Kingpins founder Andrew Olah's latest efforts are focused on securing a future for the denim industry.
Andrew Olah is feeling reflective. Next year will mark 60 years for his business, which began as a general textile company before turning to focus solely on denim. July 2019 will also mark 15 years of his Kingpins trade show, which Olah says was the first supply chain exhibition and the only one at the time to showcase denim exclusively.
In the time since the show started, Olah has marveled at the changes in an industry that had been ruled by the Gap and department stores and is now dominated by fast fashion chains like Uniqlo and Zara, as well as a host of niche denim boutiques.
Unlike many around him, Olah’s not daunted by what he sees, rather, he’s excited by the prospects the shifts bring. “Direct to consumer is a huge area of untapped potential for our industry,” he said. “The retail boxes will exist but not the way they are or were 15 years ago. The genre is in trouble. So, it’s all going to be difficult and that’s opportunity for someone else.”
Staying nimble enough to capitalize on opportunities is the key to longevity in this business, Olah said. To his way of thinking, too many people are set in their ways and unwilling to wade into unchartered territory. “What happens is that a paradigm shift occurs and you have a wall that appears out of nowhere, and suddenly you can’t get over the wall. You try to climb over it but the answer might be to go to the left or right,” he said. “One of the risks you have is you could lose everything but you have to be comfortable with that feeling.”
Olah thrives on new adventures and his company’s Transformers summit series is a prime example. The event focuses on innovation and sustainability—which Olah said are the future of the denim market. As the “intellectual and spiritual” head, he hopes to accelerate the industry’s movement toward more ethical practices. “I would like to have a law where all the supply chains had to be stated and their behavior had to be public domain,” he said. “Brands don’t want to change, but they’re forced to. We’re moving at a snail’s pace.”
What is your first denim memory?
“Buying my first pair of jeans at nine. They were Levi's and they were the only thing sold in the store. This was in Toronto. The only place you could get jeans was in a riding store called Thrifty’s.”
What is your favorite pair of jeans?
“My favorite jeans are made by friends of mine using fabrics we developed internally. I get my jeans all made for me by friends. I always wear selvedge and straight leg, skinner than thicker. I've always worn the same style. I’m not a trendy person with jeans.”