Kontoor Brands, senior director of global materials innovation
Dhruv Agarwal
Kontoor Brands, senior director of global materials innovation

Deep Dive

As Kontoor Brands’ senior director of innovation and product development, Dhruv Agarwal has been instrumental in the introduction and expansion of programs that enhance the sustainable footprint of Wrangler’s and Lee’s parent company.

This year the company expanded its Indigood program, an initiative that targets water savings during the fabric construction phase, to include any water savings technology in apparel fabric production that uses at least 90 percent less water than conventional fabric production. Kontoor encouraged mills across the globe to adopt radically different water saving technologies in the vein of its game-changing indigo foam dye, including increased water recycling, advancements in the dyeing process and fabric finishing innovations.

Kontoor Brands also announced this year an expansion of its collaboration with Dallas-based Panda Biotech, an industrial hemp fiber company. With this collaboration, the companies are working to bring traceability and scale to the textile-grade, cottonized hemp grown and processed in the U.S.

“Sustainable hemp creates the perfect complement fiber to cotton,” Agarwal said. “We are excited by the opportunity to advance the denim industry’s use of environmentally friendly hemp to craft high-quality, eco-conscious apparel. Our work with Panda Biotech has been focused on making truly sustainable hemp, unlocking an additional commercialized fiber crop for American farmers and providing consumers with access to more sustainable apparel.”

What is the biggest misconception that consumers have about sustainable denim?

Sustainable denim is not only about certain ‘sustainable attributes’ such as recycled polyester or organic cotton. To make a sustainable denim requires the raw materials and the complete manufacturing process to be truly sustainable. Many consumers are not aware of how a denim is produced from farm to store and the processes that goes in making denim. Hence, misconceptions happen.

Science based data including verified data from water usage to carbon gas emissions in making of denim should be made available to consumers to reduce misconceptions. Today’s consumers are experiencing rapidly changing climate every day and they want to know how each purchase of theirs is impacting the climate.

What can the denim industry do to ensure a positive post-pandemic rebound?

Consumers are looking forward to stepping out of their sweatpants and into their jeans once again. The denim industry’s job is to provide them comfortable, durable, and aesthetically pleasing denim that will prepare them to re-enter the face-to-face world. People are different than they were pre-pandemic, we need to make sure we are being authentic to this changing time. To meet this requirement, the denim industry should double down on improving quality and on time delivery. Given the level of disruption this industry is currently experiencing, extraordinary efforts are required to ensure success. Closely managing time and action calendars, improving communication, and extra quality-assurance measurements and initiatives are required to ensure success.

Skinny jeans: Over or a new staple?

Skinny jeans will remain a timeless staple.

How can denim retail improve?

Retail needs to be inclusive, in size and abilities and it needs to continue to be sustainable. It must predict and meet changing consumer needs all the time—improving fit, performance, comfort and styling. Retail can accommodate these improvements through material and processing innovations. Additionally, it should be a priority to maintain cost to ensure consumer adoption, especially due to significant forthcoming consumer price inflation.

How many pairs of jeans do you own?

Around 5-6 pairs

Which jeans do you wear the most, and why?

I stand by my favorite Lee and Wranglers for their authenticity, fit and aesthetics.