The fashion businesses are in search for their post-covid identities as the supply chain is challenged by diminished purchasing power operating on a fractured social and economic system which has been considered to be independent of environmental and social concerns for far too long. The current global turmoil is presenting how seamlessly we are all dependent.
Sustainability has emerged from being under the radar mostly as a marketing necessity and its progress as a systemic change has been overshadowed by greenwashing, lack of common standards, transparency as well as education. We are in search for a new system which can still be pro-business and structure growth in terms of positive impact and businesses are required to have not only profit but also people and planet targets. Almost 3-4 months into the global storm of disruption and struggles, it is time that we invoke and deliver hope.
The phoenix bird appears in ancient mythology and is a symbol of constant change and yet represents a dedication to eternity. The phoenix indicates that the end is a beginning and for real change to happen we must let go of what no longer works. In this time of unsettling change if we can remain attentive to what wants to be born then we can unleash innovation, healing and become creators and all we simply have to do is to listen to the voice of change and at this point, I would like to share the insights of two of my dear inspirational "indigofriends" who have genuine passion, drive, willingness to explore and share and who constantly give voice to a better version of our future.
Meet Ani Wells and Eda Dikmen as they share their insight, energy, passion and shine some phoenix hope.
IF: Who is Clean Blues?
Eda: Hi, this is Eda. Clean Blues is my personal space where I aim to connect with blue lovers from around the world with a desire to build transparent dialogues, share knowledge, inspire and be inspired based on consciousness. I’m a Mediterranean soul who grew up in the seas with love and aspiration towards all things blue - in particular the crystal clear blue seas and endless blue skies. For the last couple of years I’ve been working in the denim industry - the most democratic & inspiring item I’ve came across... Going deep in denim’s philosophy, history and making of is a wonderful journey, yet it can be staggering or heartbreaking at times. Before all this, when I was a basic customer, I was unaware of the fashion industry’s impact on the environment, on our future, on the blue seas and skies that make me feel home.
I try to consider myself lucky as I’ve been seeing the industry only improving itself and going better, yet figuring out that the systems adopted in the past (many still in practice) are so harmful is very hard as it makes you realize what you love being part of has been damaging where you belong.
My journey started with small steps - I first changed my own consuming behavior, then started talking about it and convincing the people around me. After a while it came to a point where I wanted to be part of something bigger - I was being encouraged to start sharing my learnings and feelings online but never found the time for it. With the lockdowns, I finally started doing so by kicking off clean-blues.com
IF: Who is Simply Suzette?
Ani: Hello Indigo Friends! My name is Ani Wells aka Simply Suzette. I founded Simply Suzette in an attempt to drive behavioral change amongst consumers after being exposed to the ugly side of the fashion industry, and even more specifically within my passion for denim.
I am relatively new to the industry, but I’ve been fascinated with denim and it’s quality my whole life. When I started learning about how horrible traditional manufacturing methods were for the planet and people while I was in school, I made it my mission to learn the ins and outs of the supply chain and look for the brands/companies who are making a positive difference. That’s when I started my research and attending trade shows and seminars around the world to learn first-hand knowledge rather than reading it online. I felt as though brands had been lying to me my whole life and I wanted to share as much information that is not so accessible to the average consumer in a fun and inspiring way. This was all in hopes that people change their consumption habits or start to feel more connected to the supply chain in general.
Simplysuzette.com is an online platform aiming to educate consumers who are looking for more ethically and sustainably produced denim and to learn more about sustainable production and innovations that are happening within the industry. I curate eco-denim brands on my website and write about companies (ie. mills, manufacturers, dyehouses, brands) who are making positive changes in our industry. The ultimate goal of Simply Suzette is to share information and bridge the gap between the industry and consumers.
IF: How did you two meet and what made you click?
Eda: We met two years ago in Denim Days in Nashville. I was there representing Soorty, we were showcasing the Denim Curiosity Table - Soorty’s mobile set up displaying the different stages of responsible denim manufacturing journey from fiber to jeans, over an easy to follow experience. Ani visited our booth & we had an extensive chat over conscious production and consumption - I guess that’s where we’ve first clicked. We came together over coffee breaks and small chats the two days; having many shared passions and values we’ve started following each other and kept in contact afterwards. We’ve later been meeting in the different industrial events happening around the world to catch up and last year we have collaborated in a beautiful project, Women in Denim, which is dear to both our hearts. I would say sharing that experience, learning more about each other, the inspirational conversations we had and the times we’ve spent in NY and Çorlu connected us even more and I now see Ani as a dear friend, not only an inspiring lady from the industry.
