Salli Deighton

Denim Consultant

Salli has designed for companies such as Karen Millen,Wrangler and Lee, Marks and Spencer and Debenhams are just to make a few names. There’s nothing she doesn’t know about Denim, hense everyone in the fashion industry refer to her as ‘Salli Denim’.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Salli to help you all gain an insight in to the Denim industry through her eyes and to share her thoughts and inspiration.

Learn the equipment your factories use... When you draw a line you should think how will that be sewn and what will it look like after it’s been washed.

— Salli Deighton

When & how did you get into the industry?
A long time ago!!!… When I was at college in the late 80s I did a project for a sportswear brand. They offered me a job so I left college with no qualification s and started to work and travel at 19. I never looked back. I moved to Wrangler jeans in 89 and my world of denim began. We had a plant in Falkirk in those days run by an obstinate manager who was adamant no one should be designing jeans until they knew how to make them. We spent an intense week learning to make the jeans. It was one of the best lessons I ever learned.

What’s the average day like for a denim specialist?
I spend a lot of time talking to mills all over the world sourcing and developing new fabric innovations. Without the right cloth we can’t do anything. I work with the chemical suppliers and the laundry equipment makers to make sure we brief and develop good quality washes. Much of my time is spent working with the laundry and making comments on all aspects of the wash. Obviously we make detailed tech packs especially regarding seam construction as the seams can enhance the wash effect and I also work on detailed shaping for the best fit.
Denim is hard to develop on paper though and all the best work is done when trialing new fabrics and wash techniques. Denim is all about the detail.

It’s the 3 F’s… fit fabric and finish. Sometimes there’s a 4th F but that’s usually out of frustration!!!!

How do you start a new seasonal collection?
Denim is less seasonal as we aim to flow styles for apps 18 months. Ideally a customer wants to find a great fit and stick with it for a while.I start by selecting new fabrics, making them in a basic block and wash trialing the finishes we feel are new and interesting. When the trials are done we select, comment and decide the fit and styling details. We always start 3 months ahead of the main range developments to allow for this. The denim fabric shows are 5 months ahead of PV to allow us all to work this way.We talk to each other a lot.
The denim industry is good at sharing ideas so I have a network of friends and producers and we regularly ‘Geek up’. Inspiration is from everywhere…the fibre producers, the mills, the chemical suppliers and of course Vintage, Instagram etc. Some of the best washes I have produced have been accidents!! I collect old pieces and I find the charity shops are a great source! As I started in the late 80s I have many originals and I keep finding our work in the 90s in Rokit, Beyond Retro etc!! Sustainability in denim has been driving our industry at the moment and the new ways of producing denim are driving new trends.

Why are trips to go and see your suppliers important?
Omg- if I’m not in the Laundry I get terribly frustrated!! You need to be in the laundries and factories to experiment and make samples work. It’s teamwork when you have a good factory you can do great things.  As taste levels vary around the world it’s important to be clear and develop what’s commercial for your market. I always share and learn on trips and that’s so important so we all achieve.

Before I develop any denim with a new factory I always check the laundry so I know exactly what equipment they have and their capabilities. This way I don’t ask for the impossible. It’s so important we support the factory not force them to do things they are not comfortable making.

What are your top 3 essential skills and techniques any aspiring denim designer should be aware of?
I have 4….
– Learn the equipment your factories use. I hate to see design packs with impossible or unnecessary seams which haven’t been considered. When you draw a line you should think how will that be sewn and what will it look like after it’s been washed

– Listen to your mills and  factories and learn. They know more about making garments than you and you need to learn to get your sample executed in the right way.

– Know your fabrics and test! A light indigo base fabric will never give you a dark wash so select the right fabric to achieve the end result. Don’t be blinded by the mills showing you lovely wash legs.. ask to see the base shade and look at the character closely to make sure it will deliver the look you want. Visit a mill if you can. You would always be welcome.

– Believe in your vision and fight to make it happen but take everyone on the journey with you.

Believe in your vision and fight to make it happen but take everyone on the journey with you

— Salli Deighton

How do you see global warming and sustainable fashion affecting the denim industry?
In our industry we are the messiest producers  and I’ve spent the last 5 years working on projects to use less water, energy and reduce emissions. I’m so proud of the new generation factories which have evolved in Asia.

If you want to learn more visit…
… and to see how the industry has responded to the problems visit…

What trends do you see appearing in the next 12 months?
Sustainable is the drive for our industry and with laser we can do many cool things.
–  In terms of fit… wider legs and loose.
– wash – Authentic vintage looks but with hidden modern technology!

Are there any final words of advice you can give the designers trying to break into the industry?

If you don’t know… ASK and never stop learning. Our industry keeps evolving and is never boring.
Get on a machine and in a laundry!! An artist would know his paint and how to apply it and denim is like this!  You’re not putting a picture on a computer you’re creating a piece of clothing someone wants to feel fabulous in.

…and love what you do.. passionate people  create beautiful things …if you don’t love it, do something else!!