Interview with Andrew Olah

Face2Face
Andrew Olah
Andrew Olah
Founder
Kingpins
Kingpins

What none of us know exactly is how consumers will buy their jeans in the future and who these consumers are. Your comments?

The internet is like a wild truck roaring down the highway aiming at our old historical paradigms, threatening to blast what "was" or "is" into pieces. I find this process fascinating and a very interesting opportunity for those that hear the vehicle coming and like watching accidents about to happen. I am also excited about the new consumers coming into our world from China, India and new generations in the developed nations. None of these people share our past, our culture or our assumptions, and their approach to jeans will be new and add a provocative new element to our industry. What is sure, and eternal is that jeans will continually make those that really love denim and the products that come from denim happy. The fakers, those that only see denim and jeans as a means to a financial end will be "outed" and these people and companies won't last.

For a long time it was not conceivable that stretch will conquer the denim market. Will the trend continue or is it already on the decline?

Stretch is here to stay and while it's percentage in the marketplace might oscillate, stretch is not going anywhere.  It's like our little doggie on a long leash.  We always know where it is even if we can't see it. For a long time it was not conceivable that stretch will conquer the denim market. Will the trend continue or is it already on the decline?

Who are the new influencers on the denim scene?

The real influencers will always be the creatives in the denim mills, the creatives in the chemical and dye companies, without whom we can't operate. And we can never forget those that develop and design machines like lasers, ozone machines and robots-these people have a lot to influence in the future. And lastly, we have the creative gods and goddesses who churn out styles and ideas at the brands and retailers. I suppose we also need to pay some homage to the internet blog influencers who might create demand for a look, but not for the long-term changes that denim scene won't live without.

Which are your favorite trendspotting areas?

I think Amy Leverton, Piero Turk, Adriano Goldschmied or Jason Denham should answer this.

Denim has infiltrated the high-fashion spectrum. Will catwalk designers' interest in denim last?

No.

That premium denim comes from Italy or Japan was the rule for a long time. Is this still true today? Which countries are leaders in premium denim today?

I thought the words "premium denim" were placed in a tiny coffin and buried at the dead word cemetery. Everyone says they are "premium denim" suppliers. No denim mill at Kingpins or any other show says, "We don't have premium denim." So, if the words have become pointless, the question is unanswerable. More interesting is to ask you back, if you believe all Italians in our industry are creative in denim just because they live in Italy? Same question for Japanese.  Are all Japanese people who work in denim creative? Is this really a believable concept? It is entirely reasonable and necessary to think in terms of individual excellence, regardless of someone's passport. A good person is a good person, a good idea is a good idea. I am not sure we need to break this down nationally. What is clear is that many more good creative ideas come from Italy than Bangladesh and Japanese selvege denims have something undefinably more interesting about them than most selvege denims that come from developing nations or even Italy for that matter. But developing nations are frequently creating super cool new things that are beautiful, excellent and as good as anything from anywhere. Why not?  They have Italian and Japanese consultants if we wish to go back to the ethnic theme. And, by the way, many Turkish denim mills think they are part of the former "premium denim" supply base, as do a few in Thailand and Brazil.

Especially in the male denim market, there is a certain nostalgia for old traditions and techniques. Are there signs that production will come back to the US or Europe?

There are two new denim mills percolating down in the US. Will they succeed? I think they will face the same issues that closed mills in the past. The problems have not gone away, but rather intensified. However, if mills approach our industry planning on a "new" landscape they will succeed. Those who guess the future right always win in blackjack, betting on professional sports games and denim. I have not heard of new mills popping up in Europe or Japan.

Previously, the big denim brands were the trend and innovation leaders. Today, small brands or fast fashion retailers are at the front. What did the Diesels, Replays and Levi's do wrong?

I am not sure the brands you mention did anything wrong or right. I mean, what did Levi do in 1964 to create demand? I think they did nothing. Society was changing and the people doing the changing wanted to do the changing in jeans. Levi benefitted from that and that new wave of demand carried them forward. What did Diesel do in the late '90s?  They just happened to have what the world was moving towards, and Diesel was there and available. This is not meant to take anything away from amazing marketing, design or anything else that these companies provided, but it's the "surge" of unplanned or unexpected demand that initiates any brand. In art or any creative medium, the artist needs to do what they believe in and the consumers might or might not like it. That depends on the cultural trend that's ongoing and affected by uncontrollable factors like economy, politics, age, etc.

What about your personal denim love? Do you collect jeans or denim items?

I am not really a collector of much other than photographs and knick-knacks. I like the idea of being forced to leave my home or company in a hurry and in four seconds only taking my phone because nothing else really matters that much. This is not to say I don't love my jeans, but they are jeans-not little human beings or pills that save lives. Jeans represent times for me.

What do you find so interesting about denim? What makes denim so different?

Jeans are not different to me because I only wore jeans my entire life (other than a brief period when I started to work where I believed I needed to wear suits). It's the fading that makes jeans special, the evolution of it, the way a face wrinkles as you age. I always get my jeans raw, and like a baby over time they eventually turn into old people. 

Published on: 22/09/2017

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.

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