Kingpins24 Hosts Canada Edition

Clockwise from top left: Ani Wells; a panel discussion with Kathy Cheng, Wells and Syd Beder; Andrew Olah and Vivian Wang.

Kingpins24, the online event produced by Kingpins during the pandemic restrictions on international travel, hosted its third virtual event, on Sept. 22,  this time covering the Canadian denim market. 

Simply Suzette’s Ani Wells, along with Kingpins founder Andrew Olah and Vivian Wang, Kingpins’s managing director, hosted the two-hour event featuring interviews and panel discussions with an international coterie of denim industry insiders. 

Among the speakers were Adriano Goldschmied; Denim Dudes’ Amy Leverton; Kelly Drennan, founder of Fashion Takes Action; Philippe Cantin, senior director of Sustainable Innovations and Circular Economy at the Retail Council of Canada; and Sabine Weber of Sustainable Strategies & Solutions. 

Naked & Famous Denim founder Brandon Svarc joined Daniel Carmen, vice president of the Over The Rainbow, the independent retail and online boutique in Toronto, to discuss the future of brick-and-mortar retail. Carmen’s father Joel founded the boutique more than 40 years ago and grew it into a premium denim destination. According to the younger Carmen, retailers today need to have an online arm of the business and should give customers a reason to visit their brick-and-mortar locations. To drive in-person traffic, Over the Rainbow offers exclusive products, including a collaboration with Naked and Famous, as well as specialty services for customers, like the boutique’s tailoring shop. 

Wells has built her Simply Suzette site to be an information hub for sustainable denim. For her conversation with U.K.-based designer Malin Ekgren, the two similarly focused on sustainability. Ekgren works as a consultant to Stella McCartney and recently launched her own capsule collection of sustainable denim. 

“We need to produce garments with a longer lifespan…and to design out waste,”  Ekgren said. “Really start from the beginning, use less petroleum, less plastic. In general, use more sustainable fibers like linen and hemp and look for sustainable washing techniques,” 

In a similar vein, Dion Vijgenboom, co-owner of Mudd Jeans, talked about circularity in denim production and Mudd’s “no-dye denim,” which is made from a recycled denim Mudd developed with Tejidos Royo. The fabric is not redyed, instead carries the blueish gray color from its recycled inputs. 

“It’s the most sustainable fabric we could think of,” Vijgennoom told Wells. 

The event concluded with a panel discussion with Kathy Cheng, with WS and Co. Ltd., and Syd Beder, with Beder and Co. and Roots, discussing how to promote and support made-in-Canada production. 

What’s needed, Cheng said, is an effort to rebuild the local apparel production infrastructure and redevelop the talent pool of apparel makers.

“Since China entered the WTO in 2000, we’ve lost two generations of makers here,” she said. “Clothing and apparel has been halfway around the world for decades. When it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind. I wish there were more makers like Syd.” 

Beder echoed Cheng’s observations, saying “Kathy is right. Consumers tend to check the price ticket rather than where it’s made.” 

Instead, Cheng said the industry needs to educate the “conscious consumer” and “celebrate our makers.” 

Videos and content from Kingpins24 Canada can be found on the Kingpins Show YouTube channel.

Olah said Kingpins will next host a Kingpins24 event for the European market later this Fall.

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