Star Fades International and Artistic Milliners, executive director
Murtaza Ahmed
Star Fades International and Artistic Milliners, executive director

Deep Dive

Not many denim aficionados have been recognized by the United Nations for their efforts to promote sustainable and ethical production, but Murtaza Ahmed can claim the honor.

In 2019, the managing director of Pakistan-based vertically integrated denim manufacturer Artistic Milliners was recognized by the UN Global Compact for promoting gender equality and eco-consciousness in the country’s garment industry. The distinction of Sustainable Development Goal Pioneer was awarded to just 10 business leaders under 35 who were actively working to advance the group’s globally recognized standards—and Ahmed’s recognition marked the first time a company from Pakistan received the award.

Ahmed also helped Artistic Milliners to build out a factory to the standards of the Platinum certification issued by the Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), and worked to advance gender equality across the organization by filling half of the company’s board with women.

Earlier this year, Artistic Milliners acquired Commerce, Calif.-based denim laundry Star Fades International, with the intention of establishing a stateside presence and helping to reinvigorate the Los Angeles area’s historic denim sector.

“At SFI, we are establishing relationships with L.A.-based stakeholders across the supply chain to be able to produce a broad range of products and cater to denim brands of all sizes,” Ahmed said. “We are also looking to maximize efficiency at SFI through Supply Chain 4.0 principles and our position as a nearshoring solution for international customers.”

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

The biggest misconception consumers have about sustainable denim is that it of lesser quality or compromises on aesthetic. Sustainable denim is in fact more comfortable and in most cases all aesthetics can be achieved. In general, sustainable denim is treated with less chemicals and water which adds to the overall comfort and touch of jeans.

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

Learn from the past! From a retailer perspective, buy more strategically, make better calls to avoid wastage. Enhance traceability across the supply chain. For manufacturers, truly adopt sustainable practices like renewable energy and actively invest towards circularity and traceability.

Skinny jeans: Over or a new staple?

I wish I knew!

How can denim retail improve?

Buy more strategically to reduce wastage.

How many pairs of jeans do you own?

Two pairs.

Which jeans do you wear the most, and why?

Lee, Cradle to Cradle jeans, made at Artistic Milliners.