Global Denim Awards takes things to another level

Words Oisin Fogarty Graveson  Photography Team Peter Stigter  


Behind every pair of jeans, every denim jacket, every shade of stone-washed blue, there is a history. It goes beyond vintage, and reaches right back to the cotton plant it all came from. There is a history. But there is also a future. Global Denim Awards, made possible by e3 cotton, hits Amsterdam for the third time, and this edition is taking things to another level. Live tonight…

For those who don’t know what Global Denim Awards is: 11 emerging designers are coupled with 11 of the most progressive denim mills worldwide. Progressive meaning trailblazers both in terms of sustainable production and in terms of technology (often those 2 have a relationship).

The designers visit the mill and work right on the spot on a capsule collection of 5 outfits. The concept was cooked up by Mariette Hoitink and her company HTNK (this recruiter which seems to create innovative projects every year did it again) and Andrew Olah, who runs denim tradeshow Kingpins and can be considered the insider’s insider of denim. The event is made possible by the most transparent cotton supplier in the world, e3 cotton.


Why is it exciting (at least when you’ve got an interest in denim)? First of all, designers hardly ever work directly with mills. Yet it’s at the mills and hardware suppliers that most R&D into new fabrics, new washes, new treatments and new ways to produce more responsibly are being done. In many cases brands have buying departments who buy fabrics, after which designers start to design based on a brief. Designers never have direct and unlimited access to the best a mill can offer. And that’s a lot. As jury member Alex Jaspers says, “sometimes these mills are almost NASA-like in their technical abilities”.

“Sometimes these mills are almost NASA-like in their technical abilities”

The result is a real sneak peak into the future of denim design. And that’s what the jury and press got yesterday. Tonight the garments are shown for the first time on models, at the catwalk show.  

The jury of four international denim experts selects the best designer, who gets a prize of 10,000€ and will being exhibited at the Kingpins Shows in New York City and Hong Kong, before returning to the Netherlands for Amsterdam Denim Days 2017. There’s also a Best Fabric winner, call it the Golden Globe for mills.

Global Denim Awards 2015

Most often the winner of a contest like this is known before the show starts. We know that’s not the case this time. We also know that the jury was in a state of happy agony, since the level of the designs is so high and since almost each designer could be a winner in a different category. Best Concept? No prize for that one. Most interesting silhouettes? No prize for that one. There will only be one winner…

Global Denim Awards is also special since it truly brings this denim world together for the first time in a joint project with a clear focus: Innovation in design of clothing as well as in design of (more sustainable) production.

In a time when there’s so much to do about the environment and labour situations in fashion (child labour in certain Turkish mills being the news of today), it’s uplifting to see how responsible business owners and a selection of the best fashion designers of tomorrow are together creating a future in fashion production which is brighter than the one of yesterday. It’s not abstract.

It started with an idea. A conversation followed by collaborations. And it has become an ongoing conversation and collaboration for many of the participants. This year takes things a level further.

Our personal favorites? We actually had quite a few. Be your own expert and follow the show tonight via a live stream, which is available for those who follow the GDA facebook here.