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Creative design will evolve denim in unlimited ways
Andrew Olah has been in the denim business for more than two decades. As founder of Kingpins, he was among the first to identify a need for a specialised denim tradeshow, bringing together all elements of the global business. Here, he talks to Regina Henkel about the global denim industry, how it is changing, and the specific role of Kingpins.
In 2004 you founded Kingpins as a show for the denim tribe. In the meantime, it has become an international event across several locations worldwide. What would you say about the last 13 years?
In 2004, we founded the first denim supply chain show. Kingpins created a new genre of shows that has since been emulated the world over. My own conclusion is that copying ideas in some industries is against the law and in other industries we are forced to consider it as a compliment. I am of course very proud that we have something worth copying and something industry people enjoy attending. Kingpins makes everyone in our company happy and smiley, but most of all we are genuinely excited about the future of the denim industry and our possible role in its evolution.In 2004, we founded the first denim supply chain show. Kingpins created a new genre of shows that has since been emulated the world over. My own conclusion is that copying ideas in some industries is against the law and in other industries we are forced to consider it as a compliment. I am of course very proud that we have something worth copying and something industry people enjoy attending. Kingpins makes everyone in our company happy and smiley, but most of all we are genuinely excited about the future of the denim industry and our possible role in its evolution.
Why was it at all important to establish a special denim trade show? How can a $110 billion industry not have its own forum with activities and self-analysis?
That was the question that helped start Kingpins, and more than that we wondered why do people from New York city need to get on a plane to see a textiles show in Europe? Why were textile shows not the rage in New York with Europeans coming to our nice city? Paris? Frankfurt? Why not New York? Seemed odd.
What distinguishes Kingpins NY from Kingpins Amsterdam or China?
I've learned to accept that each show is like a child, and no matter what you do, each child is different from its siblings. Each market is different in demand, style, enthusiasm, culture and manner-so all four of our shows (including Hong Kong), while produced with the same intent and intellectual considerations, are received differently and perceived individually. I should also say that venues alter our show's image. The Gashoulder-our venue in Amsterdam-is a magnificent building, and our other venues are not because Gashoulder buildings don't exist in the rest of the world (We keep looking).
How has Kingpins developed in China?
Our plan is simple. We do road shows in China, visiting three cities in five days, going to the customer. Our shows are in what can be classified as B cities in China where others might not focus their attention-but these cities contain up to 1,500 brands and retailers and our intention is to work diligently to serve these brands by coming to them and bringing global denim suppliers, perspectives and issues to their neighbourhoods. Who else would go to Zhenzhou or Xiamen other than Kingpins? Hopefully in 2018 or 2019 we can stop the road shows, which are gruelling (but fun) and settle down in a couple of locations like a normal event business.
Would there be new locations in the future?
We are still mourning Kingpins Miami. Our next location is unclear and undefined. We can say it won't be Bangladesh, Vietnam, India or anywhere in Asia. Right now our focus is on our current cities, our road shows and our beloved Kingpins Transformers which might hit the road in 2018. Kingpins Transformers, is a summit series spotlighting members of the denim community who are committed to creating, implementing and sharing changes that need to happen in the jeans industry to make it more environmentally viable, socially responsible and financially sound by 2029. The Transformers were developed by Kingpins Show organisers in collaboration with House of Denim. Our aim is to target and engage a participating audience of denim professionals, educators and government officials with panels and presentations featuring exceptional industry transformers in each stage of the jeans supply chain.
Other trade fairs developed their own denim formats. What do you value more compared to others?
What separates us from other shows (other than our friends at Bangladesh Expo) is that Olah Inc, which owns Kingpins, are in the jeans business on a daily basis working with denim fabrics, brands/retailers. Our company worked 25 years for Legler in the US. Legler is considered by many as the first denim mill ever outside the US. We worked 27 years for Kurabo, one of the best denim mills in Japan. And today we handle marketing and sales for Prosperity in China, a fabulous denim mill. This historic and current "connection" to the industry means we have now and have always dealt (since 1979) with daily denim issues. All this love for the industry and experience is manifested through Kingpins or Kingpins Transformers. I suppose if I am honest, Kingpins Transformers is the future for Kingpins. It is where we can make a change in the world-a change for the better and where we can truly be proud of what Kingpins can accomplish.
Jeans are part of the fashion world like the little black dress. Nevertheless, the industry is constantly reinventing new looks. What are the most important trends and innovations in denim now?
I am not the one to answer this question. Like the little black dress, denim & jeans will always exist (at least in the foreseeable future) with nuances.
What is your prediction: how will jeanswear evolve over the next few years?
Creative design will evolve denim in an unlimited number of ways just the way musicians will make new sounds and painters will place new ideas on canvas. Art and creation is a continual series of unstoppable and unpredictable change, thankfully.
Do you see a change in the near future?
I see a change every day. Of course, I see a change in the future. Nothing stays the same. Living in the US, we don't even know what we will read the next day or what can happen to us.