Sanjeev Bahl is the brains behind the “cleanest denim factory in the world.”
The sustainable denim industry would not be where it is today without Sanjeev Bahl, the brains behind the “cleanest denim factory in the world.”
His Vietnam-based factory, Saitex, is the first in Asia to achieve B Corp status as a result of its state-of-the-art methods, including turning sludge into non-hazardous waste and recycling 98 percent of the water it uses.
It’s a story Saitex’s clients like Madewell and Edwin bring to life in collections and communication to the end consumer.
Despite the Covid-19 pandemic throwing off many of the company’s goals for 2020, Bahl remains committed to opening a new mill in Vietnam and a factory in Los Angeles, both by the end of the year. Considered the “factory of the future,” the L.A. facility will incorporate all of the innovations Saitex has mastered over the years in terms of technology, robotics, artificial intelligence and digital assets.
What will the denim industry be like in the next 18 months?
This has been an incredible life-changing moment where everyone was very present to the blind spots across the supply chain, in society and around the world. The long-term impact of these early months of 2020 is far from understood. Not surprisingly, people and companies are acting like we are going back to pre-virus “normalcy,” but that couldn’t be farther from the reality. One year from now, once the shock of this fundamental shift wears off, we will be left to be accountable for what happened, how we got there and what we failed to do. It will be an incredible awakening for all of us. From that point, we will begin a new journey. In 18 months, we will start seeing these lessons manifest in actual change. I believe it may take us that long to fully restart our industry.
What change would you like to see in the denim industry as a result of Covid-19?
We need to change the way we think about humanity. We need to stop chasing the highest value for the lowest price. We need to see all aspects of fashion’s impact on our planet and have accountability for the people who make these garments for us.
How do you define sustainability in a post-pandemic world?
With supply chains slowed down in a post-pandemic environment, this is the time for us to collectively redefine the meaning of sustainability. There needs to be a fundamental adjustment in how we calculate Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for every nation. The current system lacks environmental accountability, and this needs to change first. We need to factor that pollution and worker injustices are debts to a country’s economic output. Until, and unless, we integrate Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) and Gross National Happiness (GNH) into GDP, we will continue to play musical chairs.
Describe your dream jeans.
The Detroit by Atelier & Repairs.
What is your most worn pair of jeans, and why?
A very old Japanese selvedge denim made by G-Star Raw. It started raw and over time it has aged gracefully while continuing to remain comfortable.
Name one word that best describes denim.