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.
IF: What are the 3 things that you would never give up in the denim and jeans industry today?
Eda : The people - so inspiring, so collaborative, so open, so creative.. I feel very lucky to be surrounded with so many amazing individuals who inspire me day after day.. to learn, respect, realize, design environmentally consciously. I feel like ours is more of a community than an industry. We are groups of people coming from different backgrounds and cultures but have blended in our own way, creating a totally new culture out of it. I find this very precious.
The respect and ownership towards the history and culture of indigo, denim and jeans. I think it is this ownership towards the heritage, towards the artisan that drives us all - individuals and companies - to take denim only to better places. We all want to contribute in our best way with our own resources, we want to buy better, do better, work better and our experiences reflect on the canvas.
The self-improvement. I’ve always been a curious individual - I love to read, meet new cultures, new individuals and insights, watch movies, learn new things - I love to self improve. I love how our industry is constantly extending further, disrupting itself, embracing or demanding new innovations, new horizons… a daily conversation I have with a random colleague is generally enlightening because our industry never gets lazy or stuck in a comfort zone but always evolves.
Ani: Community, creativity, innovation. What really hooked me on denim was the community. I was always warned that the fashion industry was catty, but I was welcomed with open arms by so many in the denim community! Everyone is so friendly and passionate which makes working together all the more fun. It has also been so inspiring to see all the collaborations within the industry and show the world that by working together, great innovations can be achieved. We are a creative bunch and have a very unique industry. I never want that to change!
IF: Why the love for denim and jeans?
Eda: Because all this is very inclusive, very democratic, very dear and precious. This is a whole culture. It's very much like music... wherever you go in the world, rich or poor, you see people wearing denim. You don’t have to understand their language, but you understand where they stand in life. They all have their own stories, memories, reflections of reality. And what is best is this has been the case all along - denim has always been the uniform of change, uniform of evolution. I think it will be no different in the days to come - the activists and the game changers still are & will be wearing blue jeans, in their own style. So once you feel connected to this movement, it is not hard to feel the love.
Ani: I have always loved denim. I was fascinated by its quality from a very young age. My first memory of being so interested in it was at age 11. I wanted a pair of Seven For All Mankind bootcut jeans so badly. I couldn’t get over the wash! They just looked different from my usual pair of $10 jeans. That Christmas, my parents took me to Over The Rainbow on Boxing Day and I got my first pair of premium jeans. Ever since then I have always invested in quality and have really appreciated good denim design. My father also wears jeans every day, even in 40 degree Celsius weather, so that might have added to my obsession as well!
IF: How do you communicate with purpose and bring on impact?
Eda: By staying curious, open, inviting and honest. By reading, researching and connecting with inspirational names I try to increase my level of knowledge constantly. While this acts as a basis for the content, how I put it out depends on the purpose. I was raised up as a responsible individual with true love towards nature, and this generally resonates as my purpose. It comes as a gut feeling. I find it nonsense to communicate without an aim - we’re already surrounded with noise as it is, nobody needs my contribution to that. We live in critical times and I believe it is our duty to use our voice to bring positive impact to the world, our one true home which is so very beautiful.
Ani: For me, it’s all about authenticity. What I have found to be Simply Suzette’s greatest strength is the honest voice behind it. I am not trying to put on a facade. I am truly putting out an honest message because it is me speaking from the heart. We are constantly being fed content and product placement isn’t only on TV anymore, this marketing tactic has now entered our real-life environments. So, people are tired of PR messaging and automated responses. People want to engage with people. That is why I have made it my mission to break down heavy and technical jargon so more and more people will start to read this information and create a larger impact.
IF: What would be your dream sustainability project to bring impact in the denim and jeans? I know that both of you have too many but please pick one!
Eda: It really is so hard to choose.. Getting in touch with so many inspiring people including yourselves influence and provoke me in so many ways, I think there are numberless ways of doing better. But if I were to choose one, I would go with the fact that education is core to every solution.
I believe in humanity. I think many of the dangers and problems we see today are caused by lack of knowledge - simply put, I want to believe that as humans, we would not be consuming as we do if we knew how it affected numberless lives, biosystems, resources and the future awaiting us. Coming from here, I think it is fundamental to realize the power of design. Design for purpose holds such a great power that it can end the waste problem, it can end pollution, scarcity, social injustice.. it can improve not only aesthetics - how we look or feel - but how we all live. Virgil Abloh has a beautiful quote that I simply love and resonate with: “This land is not our land. We’re part of an ecosystem”. We are all interlinked; a step we take influences the lives of billions. And from here, I reach out to values. Shared values that put eco above ego. I joined the Ethical Fashion hackathon in April - it was an eye opening experience in the midst of a depressive lockdown mood. I met so many precious people involved in the fashion world, we’ve discussed for days and the main take away for me has been “wearing your values”. That would be the dream project I suppose. Bringing in all these together with the power of design and being social, I would love to have a technology that enables us to wear our values. I’m not talking about simply choosing brands that I feel like doing good, but I’m talking about an inclusive denim universe that produces and consumes responsibly so every single thing produced reflects our values - equal human rights, no child labor, protection of water, sharing resources, capacities and knowledge, no use of virgin materials and hence stopping to create extra stress on land, no GHGs… all by sharing and being connected with one another. The end product would show the entire story and enable users to share their approach to inspire others, and come back to the core of the problem - lack of education. With the power of design and sharing knowledge, collectively, we could take a huge step forward.
