They hacked denim

AMFI students Eleonora Kalabokas and Renske Koster took part in the 48-hour event Denim Premiere Vision Hackathon. Their skills gained from the denim minor, as well as their ability to work under time-pressure were tested. They left with new friendships, bigger networks and inspirational findings into what will shape the future of denim.

Interview by Emma Wendt, student Int. Fashion & Branding.


What was the  goal of the Hackathon?

Renske & Eleonora: “The end goal was to design a concept that answered the question: ‘what is the future of Denim.’ It could consist of anything that focused on current problems within the industry. We were 25 students and worked in groups of 5. We got the opportunity to work with people within different disciplines and nationalities, including fashion marketers, designers and developers. This contributed to the experience being highly stimulating.”

Eleonora concept developing with her group, showing how important teamwork was throughout the process.

Eleonora concept developing with her group, showing how important teamwork was throughout the process.

You were part of the Denim minor at AMFI. Did that help you during the marathon?

Renske & Eleonora: “We were a lot more specialized than the other university students. It was quite evident that we were more knowledgeable on the subject of denim fabrics, details and finishings, and how the industry operates. With this, the others in our groups trusted us.”

What was the most memorable thing you brought back to Amsterdam?

Renske: “It was inspiring to see the broad range of innovative ideas created, all very much valuable for the future and the industry. Also to see how people from different cultures and backgrounds came together united and worked as a team.”

Eleonora: “I came to the Hackathon with no expectations, but was pleasantly surprised to see everyone’s unified appetite for change. It was like a little cohesive community. Everyone dressed the same and enjoyed small talk on shared obsessive interests on topics such as denim washings.”

What in your opinion are the most intriguing happenings within denim, its trends and innovations?

Renske: “I found it interesting to see how much of it was focused on the integration of fashion with technology. The winning team’s concept included an app where one could change the fit and size of jeans. Furthermore, the product itself was also interchangeable. One company that also focuses on technology is French based brand Spinali, who created a technological device. It vibrates on the jeans indicating the wearer if they should go left or right.”

Eleonora: “I find it very cool that other fabrics, such as corduroy, are being experimented with in the same way as denim, giving it the equivalent look and feel. Denim is also being produced at higher qualities making it suitable for formal wear. Alternative fabric manipulation tools are being used, such as lasers. This creates the desired faded lines without the jeans losing their authentic look. There is no doubt that denim is becoming more of a fashion product rather than just work wear. ”

Eleonora’s notes whilst she was brainstorming with her group.

Eleonora’s notes whilst she was brainstorming with her group.

Has your perspective of the denim industry changed after doing the hackathon?

Renske & Eleonora: “No, it has remained the same. The denim minor has done a great job at giving us the realistic picture of the industry. There were some ideas we had not heard of before, but overall we came to the event understanding the complexity of the denim world, it is almost like a washing machine.”

What do you expect for the future of the denim fashion sector?

Renske & Eleonora: “It is very much a growing fashion sector with 5 billion jeans produced yearly. Like sneakers, denim is normal and a greater necessity. It is however facing some challenges, including its environmental impact and sizing. The next few years will be focused on finding solutions to these problems, helping the industry to expand. Already, brands are looking at fit and how to produce for a wider body type platform. Shape memory is no longer only used with higher end jean brands such as Levis but also now Zara. The future will be focused on low to middle market brands that are becoming more popular in denim with consumers. Also, ingredient branding will expand, like Denham for example, promoting transparency within companies.”

Did you come into the hackathon with any main objectives and were they achieved?

Renske & Eleonora: “Our main objective was to show our faces and to have a greater role in the already small world of denim. It is so important to be engaged, meeting the professionals especially to have a chance at being a part of the world in the near future. This was definitely achieved, we made many new contacts, both friends and industry professionals.”

Taken on the first day of the Premiere Vision event, Renske is contentedly socializing with fellow students and fashion professionals.

Taken on the first day of the Premiere Vision event, Renske is contentedly socializing with fellow students and fashion professionals.

What was the biggest challenge you faced throughout the hackathon?

Renske: “We worked intensively 24 hours straight, hence staying awake was a struggle. It was also sometimes hard working in a multinational setting. Three in my group were from France, including my coach. They had a difficult time speaking English, which caused tension in the communication. This added negatively to the already stressful situation of the pressure of coming up with a good idea in a short period of time.”

Eleonora: “The panel wanted the concept to be semi feasible but also out of the box. I was constantly questioning myself. Could this product really sell? They pushed us to ask questions such as these, which motivated me to reach for a higher level. There was a lot of compromising which took a little time to get used to. After a while everyone wanted to have his or her own space which one had to respect. It was an intense experience.”

How will this hackathon benefit your future in the denim industry?

Renske & Eleonora: “The contacts gained will help expand our network for future job potentials. We were also the first ones to participate in such a denim hackathon. This makes for an interesting story. It also will show on our CV’s that we are open to thinking innovatively and creatively.”

What role does the young generation have in shaping the future of denim?

Renske: “The millennials, us, we are going to make a difference. Our generation is so open to change and innovation. We also value sustainability so much more. It is common sense to add sustainability when talking about anything within the fashion sector. Even though it was mandatory, everyone reflexively added sustainability to their Premiere Vision concepts. This shows how evidently the subject is ingrained into our brains.”

Eleonora: “We have a very different mindset than the older generation who work the way they always have done and think of sustainability as perhaps an extra burden for high profit. For us, sustainability does not necessarily stand for something resulting in the compromising of money. It is an added value that can be worked with, also cost efficiently.”

AMFI student Femke Jonkmans was part of the team that won the Denim Premiere Vision Hackathon – congrats to her!

A sample from Maritas denim showcased at the Paris Premiere Vision event.

A sample from Maritas denim showcased at the Paris Premiere Vision event.

All photos form  Premiere Vision Denim Facebook Page except for the photo of notes (Eleonora Kalabokas).

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