Founder’s Letter: Sensible Inventions and Intentions
As founder of Kingpins, I love the competition that goes on inside the walls of the show and the effort suppliers take to come up with more sustainable products and — let’s not forget this one! — more beautiful products. Sometimes, I get the feeling that beauty has been taking a backseat to sustainability lately, when the truth is, we are all in the fashion industry and nothing drives sales more than visual excitement. Kingpins MSP initiative (with support from PVH) highlights our exhibitors’ most sustainable products, but what are we doing to spotlight the most beautiful ones? Some of them are in our trend, of course, but in the future, we will make an effort to highlight the new and beautiful products as well as the most sustainable ones.
Last week I was in Italy (for the first time in 3.5 years), and I was shown something that does not need a life cycle analysis or scientific data to back up its claims because it’s so sensible and logical that my grannie — were she still alive — or my grandchild could grasp in less than 75 seconds.
Once upon a time, we used pumice stones to stonewash all jeans and, of course, later on — years later, after who knows how many lives were shortened from the process — we discovered that it’s not really healthy to suck the dust from stones into your lungs (um, how was this not obvious?). Since then, we moved on to sand. Stones are no longer used and workers now wear masks (for the most part). But at the end of the day, sand does not go anywhere and while garments look good and worker safety is better, we still have a lot of sand in our industry to shovel in and out and haul away. Obviously, not a great situation.
So when I was shown a fully biodegradable powder, made from recycled food waste, that does the same thing as sand and makes really nice jeans, I was utterly blown away. No mess, no hazard and beautiful jeans. It’s an amazing product that can change our industry forever. Plus, if you touch, it feels so soft and nice. You simply put a bit of this powder in a load of jeans — remember to skip the water — and out comes beautiful jeans.
I’m not writing this to promote the process, but more to share with you my joy at discovering something incredible (like the first time a kid tries real Italian chocolate gelato or blood red orange juice).
Next, consider the idea that one of our exhibitors found to make denim fabric without using indigo at all. Once again, this passes the grannie / grandkid 75-second comprehension test.
As our industry knows well, indigo, as a dye, has no affinity to cellulose. To stick indigo on yarn, you need to dye it over and over and over again. That requires multiple amounts of water and energy, and then more water and energy again, and more and more. Of course, it doesn’t take a genius to recognize that the process creates a lot of mess to bring it all into the factory and take the mess away. That does not even address where the indigo comes from before it gets to the synthesizers. Few people know that story and that’s one for another day. And let’s not forget Co2 emission reduction when indigo is not used.
So when one of our exhibitors makes something that looks like indigo denim, fades like indigo denim and is indistinguishable from indigo denim, how cool is that? How obvious is the potential for our industry in saving resources and mess?
While that product is more than sensible, what is incomprehensible is that the product is not being picked up the way it should. Makes no sense. How can an invention that is wildly sensible and beautiful not have a line of buyers waiting like commuters in cars at the entrance to New York’s Holland Tunnel at 5 p.m.?
And finally, I was part of an effort in the late ’80s to bring ceramic stones to the industry. These reusable stones were incredibly sensible and wonderful. Japanese laundries were using them — little tiny ones for shirts and fatter chubby ones for jeans — it all seemed so logical and clean at a time when clean was not seen as chic or important. Never got picked up and the smart guys who created them gave up with nothing more than their families’ applause and respect.
Well, here we are 40 years later (me way older, fatter and balder), and we are back with reusable stones. It made sense in 1988 and it makes obvious sense today.
If I’ve sparked your interest in any of these products, write to me and I’ll share the specifics… I hope to hear from a lot of people.
Looking forward to seeing you at the show. Let’s all share with each other the sensible products — the most sustainable and the most beautiful.
– Andrew Olah