I’ve just realised today that LA’s denim world draws so many parallels with the world of dating. Last Thursday, the team behind the Dutch-run House of Denim, Denim City and the international Jeans School descended on the Ace Hotel for an ‘Indigo Embassy’ aimed at invoking action, positivity and change on LA’s denim scene… and maybe forming a partnership.

OMG, a what?!

LA’s denim dudes may not be ready for that, I mean, they love what the Dutch have done but.. wow, thats a lot of commitment, right? And they really haven’t been seeing the Dutch that long. Can’t they just have some fun and ‘see where it goes’?

I’m making a joke here but actually, despite every conversation I have about denim these days involving buzz words like sustainability, transparency, circularity, water and waste, what we really need to be talking about is Accountability, Action and… Engagement! (all issues that crop up in this city’s dating world)

Yes, LA, in the words of Beyonce; its time to put a ring on it.

Mariette Hoitnk and James Veenhoff

The Dutch are not scared of commitment, you see. Mariette Hoitnk and James Veenhoff (the Dude and Dudette of the Dutch Denimheads) have been working hard since the birth of the House Of Denim in 2010 and building something pretty amazing. Their energy quickly caught attention both locally and internationally, attracting the support of the Mayor of Amsterdam, the Dutch Royal Family and of course the people who really matter: the local and international brands and denim scene.

First off, Kingpins trade show bought its event to the city in 2013 and then followed the B to C Denim Days event in 2014. Denim City opened its doors in May 2015, creating a physical space for brands, students, laundries and mills to hold events and meetings, create and innovate the humble jean and forge friendships. Its also become a foundation for real talk within the industry about sustainability, cleaning up our industry together and joining forces to inspire real, positive change. Denim Days has already expanded to New York and later this year to Nashville and the team just got back from Sao Paolo where talks of a Brazilian Denim City are well underway. So it’s going pretty damn well, if you ask me.

You get out what you put in, and its testament that a number of LA and NY based brands and designers spend their precious budgets to attend the Amsterdam based events rather than trade shows or events in their own city. The old phrase ‘Build it and they will come’ was coined for a reason and Mariette, James and team can feel very proud that the positive steps they have made have caused real movement within the global community.

House of Denim: Towards a Brighter Blue

But here’s the burning question: will LA commit? Does the city have what it takes to put the work in and build something long-term and lasting? Or are our LA companies set on remaining lone wolves who will only make casual visits to Amsterdam for a dirty denim weekend when it suits them? (sorry I can’t stop with this dating analogy!)

Since I moved here in 2015 I have noticed a striking difference in the way people interact. I’ve learnt that ‘yes’ actually means: ‘no’ 30% of the time and ‘maybe’ 40% of the time, meaning if 100 people say yes, 30 people actually really mean it. I’ve learnt that people say ‘I would love to work on something together’ instead of saying ‘it was nice to see you’ which can cause a lot of confusion when following up. Oh and being very late or even ghosting is professionally acceptable here!

However, this is arguably the most powerful denim city in the world and it is also home to some absolutely incredible talent and figureheads. LA folk may promise a lot but actually this makes them very positive people, open to collaboration and full of creative ideas. And I for one feel very positive that the city of Angeles will deliver. They just need coaxing into it and mostly, they need to be held accountable for their promises.

The Indigo Embassy last Thursday started with presentations from the founding members and ended with a round table discussion involving all attendees on what action and alliances can be made in LA.

Indigo Embassy Event

In attendance were a number of strong voices in our community including¬†Adriano Goldschmied, of course an industry veteran and voice of denim who is constantly striving for a new denim future. Francois Girbaud, a man who started his denim career in the era of stone wash and who’s tireless work has focussed on creating healthy alternatives with Jeanologia. Maurizio Donadi, founder of Atelier and Repairs, a brand who’s ethos is against creating any new garments, instead making new from old. Vivian Wang and Erin Barajas from the Kingpins show, who have been so involved with the Dutch and their endeavours that they are practically the same company.

Mariette, Adriano, Francois, Maurizio and James

Melissa Kehoe and Tricia Edwards attended from FIDM and have already been collaborating with the Denim School on projects with their pupils. Jordan Nodarse, head of denim at Reformation was also present and shared his enthusiasm to help educate on sustainability, a issue that desperately needs addressing in LA. Other contributors included Kevin Chen founder of Frankie and Chairman of the Arts District Development, who offered help with a space and retail platform both in LA and NY, Brad Robbinson from Skid Row Housing Trust who spoke with passion and positivity about starting an initiative and raising money. Many others contributed positive ideas and thoughts from Rachel Reid Wilkie of Riot Material to Andrew Kiernan of United Nude.

But again, in this town talk is cheap and action is essential. As I said earlier, accountability is a key word if you really want to take things from ‘casual’ to ‘official’. Maurizio Donadi spoke a couple of times about the difficulties and necessities involved in motivating people.

“ROI [return on investment] is what makes people do things in LA. For people to get on board you need profit to prolong the fun”

Lets really hope the inner committee manage to set up some structure and that each and every one of us try to contribute, help out and commit to a brighter blue for all of us. If you’re interested in getting involved or helping in any way, please hit me up via the contact page and I will connect you to the Dutch Denim Dudes and Dudettes and we can get things moving!

We’re all Accountable!


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Trend forecaster, denim designer, industry journalist and author of Denim Dudes.