The current Covid-19 situation infected us all, and forced us to act different than before. How is Pakistan’s largest vertically integrated denim company Soorty doing during these days? What are they doing different than before? And what can we expect from them the upcoming period?
A lot of questions, so time to have a chat with their Marketing & Communications Manager, Eda Dikmen. The outcome of the interview can be read here below. Thanks for your time Eda, and sharing all the ins and outs!
LJ: Who’re are you? And what is your role at Soorty?
ED: My name is Eda Dikmen and I work as the Marketing & Communications Manager of Soorty Enterprises for fabrics.
I’m responsible for implementing inbound marketing strategies, setting up the corporate tone of voice, telling stories through collections, innovations or launches as well as designing tailor made experiences and communication points for corporate initiatives.
LJ: How is your daily worklife infected by the current global situation?
ED: It is affected a lot – obviously the beginning was a great horror and shock, this is being a truly unprecedented time where so much has been lost but so much has been realized too. Digital transformation, adapting quickly & responding accordingly have been our ways to move forward.
Just as an example, pre-Covid19, I would have multiple international trips in a month whereas I have been staying home since March. With all the customer visits, exhibitions and events/gatherings we organize for our platform of transparent communication Future Possibilities postponed, we’re actively looking for digital substitutes for everything. We, as an international team with members around the world, catch up and connect even more than we used to – both to be there for one another & social support but also to brainstorm and disrupt and transform.
LJ: The current COVID-19 situation infected us all, and above all to act different than before. How is Soorty doing these days? What are you doing different than before? And can you highlight one specific main development which comes out of this new period?
ED: We are acting fast and learning as we proceed. Digitalization has been at key importance during this period of change. We have pioneered the industry with digital fashion by introducing the world’s first digital denim garment 2 years ago, when it was not a hot topic as it is today; so it hard to say this is something we were not doing before…but I can easily conclude we’ve adopted the idea in scale by introducing the Soorty Digital Denim Library following the lock downs. With the travel restrictions we started asking ourselves; how can we present our collections in this time? We wanted more than video calls or sending PDF’s with basic pictures, we wanted to deliver the entire experience of the fabric and the garment with a quality of pictures so high that you can zoom in until a point that gives you the sense of the construction, the hand feel and comfort from different angles and we wanted to offer this at ease. The Digital Denim Library is accessible with custom credentials for our customers, it is accessible in your house, in your office.. wherever you have the internet & your laptop and it enables you to go through our collections, trimmings and inspirations with multiple colors like fit, color, construction, material…so you can find exactly what you’re looking for to create your next collection. Nothing to waste, all designed to purpose.
Moving on we have launched SmartCare – Soorty’s commitment to conserve the environment and revolutionize the future of denim. The holistic innovation that works in 3 pillars of smart working (Respecting our planet by using its resources smartly via Smart Resourcing, Smart Processes and Smart Laundry) came together during this harsh experience thanks to the disruptive technologies we have been investing in the last couple of years. Bringing them all together to design holistic and conscious ways of vertical working, we have developed environmentally responsible systems reducing the use of water, chemicals and energy with a strong focus on the human element ensuring workers health and safety.
As a follow up of SmartCare, we’ve recently launched SmartCare+ – Soorty’s range of protective textiles, fabrics and garments engineered to provide protection, comfort and confidence we all need during these hard days. Working closely with different solution partners like HEIQ and Archroma from Switzerland and Jeanologia from Spain, we’re offering a range of antimicrobial and antibacterial clothing excelling performance in a perfect balance of protection and the comfort, an extra layer of protection that became a necessity in these hard days were experiencing.
These innovations came into realization by reading insights, defining needs, wants and their solutions quickly, by taking fast decisions and by team work and joining forces, by being humble enough to accept learning this journey while experiencing and by adapting to changes. In the meantime, we have also increased the amount and frequency of our philantrophy and social projects. Covid19 has shown the world that we are all in together when it comes to designing the future, or surviving big catastrophes – all countries, all ages, all education or income levels. Hard times are eased out only by holding hands and helping one another, by being supportive, by building on a collective future and sharing values. As consciousness is at the core of what we do, we already place CSR activities very importantly in Soorty, yet we have put extra emphasis on them in these harsh times – from awareness sessions to sharing rations to donations.
LJ: Is your approach also different to your partners (brands) these days? And, how’re you working with them nowadays?
ED: The entire supply chain, the industry is changing as a consequence of this unprecedented crisis – it is not just the brands but also suppliers, warehouses, retailers, producers…everyone. And every company has their own way of handling the change; while some decided to shift seasons, some decided to make use of leftovers, some decided to pause while some decided to proceed as fast as they can to offer innovative solutions that can actually fit the need. Some of the main changes we’ve adopted quite fast are virtual presentations & sampling, near shoring, speed to market, fewer inventories liability, innovative products, sustainable production & focus wellness products with our SmartCare+ solutions like antibacterial & antimicrobial finishes. We’re connecting with our customers via different digital tools quite often these days, and are working on tailor-made presentations to address their different needs.
LJ: Do you think you as a company are more creative than before? And can you highlight an example?
ED: Creativity and future proof thinking has always been a side of us we’re quite proud of – we often dream, design and develop thinking of tomorrow and this fuels our innovative side, so I cannot say we have been more creative than before, but we have in fact been creative and quick to adapt the changes as well as responding them. The infrastructures we have built in the past, the investments we have already made and our curious tomorrow-focused mindset enabled us to offer all those we did actually.
