The women’s denim market is worth about 8 billion more than men’s, according to figures by Euromonitor last year; a disproportionate amount if you consider how male-dominated the sector is. But what I’m interested in is the volume of women involved in denim v’s the number who are acknowledged and celebrated as part of our community. There are millions of us all over the world: designers, wash specialists, weavers and store owners, all making a difference and shaping the denim of tomorrow. Over the next few months we’ll be interacting with some of these women on a number of projects; delving into the lives of industry experts, unsung hero’s and drivers of positive change.

The Soorty showroom. Photo by Lisa Kato

One such project that we’ve just embarked on is an exciting partnership with Soorty denim mill from Pakistan. Ebru Debbag, executive director of sales and marketing and a well known figure in the fabric industry has worked at some of the world’s leading denim mills. She joined Soorty in early 2018 and has been working passionately to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment throughout the whole value chain. Her role encompasses sustainability, innovation and communication and she recently told me how she wanted to come on board as the coach for the teams rather than the conventional senior manager. “I was more interested in the ways that I can empower the teams rather then hold power”

Ebru, shot by Lisa Kato

She told me about her work so far at Soorty:

“We are a longstanding partner to UNDP (United Nations Development Program) aiming to create awareness, skills and employment in the societies we operate in. This translates as us striving to create opportunities through which the latent potential of young individuals can be harnessed for the country’s and our planet’s greater social and economic uplift. Soorty has a firm commitment to acknowledging and rewarding the efforts of the ladies who work with us. Women are a massive resource for the future of our planet, especially in developing countries like Pakistan; the change they can make through the power they hold in their communities is huge”

A female factory worker at Soorty

It seemed apt to us, then, to create a project that aims to support, inspire and collaborate with young women outside of the Soorty corporation who are currently killing it in the industry, and to see how a large company can empower and incite positive change. I’m also excited to see how these women will end up fueling and feeding Soorty too.

The first is Ani Wells of @simplysuzette. Ani has been a force of nature in our industry over the last few years. She founded Simply Suzette in January of 2018, which is an online platform aiming to educate women who are looking for more ethically and sustainably produced denim. She sells both vintage and eco-woke brands on her website and writes about companies who are making positive changes in our industry. She makes it her business to visit the world’s denim trade shows and events, educating herself so that she can transfer that knowledge to consumers.

Ani, shot by Lisa Kato

Next up is Alexis Colby, aka @bitofdenim. Alexis has a wicked energy; her passion for the world of re-make has already grabbed the attention of Vogue.com. She believes that there’s far too much unwanted denim in the world to go to waste so she taught herself to sew and re-make discarded vintage denim into fresh pieces of fashion and product design. Think bucket hats, bodices and even banquets for your living room; this girl has got it going on.

Alexis, shot by Denim Dudes

Harmony Hendrix of @ckxstudio has been a friend to Denim Dudes for some while now. Her store in Amsterdam sells slow-made, well crafted denim but more importantly has become a creative hub in the center of Amsterdam where she hosts Cyanotype workshops and even sells indigo lattes. A true inspiration to anyone out there wanting to create and curate the world they live in, Harmony surrounds herself with people and products that not only inspire and fuel her, they inspire the rest of us too.

Harmony, shot by John Turner

Finally we have Maria Gunnarsson, a passionate and talented denim designer who has worked for the creative teams at both Levi’s Vintage Clothing and Kings of Indigo. With an education in fashion and textile design, further education in garment tech and experience in visual merchandising there’s not one element of the jeanswear machine this woman hasn’t experienced. With her own atelier set up in the West of Amsterdam she’s now continuing her denim journey through creative design, craft and education.

Maria, shot by Team Peter Stigter

All these women positively influence those of us lucky enough come in contact with them. They all have a strong sense of purpose, a strong design aesthetic and they are all striving towards a brighter future for our industry. Despite their different strengths or approaches to denim, every woman has one thing in common that stands out to us: their entrepreneurial spirit. Each one of them has carved out a place for themselves in the industry and is shaking up the world around them.

Eda, Ebru and I with Alexis and Ani in NY. Shot by Lisa Kato

We believe that every one of them has the capability to create denim garments that are both unique and inspirational. Soorty may have been around for 36 years but just by our initial interactions with these great women I can confirm that boundaries have already been pushed and ideas have already been challenged. We are living in a world that is changing very quickly. We are also living in a world that is polluting and damaging to our environment, so how do we innovate if we continue to use the same processes and people? We thought it was about time we listened to some fresh voices and empowered women who we see the world for what it could be rather than what is it. Stay tuned for more updates on the blog and the feed and follow their design journey.