Remembering Miguel Sánchez
It was December 2007 when I first met Miguel Sánchez at the AATCC (American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists) Symposium on Fabrics, Fibre and Washing Techniques at the Renaissance Hotel in Long Beach, California.
Many people spoke that day and I did a presentation on the future of denim as Miguel, along with his colleague from Clariant, Nuria Estapé, sat in the audience listening. They had just released a new product called Advanced Denim, which they showed and told me about during one of the breaks. They liked my presentation, which shocked me since I was incredibly insecure talking about indigo to scientists and chemical savants.
Thank goodness Paul Cowell from BluConnection (my first real mentor on indigo) had prepped me for the speech (I’m not sure he remembers his impact on my career).
During the presentation, I said “If indigo dye was invented today, it would never leave the lab because there are so many negative elements to it,” which Miguel loved because his product was an antidote to indigo, using only sulfur.
I also adored his product and for that reason, I got to know Miguel very well over the years trying to help him and our industry get over their addiction to indigo. Like me, he saw indigo as an environmental tragedy and was proud of his new product (although the color was never good enough to be a real substitute).
Years passed and we stayed in pretty regular “business” communications while Clariant became Archroma and then one day, Archroma advised Miguel he was no longer “needed.” This was a traumatic moment for Miguel, a moment his heart was broken and his sense of professional purpose became hazy. He loved his job and his role and attachment in the industry. He was, afterall, a jeans freak who was thinking that perhaps his next position would take him outside the jeans world.
Instead, the Kingpins Show hired Miguel as its Technology Leader, helping us evaluate mills’ environmental product claims — to suss out what was real, what was potentially real and what was an imposter. This contribution to Kingpins had colossal significance by turning the show into a “smart show” with an opinion beyond being a trend or marketing event.
And then one night at the Amsterdam Café near Gashouder Westergasfabriek, there was a dinner with Miguel, Alberto de Conti and some other chemical seers and peers, where we all agreed that work needed to be done by industry zealots and experts to try to change our industry into a more sustainable one — not just in chemistry, but in many areas and that we would commit to do it.
From that, started the Transformers Foundation in 2020. Alberto wrote the budget and my daughter, Emily Olah, worked the legal side. In the end, Miguel took a serious role in content development as a Board of Director.
And that is the real moment I got to know Miguel super well, from the night of that dinner and that collaborative commitment to bring change.
Of course, we had been really friendly before that. We went to ITMA in Barcelona together in 2019, where we took half a day off and sat in a bar and played chess. I never beat Miguel once in all the years we played. He was a grand master, I believe. While he was nurturing towards my game, he was warlike in his vigor to wipe me out each and every time. I finally had to stop playing chess with him because my ego would be so humiliated and demolished — and how much abuse can anyone handle? He’d say, “Don’t stop. You are getting better.” Chess is a wonderful way to see Miguel.
Beyond his formidable intellect, he was a calculating data hound; disciplined and a strong teammate — as if in an army; relentless to the nth degree. All the while, he was thrilled to share his knowledge with anyone — so they could learn whatever they needed from him.
Miguel died on Dec. 1. He lost his life to pancreatic cancer, a brutal opponent. He fought it with everything he had, he was always optimistic and always shared his confidence in overcoming the disease to assure others not worry about him or view him as a sympathetic figure.
Many people have written to me since he died sharing their condolences. I don’t always answer because I still don‘t know what to say or do or share. I need to think.
Miguel was a very special human, so wildly smart and engaged, both generous and kind. What Archroma gave away was a huge present to the entire denim industry. Our industry will miss him because no one else in the industry is willing, or even able, to do what Miguel did for so many of us.
What we must do is try to remember his passion for our jeans world, and his natural inclination to be kind to everyone and share entirely without hesitation.
We all know that life is temporary and our existence each day is fragile. We are all just one phone call after one diagnostic test, or one car accident away from being in an obituary. Let us remember Miguel’s best qualities as the key qualities of our industry — sharing and caring.
I am sorry he died and I miss him, but I cherish that he selected to work with us and bring all that he had to each and every shared moment. Thank you, Miguel.
Miguel Sánchez was born Nov. 6, 1961. He turned 62 a few weeks before his passing. He grew up in a town near Barcelona named Santa Coloma de Gramanet. His parents came from Colmenar, a small village near Malaga, in the south of Spain, where he spent most summers and vacations. He later moved to Barbera del Valles in the Barcelona region, where he met his wife. They attended university together at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia. Miguel leaves his wife and daughter Maria, who has been incredibly gracious in communicating with us since Miguel passed.
Memories and Condolences for Miguel:
Other team members will be sharing their thoughts in the coming days. We also invite you all to join the conversation as we remember Miguel by sharing your memories, condolences or images in the comments sections below.