It was all about ”Innovation“ at the biannually held Kingpins Transformers conference that took place last week in New York, just one day before the Kingpins show. Again, the leading topic was mainly connected with social, environmental and economic challenges facing the denim industry. Moderator (and Kingpins founder) Andrew Olah welcomed several members of the whole denim supply chain on stage as well as in the audience. 

Here are some of the most memorable quotes...

Miguel Sanchez, founder, Gavilan AD

On the massive changes in the whole fashion system...

 “What is missing for perfect innovation? We need ideas. A new idea or an adopted idea or an inspired idea. 

The master of innovation is nature: It doesn’t use anything that is not relevant. 

The business system in denim needs to change completely. Every single part of denim production and delivery needs to be improved, from chemicals to synthetic fibers, from spinning to dyeing, from using the rivers, zippers to the final delivery... 

For example, cotton is the king of the fibers, but it’s not perfect, so we need alternatives in finding new material combinations. 

Indigo is the king of denim dyes, but it’s also not perfect. Indigo needs to be tackled.

The use of accessories such as copper buttons needs to be questioned. Why not use magnetic buttons instead of regular buttons? Then you could use one set of buttons with several jeans.
Instead of Elastane why not shape memory materials, use clever textiles in the sense of an extension of your body?

The mills need to become smaller in size and rather specialize in producing one article. They also need to use automatization and AI.

We have to implement faster delivery systems with drones; we have to think of the use of nano robots.

And since everything will be fully customized, the traditional idea of collections will gradually extinguish.”


Adriana Galijasevic, denim & sustainability expert, G-Star

On the problem of package waste when shipping the goods... 

“We never pack anything that doesn’t need to be packed. But of course, there are still products that are wrapped in plastic materials when shipped. We used to use biodegradable plastics but were advised to not use them anymore because of certain lacks of performance in biodegradability. We need to figure out a better solution, something that is eco-friendly, but performs at the same time. There is also the problem that our packaging standards are not always matching the ones of our business partners such as Zalando and Amazon. They require certain packaging standards.”

Adriana Galijasevic from G-Star
Photo: Carly Matsui
Adriana Galijasevic from G-Star

Roian Atwood, director of sustainability, VF Group

On applying new technological standards to denim production...
 “Why are we here? What is our purpose? These are the key question our organization is asking itself these days.

This means also dealing with questions regarding our heritage, such as questions on farming, grass, raising cattle. Then we ask ourselves if and how we can apply ecological improvements in those fields to cotton growing. We basically need to rethink the ecosystem of our technology.”


Tricia Carey, director of global business development apparel, Lenzing Fibers

On the key questions behind innovation...
“‘What if...?’ is one of the key questions that leads to innovation. For example, what if in the future we’d have a number on each piece of clothing that is related to a recycling system, so consumers know how to dispose the single items?

The ‘What if?’ question leads to the even more important question ‘What’s next?’ also ‘What’s next’ in innovation? People are drivers of innovation. And innovation breeds innovation.

Price is of course always a key factor. But In the end if a brand wants the most innovative product that has the best impact on nature, the price cannot be the most important thing.”

Tricia Carey from Lenzing
Photo: SI Team
Tricia Carey from Lenzing

Andrea Venier, managing director, Officina+39

On green washing...

“The word sustainability has been abused in the last years. In our industry there are a lot of fake green concepts. The biggest challenge today is how to reach and inform consumers about innovations and new technologies. 


Fernando Moncayo Castillo, co-founder, Inspectorio

On the importance of entrepreneurship for innovation...

“If we talk about innovation, we nee to talk about entrepreneurship. And if you are an entrepreneur, you need to be ready to fail–and learn something by failing. 

If someone says ‘No’ to your suggestion or business concept, it means it’s a new opportunity for you to improve.

It’s all about endurance. You have to be ready to suffer as an entrepreneur. The same skills you put into an Ironman contest, you need to put into innovation. Because the true Ironman is not the Ironman contest itself, it’s the time before when you push yourself to train every day, to change your eating habits, to challenge your full lifestyle.”


Ebru Debbag, executive director global sales & marketing, Soorty

On changing the whole terminology...

“We should need a new vocabulary. Can we start humanizing our industry, for example call consumers ‘global citizens’ and call waste ‘raw material’?

We need to be and think as a platform; we need to be much more than just a denim mill.”

Ebru Debbag from Soorty
Photo: Carly Matsui
Ebru Debbag from Soorty

Alberto de Conti, head of fashion design, Rudolf Group

On how to get rid of the bad image of chemicals
“We need to shorten the distance between chemical companies and fashion brands and retailers. Because when it comes to a complex topic such as chemicals, it’s difficult to bring news on innovation across. Because chemicals per se have a bad image. But that’s wrong, in fact there are good chemicals and bad chemicals. It’s about how to bring the rational and the emotional side together: For example we as a chemical company embrace trends now getting support from fashion students of Amfi. 

Our strategy cannot just be to receive the right certificates. It’s much more than that. We have to be proactive to inform about chemical novelties. The key thing is to make chemicals free of contaminants.”


Herbert Guebeli, managing director, Sedo Engineering

On innovative technologies such as ‘Smart indigo’ (converts indigo by electricity into liquid indigo, makes the use of chemicals redundant, and replaces the indigo powder)...

“The problem is that the brands don’t invest one penny. It’s only about getting lower and lower prices.”

From left: Herbert Guebeli (Sedo Engineering), Ralph Tharpe (Indigo Mill Designs) and Andrew Olah (Kingpins)
Photo: Carly Matsui
From left: Herbert Guebeli (Sedo Engineering), Ralph Tharpe (Indigo Mill Designs) and Andrew Olah (Kingpins)

Ralph Tharpe, founder, Indigo Mill Designs

On how to tackle the indigo dyeing problem
“We wanted to tackle the problem of indigo dyeing, because it requires a lot of water and it’s polluting the water.

We use our newly developed foam technology, called IndigoZERO. We are trying to create a chemical free dyeing process.”

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