Founder’s Letter: The GOOD and the NECESSARY

A few weeks ago I was in Lahore, Pakistan, and was invited to dinner at the local Jockey Club, which I think has been around since 1950, and where we ate outside. January in Lahore is colder than you might expect, but with a ski jacket and patio heat lamps, we were warm as toast.  But what kept me really warm was the company and sentiment at the table.

Rizwan Shafi, the owner of Crescent Bahuman invited my group (which included Darren Glenister, CEO of Material Exchange; Zaki Saleemi, Head of Textiles at Material Exchange; and Austin Paule, our director of sales and product development) and arranged four mill owners to join us.

Dinner was both delicious and fun, but what hit me hard that evening — and what has stayed with me since my return — is the friendliness between each mill owner, the joy they got from each other’s company and the lack of concern each had towards their dinner mate being a competitor. There was nothing weird or seemingly stiff in holding back thoughts. And that was incredibly refreshing and inspiring and during that dinner I felt this enormous love for our industry.

No matter what you do, if you like what you do and then you love meeting people who also love what you do, you love it even more if they do it at a high level. And when those people — those playing at the highest level — are open to sharing their minds with you or their competitors in a friendly way, you just feel like “this is exactly the industry in which I always wanted to work.”

Musicians feel that way when they meet someone who has or had an exceptional career. Who did not want to meet Miles Davis? Fact is, you get better at what you do by sharing and we all get more enjoyment through recognizing and participating in a team mentality. The best-in-class always learn from others. In our industry, in particular, so much change is needed and none of it can happen unless we all work as a group with clear goals and a desire to define and accomplish them.

When we started Kingpins, that was exactly the spirit we had in our minds. We wanted to revel in our industry community. We wanted everyone to have that feeling of being part of something and all of us to feel free to meet or speak to anyone.

That cold night in Lahore captured exactly what Kingpins thought could exist back when we started (20 years ago this year!) and apparently it’s been going on for a long time in Lahore

Continuing on in that spirit of love and camaraderie and connection, there are a lot of things in life I love to do. Almost all of us feel that way. I love working with the Ethical Denim Council. But I don’t love the idea that the EDC “has to exist” because some customers don’t pay or refuse to receive the things they order. And I really don’t like that someone has to at least try to fix that situation. It should not be necessary. 

But I, along with my EDC colleagues, view our work as a wonderful opportunity to serve our industry and with this, I wish to share the progress EDC has made in these last 13 months. It’s not easy to run against the wind.

  1. The best thing of all is that Sharmon Lebby joined us as our Project Leader.  Without her, 2023 would never have been as successful. 
  2. We produced our “State of the Denim Industry” report. Please take a look, download it and share it with your colleagues.
  3. We were given our first “case,” in which the Council has an opportunity to help resolve a situation where a buyer has not kept their contract terms.
  4. We worked with the Responsible Contracting Project to come to terms with what EDC should be asking its community to approve, endorse, applaud or embrace. 
  5. We brought on Chana Rosenthal as another Project Leader. She will lead our thrust in talking to the denim world, the NGO world and the academic world and asking them to support our mission and the spirit of what we are trying to achieve.

Just as we envisioned a connected and committed international denim community when we launched Kingpins back in 2004, I envision a world where the EDC has fewer cases of unethical business practices to resolve and instead can focus its efforts on fostering systems to encourage strong, fair partnerships throughout the industry.

I invite you to follow the EDC’s progress. A great way to start is by signing up for our newsletter at

-Andrew Olah

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