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Denim City Academy: teaching insiders about denim

By FashionUnited



The demand for knowledge about denim is growing and Denim City Academy in Amsterdam has therefore extended its range of available courses. Further to a three-year course, a number of individual courses and training-sessions were added to the curriculum, ranging from a one-day training programme to a series consisting of several days. FashionUnited spoke with general manager Harm Magis about the developments.

Updated curriculum

”The creation of Denim City Academy was based on demand,” Magis explained. “The Jean School was launched over three years ago, and we received requests for courses geared toward industry insiders: from developers and buyers to sources and sales staff. It is for these people that we have developed a number of different courses.”

”We started by introducing two denim courses. First, there is the one-day ‘Denim 101’ course; this is an introduction to denim, where all the basics are dealt with, from cotton to production, weaving, history, trends and the production process. We also offer the ‘Making Better Choices’ course, which consists of four afternoons or six evenings, and is geared toward developers and designers. This course delves deeper into the course material, particularly into the production of denim. Further to this we have workshops and three basic wash training sessions of one, two or five days in the BlueLab. This is where theory takes a back seat, and you learn more about washes and finishes.”

You just started the Jeans School International Course. How is that going?

”We started this one-year course at the end of August and it’s going very well. It’s an intensive course for college students. We’ve admitted about 12 students, including people from Pakistan and the United States, but also from the Netherlands. It’s international character is great.”

You’ve also introduced Tailor Made courses. What does that entail?

”We developed a programme with 10 modules. With these modules as a starting point, we can put together a specific programme for a company or group. In this way we tailor the training to the wishes and needs of that particular company. One group may want to know more about washes, whereas another may want to learn about the components of a pair of jeans or the possibilities in terms of sustainability. We developed a training specifically geared towards buyers, teaching them which questions to ask suppliers, weavers, factories and launderers. We are also developing a denim programme for a retail organisation; we incorporate their brand-specific knowledge into our training sessions.”

A number of denim labels also have their own training programme, such as Scotch & Soda with its Scotch Academy. How is that different from Denim City Academy?

”It’s true that a number of denim labels have their own programme, but those are geared specifically to the brand. We offer a broader spectrum and more in-depth courses. We cater to a bigger market and want to help people grow and develop. To that end, we’ve recruited people from different brands with extensive market experience. Our people come from various companies and parts of the denim industry; from chemicals companies, weavers and spinners. It’s expensive for brands to offer the types of courses we offer here. If denim brands choose to outsource to us, it can save them money.”

Who does Denim City work with?

”Our head trainer is Maarten Wentholt, who worked for G-Star RAW for years and has over thirty years’ experience in the denim industry. He was also involved in the development of the Jeans School programme. We also work together with various weavers, including Canadiani Denim and Tejidos Royo, and we receive input from denim brands such as Levi’s G-Star RAW and Tommy Hilfiger.”

You address the needs of the denim market. What is its biggest need at the moment?

”Knowledge about denim is severely lacking. Many people know very little about denim, such as how it is made, where it is made and what its possibilities are. Even buyers at large retailers lack certain knowledge; think of buyers at department stores who first worked for the toy department and suddenly made the switch to denim. These people have a lot to learn and we can facilitate the process. We teach them the denim jargon, which is essential to be able to work together with weavers, launderers and factories. Think of the various parts of the pattern, the different stitching and washes. There are so many different washes; a whole hours-long process takes place before a pair of jeans hits the stores. Visitors to Denim City are always amazed when they see that we have washing machines with actual stones in them; they have no idea that this is actually how things are done.”

What will be the denim industry’s focus for the coming years, and what role will Denim City play in that?

”Sustainability is the main focus. People are talking about it a lot, the fire has been lit, and companies are now starting to take action. Denim City has also been focusing on sustainability by decreasing the amount of water used in denim production. During the last edition of Kingpins we also had a conference with speakers about water consumption. This is something that can no longer be ignored and we have to take action. How can we produce denim more sustainably, and how do we leave a better footprint for the next generation? The opportunities are already there, but their use and deployment must be improved.”

Where do you see the curriculum in two years’ time?

”In two years I would like to be able to offer a total package of courses in which we lead the charge in sustainability. You should be able to find out everything you could possibly want to know about denim, in a form of a complete course or a training, from us.

Further to the extension of its curriculum, Denim City is also opening its first ever store in the Hallen in Amsterdam this week and will introduce a special limited edition jeans in celebration of the 2016 edition of the Amsterdam Dance Event this coming weekend. The store will be a place where brands such as Levi’s, Wrangler, Scotch & Soda, Endrime, Blackhorse Lane and Benzak will be able ‘to tell their story’, with services geared towards a complete denim experience.

During the month of October, which sees Denim trade fair Kingpins and the Global Denim Awards taking place, FashionUnited focuses on Denim. For all our articles on Denim, click here.

Images: Denim City Academy