Trend forecaster, jean expert, and mastermind behind Denim Dudes: Amy Leverton knows what she’s talking about when it comes to denim and all that’s happening in the world of indigo. In a recent chat with Leverton, we got a glimpse of where the industry is today, and where it’s going from here. Keep reading for our insightful conversation.
ME: What do you see as the biggest problems in the denim industry right now?
Leverton: The apparel industry as a whole is a dirty industry, and denim manufacturing is one of the dirtiest within it. The indigo dying process is much more water- and energy-intense than most other dying. The consumption of cotton for jeans is much higher than for most other cotton garments. Denim is one of the only garments that you dye, and then wash the dye back out through additional treatments – it’s a process that’s heavy in water consumption and pollution.
ME: What solutions exist for these problems?
Leverton: Denim mills are getting better, and our goal for our recently launched Denim Directory reports was to help designers understand how they can do better and understand what fabrics are less damaging. Designers don’t have time to do lots of sustainability research on their own, so platforms like Material Exchange as well as the information we provide in our Denim Directory can help them to make smarter choices.
ME: How do you see the denim industry changing in the next five to ten years? How might this affect the various stakeholders?
Leverton: LA has traditionally been a denim hub with many denim brands and factories based here. But over the last ten to fifteen years, we’ve seen a drop in local manufacturing. Then, during Covid, there was an uptick. [Sustainable denim manufacturer] Saitex came in – they’re prioritizing low-impact production hand-in-hand with technology and have some great minds streamlining their denim operations.
Now, there are a lot more boutique denim manufacturers here in LA who are more sustainability minded. When it comes to implementing sustainability measures, the set-up costs are huge, but in the long run, it saves money and, most importantly, resources like water.
ME: What advice do you give to denim brands in the current climate?
Leverton: Make more sustainable choices at every point along the way. Find the time to do better; it can be a matter of making a few small changes to create a better jean.
As sustainability in denim becomes a bigger priority for most players in the business, change is inevitable – but the question is when and how it will happen. Getting your business on track for sustainability can feel overwhelming, but as Leverton says, it can be about making small changes toward a big impact. Digitizing your operations is an important first step to decreasing waste, increasing efficiency, and getting ahead of your competition. And Material Exchange can help do just that. If you’d like to learn more, check out our offerings for suppliers here and for brands here.
For a sustainability focus to your digitization journey, you may also want to register for our new Sustainability Exchange. Whether you’re looking for responsibly-produced materials or have your own recycled, organic, or low-impact materials to promote, you’ll have a secure, digital space of like-minded businesses on this exchange.
If you’d like to meet Leverton in person and see her trend forecasting in action, she’ll be attending the upcoming Kingpins Show in New York this July. Thank you, Amy, for your insights into the denim industry of today – and for your work toward a better tomorrow!
*Top featured photo of Amy Leverton by Yoshi Miyazaki
Tune into our recent sustainability discussion – available here on-demand – with some of the most forward-thinking brands in the industry! This interactive session includes live questions from attendees on how brands can approach responsible, low-impact sourcing. Check it out today!