Global Denim Awards: 'It was sitting on the shelf for six years'

Tuesday, 21 October 2014
The Global Denim Awards aims to become the industry's version of the Grammy's or the Emmy's, honoring and celebrating denim. The first edition of the award ceremony will be held next week, during which six designers will showcase a capsule collection consisting of five complete looks, incorporating various denim washes and treatments, in a catwalk presentation.

The winner will receive a cash prize of 10,000 euros, and his or her designs will be shown during the trade show Kingpins in Amsterdam, New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and during the Amsterdam Denim Days 2015. FashionUnited spoke with Mariette Hoitink, founder of fashion recruitment and consultancy agency HTNK, to learn more about the new award celebrating the denim industry.

The concept behind the Global Denim Awards was the result of a collaboration between HTNK and the international trade fair for denim sourcing, Kingpins. Where did you come up with the idea to create an award ceremony?
“Actually we wanted to put the denim manufacturers in the spotlight. Denim developers are very often concerned with innovation and design and exploring new areas - such as sustainability, for example – but denim labels do not always chose to work with these innovations. On the other hand, there a many fashion designers who are inexperienced when it comes to working with denim. Therefore we wanted to create something which would help link designers and denim manufacturers closer together.”

How long did it take you to develop the concept?
“Well, I have had the idea to create the denim awards in my head for six years already. But things did not start rolling until the team at HTNK explained the concept to Kingpins last year. We were connected to e3, an American company who specializes in sustainable cotton, who immediately said 'yes' to the concept. The company sponsors the awards and is responsible for the main cash prize of 10,000 euros.

The Global Denim Awards links six independent designers to six denim manufacturers, from six different countries: Candiani Denim, Royo Textile, Denim ITV, Bossa, Orta Anadolu Textile and Prosperity. How were the denim manufacturers selected?
“We looked for progressive denim manufacturers who are committed to sustainability. We found six enthusiastic denim producers, but next year it may grow to ten or fifteen.”

And how did you select the participating designers?
“At first we contacted the denim manufacturers themselves to see if they had any suggestions. We were very curious to see of they would say: “Yes, wow, you have to ask this designer to participate.” But it turned out to be that they did not have those types of contacts at all. We offered to help at HTNK in locating the right designers, after all we are specialized in spotting talent. We searched for skilled designers, who had graduated a number of years ago, with the right level of experience under their belts and where ready to develop their own private label, or who had already launched a collection. We wanted designers who were not employed or working for a brand, but independent creatives."

"Subsequently we looked at the designers backgrounds to see which designer would be best suited to work with which denim manufacturers, in terms of taste and style. For example. In China we choose Anneloes van Osselaer. She worked until recently in Beijing for Bestseller, but was ready to take the next step in her career. We approached her at the right time and its just a coincidence that she happens to be Dutch. She just fits perfectly into the profile.”

Did you find it difficult to select a jury panel?
“No, it was was not that difficult in the end. We knew from the start that we wanted jury members from a number of different disciplines for the award. Naturally, we immediately thought of Diesel's founder, Adriano Goldschmied, 'The Godfather of Denim.' He is also part of the advisory board of the House of Denim, the platform for craftsmanship and innovation within the denim industry, which the Jean School belongs to. At Kingpins, Rene Strolenberg was suggested, one of the owners of the Amsterdam denim store Tenue de Nîmes. Furthermore we have Jason Denham, the designer from the denim brand Denham. We also wanted a journalist to be a part of the jury, which in the end became Norma Quinto, who until recently was working at WWD. In the end, they are all people with a blue heart."

"The designers will present their collections to the jury next week Wednesday, which will be judged by their concept, innovation and sustainability as well as the creative level found in the designs.”

Will the Global Denim Award become an annual event?
“Certainly, it is going to come back every year. We want to make this the Grammy's or Emmy's for the denim industry. And we want to expand the concept, after all we named the event 'Awards,' as in plural for a reason. Next year we aim to award a Lifetime Achievement award and we also want to incorporate awards for the best denim store and denim student.”

Yasmine Esser, translated for the UK and US