We are a society evolving. Consumer awareness is growing. Young and old, we seek information on what we eat, drink, see and wear. With recent social-media storms pointing fingers at fashion brands that still manufacture under inhumane labour conditions, ignoring government agreements to improve workspaces and exploiting children, we see a shiny little glimmer of hope on the horizon:AKKADENIM, a brand created to support children’s charities.
Whilst visiting Jacket Required in London, I arranged to meet up with Miles Chinn, Chief Vision Officer of AKKA and a reputable name within the denim and fashion industry.
Now, supporting charities is not something new to do for a brand. However, creating a brand solely to support and focus on specific charities such as DARA Children’s trust Cambodia, is quite rare.
What made you decide to operate from this specific point of view?
“It’s future philanthropy. We have the next generation of consumers walking the planet, those that will grow up with ASOS, Zalando, fast-fashion markets. They will become a new target market, because eventually they will get tired of H&M or Primark. They want a higher level of products at a better price. They understand quality, they want quality, but at a better price level.”
Miles is convinced that the next generation will seek intensively for transparency in production and demand quality. The negative press on the mass-markets via social media is what he calls “the world waking up, the future of consumerism.”
Miles: “We, the current and previous generations, have made a mess, a massive mess. We’ve drained all the great aspects of this world. Kids nowadays aren’t stupid. They want more, they want to help the world. And AKKA is addressing this, we want this next generation to solve the world problems!”
The AKKADENIM denim masters
Now, one cannot go about denim and talk top quality without actually showing how it is made and by whom. Introducing Hill Law, one of the most respected names in the industry and the denim powerhouse behind many big name brands such as Evisu, Yamane Deluxe and the go to guy for all denim development. Being business partners for 17 years now, Miles and Hill have collected a few of the biggest names in denim to work on AKKA, including RMC’s Martin Ksohoh and the legendary Sakamoto family from Hiroshima, Japan.
Miles: “The sole objective for these denim masters, known as One of One, is to create the world’s best denim and show the consumers how it can be done. They are a small and exclusive community of six denim masters in Okayama and have a special and unique partnership with the Sakamoto family, using the finest indigo and the oldest looms in Japan that are near 100 years old.”
AKKADENIM’s main goal is to offer high quality denim, made by masters, for an affordable price. Slashing margins and cutting out many unnecessary channels, they aim for volume to generate more turnover to support the children’s charity.
One of One denim masters tag
Sakamoto family and Martin Ksohoh (2nd row, left)
AKKA vs. the big corporates
It’s no secret that the manufacturing world is filled with big brands that exploit workmen and, unfortunately, children. How do these brands look at AKKA?
Miles: “We were about nine weeks into the launch of AKKA, summer 2014, when ASOS sent a team of acquisition experts to buy AKKA. They wanted our knowledge. Same with Levi’s, they called us and wanted to discuss “how are you doing this for $ 95?” They are not aware that there is a denim tsunami coming and it’s called AKKA. We are built for change. It’s a positive system, we want to reach out and get 24-36 brands to start supporting charities for children’s benefit. The more that we see this in the future; the more we can feed in the future. I can guarantee you because of AKKA: within twelve months we will see big brands release sub-collections made for charities. For us, competition is a gift and not a challenge. It’s all about the kids.”
Unfortunately, we live in a world where there is a “money owns everything” structure and said to say, in the world of charities this is also happening. When AKKA started, Miles quickly learned how the world of charity is set-up and run: “I contacted about 100 charities via social media, speaking to most of them. Shocking to me was the fact that a very high percentage of donations go to administration purposes. The money doesn’t get there where it is needed; it goes to the director’s salaries!”
“I was horrified to learn that some directors from well known charity foundations take $ 250,000 or more on salary.”
It didn’t take long for Miles to find out that there is a subgroup among charities, the so-called grassroots charities that make every dollar count and are fully non-profit.
“Contradictory to TV-marketing, we decided to search intensively in very poor areas for individuals that are making a difference in their direct community. This made us decide to only work with grassroots, individuals that are 100% non-profit, such asDARA Children’s Trust and Sahasra Deepika Foundation, which we are proudly working closely with now. The public doesn’t realize how shady some charities work and how the good ones get neglected. AKKA is striving for clarification and change on this.”
One of the ways to create more awareness on grassroots and carrying out the name of AKKA on a global scale, is the recent development AKKA is making in the Chinese fashion retail industry.
Can you explain us what your aim is with a retail branch in and from China?
“I always believed in my vision and have been developing China since 1997, bringing Western luxury brands into the Chinese market. Back then, we were pioneers and most Western CEO’s said I was crazy. But I knew China was going to be one of the largest luxury markets in the world. Then, around 2005, they started calling me back and admitting they under estimated China and me. Which was cool by me, but I just had to say that they were too late and that I was too busy.”
Whilst around that time most Western brands were slowly going into China, Miles decided to create a global brand with its roots in China to support charities. Aiming to bring a Chinese brand into the Western market that is of a higher quality and with a better price than most products.
“Now, 2015, after 17 years I am leaving China with the power and knowledge of China. We are supporting charities, we have good contacts with the Chinese government and doing something unexpected for the European market. This is the new age of China: affordable, quality and for a good cause. AKKA loves China and we now are promoting China to the rest of the world.”
In which way do you feel or see the denim and denim retail moving in the next 10 years?
“There will be a consistent love for heritage, a consistent love on keeping artisans alive and a consistent love for quality. But, I feel we will see a change in speed of production and price. Mass-consumers will demand higher quality at a good price, they want denim masters to make it but retail it for $100. I also expect a growth in eco-fabrics, but the core being the speed of production to store and the pricing. However, I hope we will always remember heritage and keep artisans going. Not only consumers but also the big brands. If you can’t beat them, join them. The likes of H&M and Primark are destroying artisan industries. That’s why with AKKA we bring heritage, artisans, first world exclusive fabrics and the power of recognized Japanese denim masters for a retail price under $ 100. I feel it will be the future of denim.”
Sakamoto denim rolls for AKKADENIM
“Who is coming?”
Upon concluding our interview, I started to wonder why on earth Miles Chinn gave himself the job title Chief Vision Officer, a title you don’t see that often within any global industry.
“Around 2006, when our work was becoming a big success in China, I didn’t have a job title that would describe the work I do. So I created Chief Vision Officer, a rarity in the fashion industry around that time. So upon getting invited to Sony Japan, they asked, “who’s coming?” Well, Miles Chinn CVO.”
Being that in Asia it is common to have someone in the room with the same job title as you, Miles’s title caused problems, as most of them didn’t have a CVO back then.
“There was a gap in the system, basically there was no one with vision at global PLC companies. They started asking themselves if they had vision. Apparently they had none! I created the title as a response to global corporations weakness to not look to the future.”
And that future, that’s looking bright for AKKA and the next generations to come. Building a better future with denim, Miles will continue pursuing his goals together with Hill Law and the One of One team of denim masters, to one day make the world aware that we humans can do and can be better than what we’ve shown so far…
Miles Chinn (left) CVO AKKA, discussing with Hill Law CEO AKKA