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Alignment on the definition of sustainability, and a holistic approach to the issue across the whole supply chain from seed to consumer, is key to tackling the issue in the global denim industry, according to apparel giant PVH Corp, owner of the Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein brands.

Speaking on a webinar for the Kingpins24 virtual denim sourcing event last week, Nicolas Prophte, vice president for PVH Corp’s Global Denim Center of Excellence, said the main challenge the denim industry is up against is a lack of alignment.

“There are too many certifications, there is too much guidance. But at the end of the day, there is a cacophony of communication in our industry but also [to] the consumer. We need to align – what does sustainability mean in a holistic vision, a holistic approach?

“We should scan all our processes from the fibre and cotton seeds, for example, to consumer behaviour, and really approach this in a holistic way. This is the most important [challenge]: align the industry. For brands, [the challenge] is to have fair communication, but true communication – avoid miscommunication and avoid the fake claims or the confusing messages to the consumer.”

Prophte says the industry can work together to avoid greenwashing and fake news, utilising technology at its disposal.

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“We should work first in our industry to align where we have to improve because we have some technology, we have some solutions already, and we should probably focus there, we should share. For the denim industry, the best practice would be to be more positive because the message outside is so confusing at a consumer level, but even between the industry we should align.

“For the consumer it’s even more chaotic, it’s even more confusing, because each brand has its own way of communicating. Each brand doesn’t have the same expert level in denim also, so sometimes they adopt the message too quickly, without checking the real data or topics, so that’s why the mixed messages are difficult to understand.”

Prophte believes collaboration is key to unlocking the confusion.

“We have a lot of goodwill, good people, and intention. We need a chief orchestra to bring all the instruments together. Of course, we are in competition but for once, for this type of topic – sustainable practice – we should align and put all the rules together and really engrave “this should be our top ten priorities, this should be the challenges in our industry and we should tackle it in the same way, at the same time, and with the same measuring tools, and be aligned”.

He continues: “The alignment of the industry is the first step and to use your foundation as a connecting platform and as a stage. We talk a lot, but now it’s time for action. Time is already ticking. We already lost too much time.”