Liz Hershfield, Madewell’s senior vice president of sustainability for the past two years, received her fashion start in merchandising. Roles at JCPenney’s and then Byer California then led the Saint Mary’s College of California graduate to a seven-year stint with Gap Inc., where she oversaw the production and product development for divisions that generated hundreds of millions to billions of dollars in retail annually.
This experience led to a more than two-year stretch with Vogue International Apparels, where, as director of business development, she managed $150 million in U.S.-based business for a manufacturer in Egypt and Dubai.
In 2009, Hershfield began what would become a nearly decade-long career with the e-commerce brand Bonobos. After six years as vice president of sourcing and production, she rose to chief supply chain officer—a role she held through the company’s sale to Walmart in 2017. In 2019, she moved to the new owner’s e-commerce division, taking on the role of head of product development, production and sustainability, Hershfield started her current job October that year. As senior vice president of sustainability at J Crew Group’s Madewell brand, she now oversees sourcing, supply chain and sustainability initiatives across all the brand’s men’s and women’s product categories.
The sustainability leader also serves as a board member for the Grace Institute, a New York-based organization that helps low-income women develop professional skills.
What is the biggest misconception that consumers have about sustainable denim?
The biggest misconception is that sustainable denim doesn’t look or feel good. Often customers have the perception that in order for a product to be sustainable, it needs to be natural-looking or rough, rather than soft or comfortable.
What can the denim industry do to ensure a positive post-pandemic rebound?
The industry should continue to focus on innovation and the sustainable attributes of denim, creating excitement around where denim is headed.
Skinny jeans: Over or a new staple?
Skinny jeans, like wedges, are definitely not going anywhere. That said, newer styles that are baggier and loose-fitting are currently trending and are also fast becoming a closet staple.
How can denim retail improve?
The retail industry’s focus on circularity is key, and recycling and resale initiatives are great ways to imbed this circularity within denim retail specifically.
How many pairs of jeans do you own?
I probably own over 100 pairs of jeans. I have only ever got rid of one pair, and I still regret giving them away.
Which jeans do you wear the most, and why?
I love my old, broken-in staples that I’ve been able to wear for several years. I also love my Madewell Perfect Vintage jeans, which are the perfect slim, tapered fit.