Salli Deighton envisions a sustainable future for denim, even at the mass merchant level.
Salli Deighton has been a mainstay in the denim industry for more than 20 years, consulting at various denim and apparel rms including Marks & Spencer, Asos, Debenhams and Gas Jeans. Throughout this time, she has been on
the forefront of the push for sustainability within the production process, particularly at the mass merchant level.
With a belief that there is no excuse for not making responsible denim, Deighton is always seeking out the newest fibers, chemicals and equipment capable of creating long-lasting jeans that eliminate waste.
Recently, she has sought to further educate the industry on sustainable cotton sources and uncover ways to deliver more transparency across denim production. Additionally, she has worked with Lenzing in an effort to help eliminate the use of non-biodegradable polyester.
What will the denim industry be like in the next 18 months?
Tough. We will unfortunately see the demise of some great brands and stores vanish from the high street. Businesses will ‘batten down the hatches’ and focus on protecting their business, clearing stocks and [eliminating risks] for coming seasons.
Even though it will be hard, people are resourceful and resilient, and in times of recession new ideas and pioneering ventures emerge. We have a chance to rethink how we make jeans, how we use clothing, how we waste and how we truly deliver circularity. I believe we will see the growth of local solutions in collaboration with global manufacturers enabling us to reprocess goods and de-risk the supply chain.
One thing we have all found during Covid-19 is how important nature is to us. I believe we haven’t even touched the sides with natural solutions and opportunities, which are on our doorstep to make better denim
What changes would you like to see in the denim industry as a result of Covid-19?
We have all seen the ‘every man for himself’ approach taken by some retailers. It has highlighted the truth about genuine business partnerships and valued supplier relationships. We all have the same goals to make a great pair of responsible jeans, generate a sensible profit to ensure we secure jobs, create stability and grow a healthy economy. Fairness and consideration for every person and part of the supply chain and the climate should be at the heart of any ethical and sustainable strategy.
The change I would love to see is for all businesses to adopt the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Once the right foundations are created, the rest will follow.
How do you define sustainability in a post-pandemic world?
Sustainability is defined by responsible and considered decisions throughout the supply chain supported by real and clear data.
Realistically, sustainability seems to be the new ‘must have’ for every retailer. I find this worrying because as we know sustainability isn’t a trend and needs to be approached with real knowledge and longevity.
Our industry rose to the call for better machines, chemicals and fabrics over the last few years and now we need to listen and learn so we use these wonderful resources responsibility. For me, there is no excuse for making unsustainable denim anymore and having worked for some large retailers, I know this does not necessarily need to impact the margins if products are developed with knowledge, balancing all the components and processes.
There is a demand growing from customers who have lived a bit simpler over the last few months and will want to make a more considered purchase, but if sustainable ranges are not engineered properly, this could become a lot of greenwashing.
The biggest problem our industry has is that we can’t define and measure sustainability. We have to find a universal system which sets out the standards in a simple and clear way and this can be communicated throughout the supply chain and on to the consumer. Ultimately, education and a clear and transparent standard for all is the way we will define and encourage true sustainable practices.
Describe your dream jeans.
Any I can fit in post lockdown!
Dream jeans are the ones you put on and your confidence goes up a notch. I love to know the story behind my jeans and this gives them a personality. There are some jeans I wear which just seem to make me feel like I have a small superpower. They don’t have to be a label, in fact most of my favorites are from thrift shops or eBay. I have some old Jordache beauties and the shade is incredible, which just make me happy.
Recreating these old classics responsibly with cleaner dye technology—a bit of Refibra, post-consumer cotton and a sustainable wash—would definitely be what dreams are made of.
What is your most worn pair of jeans, and why?
There are many cherished pieces in my life, but a jacket and a pair of jeans are my favorites.
The jacket was worn endlessly 'pre-children' in a snug size 10. It’s a beautiful Wrangler 24MJZ broken twill jacket I acquired in the old Clignancourt market in the ‘90s. I adore the rich pure indigo shade which has barely lost color. I was told it’s from around the mid ‘70s. It’s still an awesome piece and hangs in my wardrobe in the hope the diet finally works someday.
Post-kids, I had a pair of G-Star Raw Lyric Loose tapered jeans. I love my old Levi’s, but these G-Star jeans were a limited edition in a fabulous blue, black compact denim. They have oversized pockets, mixed stitch count, cinch back, repair, destroy and far too much styling detail for today’s trends, but in the early 2000s they were my lived-in loves.
Name one word that best describes denim.