Deep Dive

Omer Mert is passionate about sustainable denim, overseeing denim manufacturer Strom with the mindset that shoppers need to “buy less and buy better.” Strom carries out this mindset with through a vertically integrated operation in two facilities in Istanbul making it easier for the manufacturer to keep a close watch on every garment from fabric to final piece. The company recently debuted a patented production solution called Blue Drop, which uses only sustainable fibers and fabrics dyed in sustainable methods, plus sustainable wash processes.

In the words of Mert himself, “I am working on the best ways to make sustainability accessible for everyone. I do not see it as a choice to work on denim without sustainable practices.”

The company doesn’t work with any fast-fashion giants, keeping orders down—its average order is approximately 700 to 800 pieces, from brands including Reformation, Boyish Jeans, Triarchy and Rag & Bone.

While many denim laundries use chemicals and hot water in their bleach process, Mert and the Strom team sought to consume less energy by launching an ozone technology process designed to significantly reduce the laundry’s water consumption, use of chemicals and energy. In production, water is not heated, in fact the technology uses cold “ozonated” water or direct ozone gas, that reduces energy consumption during bleaching. By eliminating chemical use in the bleach process, laundries save on chemical cost as well.

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

One of the biggest misconceptions is that sustainable product is expensive. I am working on the best ways to make sustainability accessible for everyone. I do not see it as a choice to work on denim without sustainable practices. Every decision you make about the product at the design stage will affect the impact of the final product. This is why at Strom’s facilities, we work with all our suppliers and customers to offer sustainability at every stage of the garment. This is why we chose no stone, PP spray or any other harmful chemicals in our production process.

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

The denim industry needs to clean up its act and concentrate on delivering positive impact, circular denim. Working with renewable resources, recycling, no harmful chemicals and caring for the people you work with. I hope to see customers and suppliers become economically, socially and environmentally conscious.

Skinny jeans: Over or a new staple?

Skinny jeans are still most of our orders, so the trend is definitely not over. Men and women should wear what makes them happy and not what trend dictates. I see and create all jeans to be timeless and work on all different leg shapes. We have gotten more relaxed fit orders, and more are customers looking into how to make skinny jeans more sustainable, which is a great step.

How can denim retail improve?

Buy less and buy better would be my advice.

Budget, of course, is an important tool, but better quality is more important. I provide the best quality to the customer which in turn will improve retail by decreasing returns, less garments into landfill, less waste.

How many pairs of jeans do you own?

I have seven pairs of jeans and all of them are black

Which jeans do you wear the most, and why?

My black slim jean.

Less is more. I’m trying to wear as simple an outfit as possible and that’s why I’ll wear black for ages. I start the day very early. Take my shower, put my black jeans on and start working. It’s less complicated and has less impact on the environment.