Ani: There are SO many projects I would like to do. One of which I hope is resumed after this. But, one of my dream sustainability projects would be to collaborate on a fully traceable zero waste jean that has been designed for circularity using the most responsible fibers, trims and production methods available. For the Women In Denim project, I was able to use C2C materials, but I realized how hard it was designing the “perfect sustainable” garment because #1 it didn’t exist and #2 there are limitations in technology and fiber options. Showcasing collections like these have been not only been educational for emerging and established designers, showing what can be done and how to do it, but also inspirational. Education + Inspiration is a powerful duo.
IF: How do you engage with the industry as well as the consumers?
Eda: It is part of my daily job to engage with the industry - we’ve been home, isolating for a while now, but before all this it was a quotidian for me to get on a plane, fly somewhere in the world, meet with industry players (customers, competitors, colleagues, suppliers, or other stakeholders) for different reasons, occasions. During this time, all this had to become digital and behind screens, but it remains personal and engaging. It is no news that people follow what they relate to. So not alienating your audience, being honest and genuine has always been the way to go for me.
Our industry is very deep and complex - it has its own terminology, attitude and way of growing. It is built on a community of people from different parts of the world. Putting all this in a content everyone can understand and relate to can ben challenging. You need to do more than simply posting photos and explaining a concept in easy to follow language. The visuals you use, the practices you adopt, where you stand at all needs to match with one another. And then comes the importance of experiences. Real time, physical, or digital experiences, where your audience actually becomes a part of the story. I try to design custom projects or experiences every time according to the issue / message I'm tackling.
Finally - I am a strong believer of collaborations, within or across industries. As we need common solutions for common problems; working closely with other brands, producers, business partners, influencers, or friends with a shared goal is a great way to share the workload and the costs while reaching out to wider audiences.
Ani: Right now I have been engaging with the industry through zoom :) We’ve just finished the second edition of Kingpins24, which was amazing, but I have also been setting up one on one calls with people I might have met or planned to meet at upcoming industry events. Social media has also been an amazing tool for me to connect with others from the industry, but also to relay my messaging to the consumer and engage with them.
Consumers are all about convenience. Even when they choose to be better or more mindful, the good has to be convenient for them to do. But, the industry is doing just that. They are trying to make it easy and convenient for the consumer to understand through good storytelling and producing beautiful video/photo content.
Eda : If you could have your jeans designed by anyone you want – who would that be and why?
I like my jeans clean - I don’t really make choices based on the wash honestly, I like to keep that simple, but I pay a lot of attention on the structure, the fit and the silhouette... So my answer to this question would be a name who would definitely be experimental with that regard. I’ll give three different options - because I couldn’t decide how high I should be flying - one totally unrealistic, another one still unrealistic but sounds a bit more possible, and a third one absolutely more realistic than the other two. Whatever the case, I’m thinking these names would use the best option available today considering the impact, and make something even better from it.
If I’m dreaming and am limitless I could go back to the masters of renaissance who designed us a life… Imagine, Botticelli or Michelangelo.. both masters of so many disciplines.. how would they play with fabric? Would be dreamy!
If I can still fly high but need to go lower, I would LOVE to see how Gabriel Chanel would blend femininity with masculinity in a pair of jeans. I adore what she did to fashion - borrowing elements from men’s fashion to liberate women’s style, coming from her vision of freedom to live.. We actually share birth dates and I don’t know if this has any astrological backdrops but I find so many things in her heritage that I value. I’m absolutely sure all that’s in her would just perfectly reflect to a pair of jeans.
If I need to be come back to reality and should finally choose a person who is alive, I would propone Trevor Stuurman - another magic talent of multiple disciplines whom I’ve been following for 7-8 years with incredible joy and enthusiasm. He has a bold, colorful taste, designs with strong references to South Africa - where he is from - and I simply love seeing things from him. He normally works with colors, and volumes and natural fabrics with big patterns and I would love to see him experimenting with denim.
IF: If your jeans would tell a story what would that be?
Ani: If my jeans could talk they’d probably ask me to stop sitting like a frog! But, really they would tell a story about a girl who found her calling. They would show you how far and wide she has traveled to find answers. They would tell you how dedicated she is to lending a helping hand to anyone in need. And they would tell you that she is here to stay :)
IF: Your favorite pair of jeans and why?
Eda: Following my graduation from the university, I have directly stepped into the corporate world. I was working in really formal conditions - pencil skirts, high heels, blouses all the time.. Eventually my wardrobe had turned into something totally different than what it is today. After a couple of years, one day I decided it was time that I stop everything, go abroad and study my masters. When I was finally a student again, I’ve realized I had so little to wear as a student. I did buy a couple of things but also scanned my wardrobe to see the options I had in hand. I realized the 501s I’ve bought years ago - they are probably 15+ years old now. I could still fit in them and they were one of the first things I’ve put into my luggage as I was leaving off for Milan. That pair saw me studying in high school, graduating from uni, living abroad and discovering the villages of Italy I haven't heard of before, meeting wonderful people, having friends like family, having unforgettable experiences, coming back to Turkey, entering the denim industry, visiting shows around the world, and even going back to Italy last year, this time with my colleagues.. They are not my favorite pair in terms of fit and style, I now have ones that look & feel better and I wear them more often, but with regards to the stories they remind me, I’ll go with those 501s… there is just so much to treasure.
Ani : My vintage Tommy Hilfiger’s! They are the most beautiful shade of dusty blue and have paint splattered stains all over them. The one-of-a-kind makings are what make them so special to me.
IF: Thank you, dear Eda and Ani.