A few years ago I received an award from the mayor for setting up Amsterdam’s Fashion Week. With it came $15,000 to do something worthwhile. Since I’m a denim lover from Amsterdam, I saw both the nasty challenges our industry faces and the opportunities of an inspiring, open, growing scene. Thus, I embarked on an oddly megalomic adventure to change some things.
The House of Denim is an initiative to develop craftsmanship and stimulate innovation in the denim industry. Our motto is ‘Towards a Brighter Blue’ as we aim to make the denim world “drier”, cleaner and smarter; meaning less water used, less toxic waste, more recycling, more alternatives, etc.
I reached out to an informal group of industry experts and we figured that if we wanted to solve these issues, we would have to be ambitious. Our approach is based on four pillars: Education, Entrepreneurship, R&D and Networking. Education seemed the most important one so that’s where we started.
Together with the ROCvA education board and all the industry experts we know, we developed a three-year curriculum. After a successful pilot, the first class of Jean School kicked off on September 3rd. This week, they visited the Levi’s office on their first company visit, the first of many to come – a guest lecture or site visit is scheduled every other week.
The second step came quite naturally: Networking. We’ve developed a networking concept called ‘The Indigo Embassy’ – it’s a pop-up meeting place for people within the denim industry. We take it to key denim events around the world and share ideas.
I’m currently in New Delhi and will be in Istanbul next week. Ironically, the REAL (Dutch) embassy is now supporting us.
Next up are R&D and Enterprise. The laundry aspect of the industry uses a lot of water and nasty chemicals, so that’s an area that we will be looking at to find or support some major technological innovations – stay tuned!
Also, way too much denim is just thrown away, so we are working on ways to upcycle. We’re working on a project called ‘The Red Light Selvedge’ in which we want to use hemp and jeans worn in Amsterdam, to create a new, premium, single-origin selvedge fabric.
Our next project is to set up a denim crafts workshop, preferably with its own archive and shop, where students from Jean School, together with master craftsmen, make really nice stuff: The Blue Archive.