Ani: I remember walking up to Eda at Soorty’s booth at Denim Days in Nashville and being in awe! All of the beautiful displays of recycled cotton and different processes made me feel like a kid in a candy store. I was so inspired by Eda’s knowledge. The more we got to talking, the more we had in common. Our passion for a responsible denim industry is what first united us, but over the years we have always made time for catching up at industry events. Last year I was lucky enough to be able to work on an amazing project with Eda, called Women In Denim, and after spending a few days in Corlu together in addition to our NY and AMS meetups, I am happy to call Eda one of my dear friends.
IF: What are the 3 things that you would want to change in the denim and jeans industry today?
Eda: This is an industry full of amazing people, each so passionate and hardworking that what comes out is simply beautiful and outstanding. I guess this collaborative, inspirational & creative side is what makes us all fall in love with it. Yet I believe the harmony among this community can be improved. This is being told a lot, I’ve heard it so many times in various conversations I’ve been part of, but I really finally want to see collaboration over competition. I want to see players competing to do good, not just to sell more. It would not be fair to say we’re square one, things are being done, but there definitely is room for more. Instead of criticizing and downgrading one another, I think it is time we openly share knowledge, to join forces, to improve all together. If this hard experience and the lockdowns has taught me one thing, it is that we are all in this together. We are a beautiful group of people that I’m so glad to be part of, but we either all go up or down - climate emergency is real, we’re living it, and there is not much time to make things right.
Secondly - I would love to see our industry being data driven. All our actions, all the steps we take make an impact. We can only lift and enhance this impact if we measure, monitor, and control things. Demand for transparency & traceability is leading a big wave of change here but we have a long way to go. We first, each of us, should understand why this is so very important. Textile production is hard, it is labor and resource intensive. The different pillars of it touch billions of lives. There are numerous certifications and standards for making things right, but not a global holistic one which is creating room for different interpretations of the same topic, and hence, misuse. How can we, truly, make things right if we don’t know where we’re exactly at and what our room for improvement is? Sustainability is a big journey you go step by step, and the number one step is awareness. For that, we need everything based on data.
Finally, I would like everybody working in this industry to realize denim as a source of good, source of power celebrates culture, diversity, innovation, imagination, creativity, wellbeing, transformation and positive influence. It is not - and never should be - about making 0.5 cents more per pair. What we are working with is the collective information level, hard work and passion of billions around the world. If that 0.5 cent is risking the livelihood of a mother who is feeding 3 children, even though you have never seen her face, it is not worth it. If it is risking me swimming in the clean blue seas that I love, it is not worth it. If it is causing a sea turtle to have a stomach full of plastic, it is not worth it. If it is destroying the earth and making the soil unproductive, it is not worth it. I consider myself very lucky as my job enables me to touch base with amazing people and companies who strive to do better in multiple platforms, but if the consumer is not willing to buy them all this struggle is for nothing. I love my challenge - as a marketing & communications manager I feel with the accessibility and power digital media gives us, it is now our responsibility to use our voice for the issues that matter, as I am responsible of using my voice to reach out to the end consumer and the brands.
Ani: 3 things I would like to see changed in the denim industry are: overproduction, data collection, and a shift in mentality.
Overproduction isn’t good for anyone. It wastes time, money, and resources, and it is absurd to me that an estimated 30% of what is produced doesn’t even get worn. On top of that, Ellen MacArthur estimates that $500Billion is lost in unworn and discarded clothing every year. I believe with a more digitized supply chain, we will be able to analyze, predict, and adapt to consumer demand better. On-demand production will also help solve this issue and we are starting to see more and more “no inventory” brands emerging.
Data collection is vital. The more I learn the less I know and I am sure everyone knows what I mean when I say that. The more I learn about the industry, the more I see how unregulated it is. There is no data. And because there are always tradeoffs to using sustainable alternatives, how are we supposed to know if these alternatives are as sustainable as they are touted to be without any proof? My goal is to break down what I learn from the industry to a consumer level, but at the moment I feel bombarded with false marketing claims from mills and manufacturers. Words have lost their meanings. We need proof through hard data.
Lastly, I’d like to see the whole industry really shift their thinking to mindfulness and take a holistic approach to business and production. I started Simply Suzette as a force for good and I don’t see why denim can’t be used as a tool for good, as well. We need true commitment. It’s quite easy to tell when someone isn’t genuine, so don’t fake it.