 3D fitting to customization apps—will be key. Consumers will definitely look for maximum accuracy from their dollar spent. The challenge to manufacturers is to deliver all this at stringent price points. HDL is geared for these trends.
What changes would you like to see in the denim industry as a result of Covid-19?
Covid-19 proved that as consumers we should not depend so much on fast-moving goods and instant gratification. It slowed us down just enough to know that we can make better. By design, better choice of input materials and safer methodology are required to reduce waste and lower the overall environmental impact of denim.
I would like to see the industry reset for more environmentally sustainable, better made, longer lasting quality product that makes you glad you own it. It’s a tough ask, but skills in making high quality and conscious denim need to be cultivated in design teams. Creatives need to be incredibly conscious at making responsible design choices at concept stage.
I would also like to see the recycling industry merge more mainstream with the global denim industry to be part of the supply chain. Better collection and recycling of clothing and denim waste needs to be initiated. This will get us closer to closing the loop on denim waste. The denim industry needs to ease the demand for virgin cotton raw material and explore other natural fibers.
How do you define sustainability in a post-pandemic world?
Sustainability has to ensure that whatever we take out, we help to regenerate. We must create great-looking jeans with a clear plan for its eventual ethical disposal at the end of its life. [We must make] products with a smaller footprint of water, energy and chemical usage by employing cutting-edge technology and sensible choices.
At Hirdaramani Discovery Lab, this is a key value for our creatives, but it’s not easy. We’ve been accustomed to the ‘take, make, dispose’ linear system of product economy. Through initiatives like our active participation at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Jeans Redesign project, we are acutely aware of the need to move towards the principles of circularity in our production methods and share this with our customers. This way, we can influence sustainable, safe and great-looking denim.
Describe your dream jeans.
My dream jeans would be made with fibers from a previously owned pair. They would be comfortable and never lose their shape, and have a beautiful sustainable wash. I’d also like for them to be able to record key moments of my life. The jeans would be made to last and eventually be passed on to my daughters like an heirloom.
What is your most worn pair of jeans, and why?
My most worn are my 100 percent denim culottes. I love them, as they are incredibly versatile for any weather or occasion. The fit is loose, comfortable and classic. Light washed and vintage in character, with just the right balance of pale whiskers. What I like best is that at the end of its life, this jean is easily recycled due to being of mono-fiber material.
Name one word that best describes denim.
Incredible. Indigo denim is a magic canvas you can keep painting on.