Jennifer Crumpler is the industry affairs lead at Bayer, a German multinational pharmaceutical and life sciences company. She previously worked for BASF, a German multinational chemical company where she took on the role as regional seed sustainability lead and fiber development manager. Crumpler has more than 20 years of experience in the agriculture industry, working with farmers across the country to improve their production practices. She also has extensive experience in the global cotton, textile, and apparel industries, with expertise in other agricultural areas.
She believes buyers of cotton deserve to know where their cotton comes from and how it was grown, both in terms of environmental practices as well as labor standards.
What denim buzzword do you think is overused? And what would you replace it with?
Sustainability. I think the intent behind the word is good, but there has yet to be a definition that the entire industry can agree to. I think the word “transparent” would truly give the entire supply chain what is being desired. Cotton is such a unique material compared to other input materials, and by being transparent everyone from the farmer to the end consumer will understand and know everyone involved in getting your favorite denim product on the shelf.
What do you wish more consumers knew about the jeans they buy?
The true labor of love, sweat, tears and time that went into the final product. From the risk every cotton farmer makes when growing the crop, to the logistics of getting cotton to a textile mill, to the spinners and weavers, and inspiration of the designer—the entire process truly is special. For me, the many unique and diverse faces behind denim is what makes it special. From the multi-generational farmers to the aspiring designers around the world, the love, passion and detail that goes into every single step of the process is fascinating.
If you had one request for denim brands, what would that be?
There is such a disconnect or break in the supply chain when it comes to denim, that I wish every brand would require their employees to visit with a farmer, walk their fields, and learn why they do what they do. Growing cotton for your favorite denim varies from one part of the world to the other. It can vary from one field to another, so for a brand to walk a field with a grower experiencing a drought in Texas, or a flood in Mississippi, I think it would bridge a gap that has grown tremendously over time, and I think a lot of misconceptions would be cleared up.
What can other apparel categories learn from the denim industry?
The best thing about the denim industry is the passion every single person has for this space, and the amazing storytelling that goes into every design and intimate detail. I have had the privilege to work with many amazing denim brands, and some spectacular textile mills around the world, and the passion to get things right and to do better every day is contagious. For me, I would love to see the passion I have seen from the denim industry of telling the farmer’s story spread. I have spent my entire career in the agriculture industry, working with farmers and the openness of the denim industry to get to know the farmers, walk the fields, and to tell their story has been humbling and something that I hope continues to spread to other apparel categories. We can’t forget that beautiful fabric all started with a tiny seed, but a lot of hard work from farmers around the world.
What was your most recent denim purchase?
My husband and I just finished building a new house, and my most recent purchase was a custom-made denim couch from here in my home state of North Carolina. North Carolina has amazing cotton farmers, and we happen to be the furniture capital of the world, so for me this purchase was a must-have detail to make our house a home.
What is your first denim memory?
I grew up on a horse farm in Southeastern North Carolina, and all my memories were of me in my favorite spot: at our horse barn with my two brothers, dad and mom. As a teenager, I saw it as chores, but now realize they were the most amazing childhood memories with my family. My parents made sure we had a home that everyone felt welcomed, a warm meal was always guaranteed, and love knew no limit. Denim was a staple, whether it was for riding horses, or my dad’s favorite outfit of overalls, I don’t have a childhood memory without denim in the picture.