Safdar Shah is up for the challenge to advance circular fabrics.
Rajby Textiles is looking at the full lifecycle of its denim.
As head of research and development at Rajby, Safdar Shah played a role in the development of Beluga Denim, the first denim textile to boast Cradle to Cradle Platinum Certification. Made of 100 percent organic cotton, the off-white hued denim is 100 percent recyclable and biodegradable.
Rajby previously received Gold certification, but raising its designation to Platinum required more collaboration beyond its in-house operations. For instance, to create a truly zero carbon textile, Shah and his team had to track and offset the carbon footprint created from the transportation of materials. The trickiest part of reducing the impact comes after production, since it needed to prove a closed post-consumer loop.
To fulfill this piece of the impact puzzle, the mill has aligned with retailer C&A on the project, which offers a take back program to complete the circle.
What will the denim industry be like in the next 18 months?
This pandemic situation is unprecedented for sure. Therefore, predicting the immediate future can be anyone’s guess. All I know is that the plummeting global economies will certainly result in erosion of wealth and employment. This is pretty grim news [and will mean a] considerable fall in sales for the fashion and denim industry since the consumers will have less disposable income for discretionary spending. In an unparalleled chain of events, we’re cornered with very limited options. Authorities around the globe are compelled to choke the economies with harsh social distancing measures, and the denim industry should brace for impact as per capita jeans consumption in next 18 months can face a fierce decline.
We may witness a sharp spike in the use of technology in the industry overall. Suppliers with good technological backbone may achieve some level of success in reaching the buyers and understand their immediate customer requirements. We’re already seeing a bold rise in online sales that is expected to increase, which is going to shape up consumer behavior in future.
Having said that, the denim industry has always been creating innovative possibilities to make a mark in the retail and apparel world. The overall slowness in the industry caused by Covid-19 has given kind of a timeout to denim players so that they can rethink, strategize and arise stronger. I do have faith that by end of the next year we will be back with more creative, protective and sustainable solutions.
What change would you like to see in the denim industry as a result of Covid-19?
That one thing would be to see a major change in the way the industry as a whole has been approaching end customers. Customer awareness has been around for quite some time but has not been as effective as [it] should have been, especially when it comes to sustainability. I have always believed that sustainability is the responsibility of everyone. Manufacturers and retailers alone cannot achieve the sustainability goals without educating the customers about it. We have to reinforce the message more forcefully than ever so the customer knows that the money being spent on a pair of jeans is not merely satisfying [about fashion] but also is for a good cause. I know for a fact that consumers don’t mind spending extra few bucks on a product if they’re sure of contributing [to] a better cause. If the customer understands the motive and demands conscious product, the whole supply chain can be transformed into a green supply chain.
How do you define sustainability in a post-pandemic world?
The way we define sustainability is always evolving. The post-Covid focus of sustainability should be the efforts to maintain the lifestyles of the industry workers and daily wagers who are worst hit by the current crisis. To me, CSR has to be the top priority for a truly sustainable organization along with other considerations, like good raw materials, water stewardship, carbon footprint and less wastages.
Describe your dream jeans?
Denim has been notorious for its excessive use of water, chemicals and having negative impact on the environment. I always wished to wear the most conscious and responsible denim. My dream became true in the form of Beluga Denim that gives me a feel of freedom, responsibility and a good human being while I am wearing it.
What is your most worn pair of jeans, and why?
It’s a jean designed by me made in a 14 oz. rigid denim. It used to be absolutely raw when I made it around 12 years ago, but after continuous use throughout the seasons, the faded indigo color and shape of natural whiskers according to my body makes me love it. It is like another layer of skin to me.
Name one word that best describes denim.
Passion. That keeps me going.