We chat with the creative director about how he began his career in fashion, how the denim industry has evolved over time and the latest sustainability collection from Neuw Denim.
Tell me about how you discovered your love of denim.
I began my career working at a denim store in Stockholm and found a deep appreciation for denim design. I feel in love with the products, the history and the culture that surrounds the denim. I spent a lot of time researching not only the brands building the industry, and the icons that created the culture, but the methods of production, manufacturing, dyeing and weaving techniques. With that, I began collecting vintage pieces, re-designing and re-shaping them to make them my own. Years later, this same passion for denim and that love of DIY has remained one of the key pillars of inspiration and the true catalyst that kick-started Neuw Denim.
My co-founders Rich and Steve and I felt like there was a clear gap in the market for a modern denim brand. We asked ourselves why we should launch another brand? The answer hasn’t changed. Let’s make the best jeans we can, without any compromise and share that experience with as many likeminded creative people as we can from around the world. I don’t think this will ever change…From the start and until now, we have never sacrificed our vision for creating products for the people we care about, our friends, family, and customers.
I feel like traditionally, the denim industry was monopolised by some fairly large brands, but now there are smaller independents coming through. What is your opinion on the denim landscape right now?
I believe we are at a turning point in the industry. Denim is one of the most produced fabrics on the planet, with over two billion pairs of jeans produced worldwide each year. As a brand, and as an industry, we are making a conscious effort to re-look at our business models and shift our thinking to focus on more responsible and sustainable processes and practices.
It is great to see the increase in smaller, independent brands be introduced into the denim industry. We believe in the power of collaboration and community. We ultimately want to work together with smaller designers and creatives to continue to push the denim industry and culture forward. Most importantly, we must all remain innovative and forward thinking in our practices and design and always have the future of the planet and generations to come at the forefront of every decision. Not because it’s a good competitor advantage, not because it’s a strong marketing story…but because it’s the right thing to do.
Given the competition in the denim sector, what does Neuw offer that’s different to the others?
For us it’s very simple, our mission is to deliver ‘Modern Lasting Products’ in a world where things are (essentially) built to be broken. We work tirelessly on perfecting our fabrications, our fits, and focusing on our dedication to quality. We will continue to design exciting collections rooted in denim, music and art, and deliver premium quality products for our consumers. We will continue to collaborate and work with international inspiring creative people…and we will do all this with a focus on ensuring we minimise our carbon footprint along the way, placing the utmost importance on the environment and a consideration for denim sustainability.
How has the role of a denim designer evolved over the years and what are some of the new skills/knowledge that a designer needs these days?
My experience in the denim industry since I began my career has always been beneficial to my success. I believe that knowing the history of and studying your craft allows you to work with a deep appreciation and acknowledgement of the beginnings, though it also allows you to push boundaries and break the rules.
I believe that the role of a denim designer is to allow the customer to be their most confident and comfortable self. To push the boundaries, think differently, and innovate for tomorrow.
Although we are not solely driven by seasonal trends, we want our customers to continually re-discover their new favourite pair of jeans, and we do that by listening to our community, embracing feedback, and creating lasting pieces that they will wear and love for years to come.
You just launched a Zero-waste collection. Can you tell me what the development process was like?
Zero is something we are really proud of. It’s a premium sustainable denim collection that has been in development for over three years, and finally, we have got the product and process at a point that we are happy to release to our customers.
Zero completely replaces our traditional denim manufacturing processes, reinventing it with the sole objective to decrease the overall environmental impact. With Zero specifically, we decided to completely overhaul the washing process, simply because it was the biggest immediate impact we could make. We are extremely proud to say that the water used in our manufacturing process is reused, renewed and recycled with Zero waste being discharged back into the grid as contaminated sewage. In addition to this, Zero eliminates classic stone-washing methods by adopting the use of synthetic stones, replacing traditional pumice. Made from an environmental resin, this innovative alternative leaves no washing waste or sludge behind, decreasing our carbon footprint and allowing us to clean and recycle water in a much more energy efficient manner.
Lastly, we decided it was integral to eradicate the use of chemicals in the distressing phase. Zero completely replaces traditional denim distressing processes such as bleaching, acid washing, and potassium permanganate, allowing us to drastically minimise the amount of chemicals used and decrease our overall environmental impact. Instead of spraying the garment with potentially harmful additives to replicate wear patterns and wash effects, Zero garments are hand-stitched, hand-brushed, and hand-grinded prior to washing to produce a distressed aesthetic.