In addition, we also found socially creative ways to stay connected to one another in a more humane way. For example, during the first weeks we’ve started a campaign called Isolating To Reconnect where we’ve invited not just our team members but also our denim friends from different parts of the world to create and share music playlists with our followers coming from the idea that music, just like denim, is universal and is a wonderful tool to share feelings. We continued this with a series of interviews with our denim friends that openly and humanly shared how everyone coped with these hard times as well as suggestions on what to read, watch, listen to in our times we stayed at home. The latest one is our Inspirational Moodboards campaign – creatives from our different teams located in different countries are preparing mood boards focusing on different themes that can ease these hard times, like customization, urban sustainability, wellness, etc. and these are openly shared with whomever interested through Future Possibilities – our communication platform. We aim to spark an emotion, a sense of inspiration with these projects.
LJ: What do you think will remain the same after the COVID-19 situation is globally under control?
ED: I think smart production of goods with purpose and delivering value will remain at the core, digitalization in fashion will only grow further and conscious consumption will shape our days forward.
We have all, finally, slowed down to see that so many of the things we are used to consuming so fast in our daily rush is actually the hard work of millions around the world when access to them was limited. We have all, finally, learnt to truly appreciate and not take for granted – the nature, the people, the goods we own. I’m sincerely hoping we’ve learnt a lesson from this hard experience and will reflect the idea of building a collective value to design a collaborative future. We have to continue to make more and better use of what is limited.
LJ: How’s the future look like through your eyes within the denim industry? Do you think consumers will act also different than before or is this an illusion?
ED: Different consumer segments are reacting differently as in all major shifts in consumer behavior – the early adopters are already asking for digital clothing they can dress their avatars with so they will not ruin the environment while being able to change their look and keeping up with the trends, but we also saw huge queues in front of stores at the very first week of normalization in many countries. However, when you spend some good time going through multiple sources, it is possible to realize that the consumer is at an awareness point that our high consumption habits have contributed to the climate emergency. And moving forward, they will continue to demand transparency, honesty, speed and being in the know how. I think the future looks more collective and collaborative and real than ever before. Maybe smaller in volume, but larger in value.
LJ: Can you give a sneak preview of what we can expect of Soorty upcoming season?
ED: Of course, I’d love that!
An innovation we’re very excited about is the one size fits all technology we’ve been working all. We see sustainability not only as a lifestyle but also as a radical responsibility and have been promoting the philosophy of Minus Zero Waste for a while now; developing new concepts inline with not only going zero waste but also making use of waste; designing new techniques and systems that reduce it while producing responsibly. Fitting efficiency becomes more critical than ever now as consumers hesitate going to brick and mortar shops and preferring online sales. While online is an amazing help, we should not neglect that – so many users buy with the “I can just return if it doesn’t fit / look / feel well” thought without considering where the returns end up. This is why we find it incredibly important to offer products that fit, and the one size fits all technology will provide a lot of savings as it basically is the intelligent and conscious way of using what is limited.
Being vertical and having control over every step of production from fiber to jeans gives us a strength in multiple points. Having our own spinning unit we’re able to experiment with and deliver new innovations – in function, in feeling, in comfort. Our super soft fabrics and loungewear collections have been a fruit of this. We have multiple options underneath – from cotton rich ones (100% cotton) to zero cotton blends that make use of environmentally conscious fibers produced in a closed loop systems or hollow fibers that bring a beautiful bulkiness and cushioning feeling light while retaining layers of air within to ensure an all year comfort as they will keep cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
Another point we’ve been investing a lot of energy in is performance fabrics of kinetic wear options with versatile performances. The multiple options designed to perform are rich in composition, providing unique properties like: absorbing body sweat, quick dry effects, air permeability, thermo regulation and wear comfort – basically performing in every kinetic way possible.
We will continue utilizing our vertical capabilities as our source of strength to produce with SmartCare; offering smart products designed for purpose while delivering added value, to respect our planet by using its resources smartly – using less, but making more use of what is limited to deliver more. We’re determined to be the world’s most responsible and innovative denim producer at scale.
LJ: What’s your best personal business experience so far in this situation?
ED: This has been a very hard period – we have lost so much in so little time. There were easier days and there were harder ones. What I’ve appreciated most was slowing down to realize the value in human connection. I’ve always felt that ours is more of a community than an industry, and this period has proven it right. I loved seeing how different layers of the value chain came together in clever and creative ways to support one another – socially, emotionally or economically. I sincerely hope this “competing & collaborating in doing good” spirit will continue in our days forward.
LJ: What will be the approach of Soorty after COVID-19? Will you doing the same as you’e doing right now?
ED: I think nothing will be the same after Covid19 : ) With everything changing so quickly, it is hard to make long term plans and foresee the future, we still need to do micro-planning, see how the different layers of the value chain are being affected and react accordingly. I feel now we, as the industry, hold a chance to design a future we would all love to have all together – honest, transparent, fair, responsible, smart… the future is being shaped by the actions we take today. As Soorty, I can say a strong focus on humane values & empathy as well as digitalization, smart production, regeneration and responsible manufacturing will continue to be our drivers post-Covid19.