Cone Denim, president
Steve Maggard
Cone Denim, president

Deep Dive

For the past 26 years, Steve Maggard has served as the president of Cone Denim, maintain the company’s overall vision of producing high quality, sustainable denim at scale.

In the past two years, Cone has invested millions of dollars in reducing water consumption with the installation of two ozone finishing ranges and its new zero liquid discharge water treatment facility at Parras Cone. The project is expected to reduce its water consumption by over 140 million gallons per year. Maggard is also spearheading the accelerated adoption of organic cotton—an initiative Cone began more than 10 years ago with its Organic Cotton Capsule Collection. Now, the company is on track to producing nearly 3 million pounds of certified Organic Content Standard (OCS) cotton by the end of the year.

In 2020, the mill announced a partnership with supply chain traceability specialist Oritain and became the first denim mill globally to adopt the highest level of end-to-end traceability possible. Maggard has said that the mill is committed to maintaining a supply chain free of forced labor and will take aggressive steps to ensure continued transparency. Through this and other initiatives, he aims to provide partners with an “elevated level of confidence and scientific peace of mind.”

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

Most consumers think that sustainable denim should be cost-neutral to normal denim, when in fact the opposite is true. A commitment to produce truly sustainable denim comes with a great deal of additional costs in the form of capital investments in equipment, paying more for sustainable raw materials, obtaining certifications, and verifying compliance with third-party testing.

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

The biggest key I see is the ability to be agile and quickly adjust based on things out of your control. There continues to be challenges with multiple ongoing supply chain disruptions, government lockdowns, restrictions on travel and meeting with customers face to face. Those companies that can move quickly, find creative solutions and deliver results are the ones that will be successful.

Skinny jeans: Over or a new staple?

While I think that silhouettes, finishes and washes will continue to move in and out of favor as they have always done, I think that stretch denim is here to stay—even in the men’s collections. Now that men have seen how comfortable stretch jeans are to wear and manufacturers are finding new ways to still make stretch look like authentic denim, stretch will remain a staple in skinny jeans and other silhouettes.

How can denim retail improve?

Consumers are looking for more in retail, like the ability to learn more about the products they are buying—what raw materials are used to make it, where they were sourced and what factories they were made in. Through technology like QR codes they can scan on their phones, digital storytelling will become commonplace and a great resource for consumers and retailers. I also think that there will be more demand for personalized clothing, allowing consumers to select a specific wash, different trims, laser a personal name or image onto the garment. Technology such as lasers, body scanners and sewing done with robots will be key to opening new opportunities.

How many pairs of jeans do you own?

I easily have 50 pairs of jeans, with at least one pair from all of Cone Denim’s major customers. Except for weddings and funerals, I have worn jeans nearly every day for the last 10 years.

Which jeans do you wear the most, and why?

I have around 10 pairs of jeans that were made by the Cone design team over the years that I alternate. It gives me great pride to wear jeans with a Cone Denim label that are made of our denim.