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10 questions for Rowan Hunt

Name: Rowan Hunt

Instagram ID: @denim-research

Daily work: Responsible Denim - Developer & Designer

Who are you and what are you doing within the (denim) industry?

Hey, I’m Rowan and I’m a Responsible Denim Specialist, working from fibre to finished garment. I work with many different hats these days. I’m a trained designer but fairly quickly became a product developer within the industry. How can you design without knowing your components and how they with act in different garments? I was lucky enough to start my career working alongside both a Garment Technologist and Fabric Technologist so any questions I had could be answered easily.

It’s all in the detail. So much so, I learned things like the constructions and yarn counts of core lines so that when I had to resource for price or ‘move-ons’ I was in the right ball park. Also, Fabric Mills treat you quite differently when you speak their language.

I was very lucky to work for multiple suppliers and brands over 15+ years, finally deciding to ‘go it alone’ in 2020 and start developing for fabric mills and garment producers.

I work in the industry but am also trying to see how I can share my knowledge back into it.

In 2019 I was lucky enough to be invited to talk at the first Kingpins ED in the UK, sharing my journey with students about the denim industry. Since then I have given 1-2 talks a year on various denim related subjects. Some based on development & research and some based on my personal experiences, like seeing how long a jean will ACTUALLY take to biodegrade in my garden!

What are you currently working on?

Currently I am working with INDIGO textiles as their Business Manager in development and innovations. Here I am lucky to work with a great team on product development and fabric development. This year we have started the Fibretrace journey and samples will be ready soon. We are also working on finishing with ozone finishes and laser boosters in fabric (this is going to be amazing). Natural dying in warps has been a great step forward also.

On the garment side I get to work with amazing brands like S.Oliver in Germany. I recently presented their AW22 collection and got to travel to their offices for the first time since the pandemic began, it was so great to connect on a human level again.

Outside of this I am working on projects with dye companies, a waste solution project in denim and have an exciting partnership discussing plans with a material scientist.

On the home front, my partner and I were anxious at how many of my denim hangers and washed legs went to waste at the end of every season. We started looking into ways that we could use it up. We have made a denim stuffed poufe, denim coasters, a denim jacket and are currently making and selling denim animals using only waste, 100% cotton thread and UK wool (for stuffing). All our profits go to charities that support these animals.

What is the biggest achievement so far in your career?

I don’t tend to reflect as I’m always too excited to see what I can do in the future!

But I guess making the jump from employed to freelance and managing to grow year on year. Also managing to make a real denim research company that’s about learning and sharing.

What is/are your favorite denim brand(s), and why?

Nudie has always been one of my favourites as they just do it so well. Pure denim, easy and not complicated. And they were sustainable before sustainability was a thing.

Black Horse Lane, I must say, has been the best fit I ever had and the attention to detail is amazing. (E5)

If I am buying for me personally then I tend to buy different brands each time to see how they age and fit.

(Edwin, APC, Nudie, BHL, Hiut, Pure blue japan to name a few)

What is your favorite denim store, and why?

Less of a store and more a market. My number 1 has to be the Rosebowl as you just don’t know what you will get but you always find amazing things.

Rivet & Hide is great for Japanese raw denim but Nudie in Soho, London has been good to me. I go downstairs and rummage through the worn jeans. Also I always ask for any pairs behind the counter that haven’t been washed ☺

What do you think we can expect in the (near) future of denim developments as it comes to sustainability?

The future for me is in data and transparency, no more blindsiding or greenwashing (I hope).

There’s a lot to do but we have some really great tools now. For example, EIM has opened up the secret life of the laundry and what actually goes on inside. Fibre tracking is going to be key, we now have Fibretrace (among other tracers) that we can put into the fabrics from fibre stage so its traceable and doesn’t rely on paperwork. Waste is the new gold so we need companies to work out how to use waste for good, this is a big part of our future.

Further forward, diversity in plants and fibres will give us solutions for carbon reduction to soil health to more local production. Plants like Hemp are just the beginning of the journey.

What is the most valuable lesson your have learned during your work?

Ask questions and don’t be shy.

You may ask a question you think is stupid once (no question is actually stupid, it's just how you learn) and then next time, your question will be more focused as you have a better understanding.

This is how I learnt. In my first job I was worried that my Fabric Technologist wanted to throttle me but I later found out that he liked the challenge. I used to ask questions like ‘but why do pigments on top of moleskin fabric get side to side shading and need lay markers to cut in production?' and get him to discuss at length the different way yarns can be spun to give different looks and reduce prices.

If you could be someone else for one day, who would you be, and why?

Levi Strauss when he met Jacob Davies. I would have loved to be part of that journey to create something totally new that would take the world by storm.

They had no one to follow, they just did their own thing and believed in it. Solution to a problem. We can learn a lot from them. They were original!

Can you describe your ultimate pair of jeans?

RAW well-fitting jeans. Its all in the story you create from raw ☺ (E5 BHL best so far)

Do you have a life slogan, or one that inspires you?

“Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life”


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