Kim van der Weerd believes if we want to change this industry, we must be attuned to lived experience. It’s a belief she applies to her work as the intelligence director for Transformers Foundation, a unified voice representing the denim industry and its ideas for positive change. The foundation was created to provide a platform to the jeans and denim supply chain, and a central point of contact for consumers, brands, NGOs, and media who want to learn more about ethics and sustainable innovation in the industry.
A firm advocate of equal partnership and has deep respect for the difficult work of making clothes, van der Weerd uses many platforms to deliver her message. Besides her role as intelligence director, Van der Weerd also wrote the “Higg Data Debate: No Room for Context, Imagination, or Co-Creation,” an op-ed questioning whether the data debate is the most important when it comes to materials used in textiles and apparel. This summer, she participated in the SAC’s Panel of External Experts designed to provide unbiased, independent, ongoing feedback, guidance and constructive critique on the proposed specifications, methodology and launch of the Higg Index Transparency program. Van der Weerd is also the co-founder and host of Manufactured Podcast, a program offering inside perspectives on the fashion supply chain. For her, the podcast’s most rewarding aspect is getting the opportunity to play a small part in shifting the narrative on conversations about sustainable fashion.
What denim buzzword do you think is overused? And what would you replace it with?
Partnership. I would replace it with what it actually means: Shared profits and losses.
What do you wish more consumers knew about the jeans they buy?
They’re usually not made by brands. Understanding their impact—however that’s defined—requires understanding the context in which they were produced.
If you had one request for denim brands, what would that be?
To take on their fair share of financial risk (i.e., proportional to their share of the margin). Or, to put it differently, brands and retailers need to be a little less footloose, they need to have a little more skin in the game. We could achieve this by advocating for prices that hinge on consistency relative to forecast. Or by putting pressure on brands to make financial commitments equal to at least 50 percent of projected demand for a period equal to the supply chains’ total lead time.
What can other apparel categories learn from the denim industry?
How to organize and create community. I’d love to see other product segments creating their own Transformers Foundation. By that I mean: manufacturers and suppliers coming together to reclaim and elevate perspectives from within fashion supply chains.
What was your most recent denim purchase?
Jeans advertised as being made with organic cotton. In addition to fitting well, I bought jeans from this company because their website told me which supplier made the jeans, where that supplier was, and which parts of the production process the supplier was doing. However, I would have loved to know more about the cotton sourcing process and whether the brand was able to trace it back to the farm. I also would have loved to know whether the brand took on any of the financial risk associated with production (for example, by fronting material costs). When the brand's forecasts (inevitably) are wrong, how do they cope with it?
What is your first denim memory?
Is this a thing? I wish I knew! Please don't expel me from the denim community for not having one!