Spotlight: Sarah Ahmed of DL1961/Warp + Weft
We love talking to women who go against the grain and achieve success by sticking to their gut. Sarah Ahmed is such a woman.
Sarah is the creative powerhouse behind DL1961, a global premium denim brand stocked at Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, and Harvey Nichols, among others. After joining her family’s denim business straight out of an undergraduate degree at Parsons in 2011 , she helped spearhead the company’s exponential growth by developing a brand identity based on her innate knowledge of what a girl truly wants in life: confidence, ease, and effortless chic. (And a great pair of jeans!)
Sarah always knew making a dent in the exclusive premium denim market was simply a means to an end. She wanted to create something where everyone, whatever shape, size, or budget, felt like a rock star in his or her skin. This longing led her to launch Warp + Weft, a brand that makes the world’s most inclusive jeans without compromising fit, quality, or variety, for under $100.
A few weeks after the launch of Warp + Weft, we got the chance to chat with Sarah about how her aspirations came to fruition. What follows is a story about how one woman followed her passion to make the world just a little bit better.
Talk to us about how you began your journey as a denim queen!
Denim runs in my blood! I’ve grown up watching my family create products with it from our production mills in Pakistan. I believe it’s the most utilitarian thing in the world: Everyone wears it. The idea of combining that opportunity with my technology background as a UX designer was very intriguing to me.
How did your technology and user experience background shape your approach to denim?
Customer experience was always our first priority. When you put on a pair of our jeans, you feel that. I truly believe in our motto: We want to make the one thing closest to your skin work for you, as opposed to you working for it. We want to avoid the torture of trying to break in a pair of too-tight jeans.
When I started DL1961 and began to understand the premium space and what the customer actually wants, the opportunity and failings of the fashion industry became apparent.
What were these opportunities and failings?
There was a prevailing idea that people should fit into something just because their favorite celebrity was wearing it. It all made me very uncomfortable. Something as utilitarian as denim should be accessible for all.
How did you address this issue?
Since we are vertically integrated, we control every part of production process from spinning of yarn to finished product. This allows us to be very efficient - for example, our denim uses a fraction of water used in the production of regular denim. We can adapt very quickly with minimal environmental impact.
The fact that we’re able to move so fast really paved the way for Warp + Weft to be born out of this knowledge of the market. The idea that denim needs to be democratized was key.
Tell us more about Warp + Weft and the principles behind it.
First, it’s a brand based on inclusivity and a fair price: everything is under $100. It’s really for everyone, including men, women, petites, and plus sizes. 67% of women in this country are over a size 14 and under 20% of the entire retail market is catered to them. I find this mind-boggling because there are few things more empowering than feeling good in what you wearing. Why should anyone be excluded from that?
My personal journey has been so much about navigating my own insecurities. Clothes are like our armor against the world. We want you to feel good, look good, and empower you in your most vulnerable moments. That’s exactly why we started Warp + Weft!
Why do you think denim has that power (to empower)?
I think in this day and age, more and more people are wearing denim. It’s the new power dressing. They wear it to work, they wear it out, they wear it to relax. It’s a fabric with the power to hold you in, to make you feel comfortable, and to make you feel fashionable at the same time. It really is incredible. I’ve always associated denim with being the one garment in your closet you can wear in any situation.
You can really express your personality since it’s like a blank canvas - whatever your shape or size, everyone is welcome and everyone can have the same experience. Denim crosses boundaries.
What were some of the biggest challenges you experienced along the way?
Since we’re entering a time where body positivity is such a strong theme in our cultural narrative, Warp + Weft was extremely well received from the get-go.
However, our struggle has always been more about consistently delivering a better brand experience and product.
And how do you do that?
One thing we really stress is responding to every single inbound response we get. Since we launched, we’ve gotten hundreds of emails - everything from suggestions on how to change the product to expressions of gratitude.
Not only do we answer every email, we make sure it gets routed to a member of the team who can actually do something about it. We want to make you feel like you’re included in the process. For example, if someone wanted to change how a pair of jeans fit, then we would bring the designer in to make that change and send the final product to the customer.
Inclusivity and community is such huge (and integral) part of our brand philosophy.
Talk to us a little bit about your community. (It’s such a massive part of Bumble as well!)
We want to create a denim community, first and foremost, where denim is not just an item of clothing that you buy. We want it to be something that helps and empowers you.
People’s consumer habits are shifting. We’re spending our hard-earned cash on life, trips, travel, and experiences. That’s less and less on clothes. We want to support you create the life you really want, so you can just throw on a pair of jeans and go explore. Take over the world.
How did your personal experience shape this philosophy?
Every woman deals with her body changing. I’ve gone through many life and body changes, and I’ve always felt a consistent need to feel comfortable in my own skin. When you go through turbulent times, you don’t want insecurity about your body to stop you from experiencing the one beautiful life you have.
Even on your worst day, if you can put on a pair of jeans that make you feel and look just a little better, then we’ve reached our goal.
We don’t approach denim as a trend; we approach it as something that truly adds value to your life, to hold you in during your toughest moments, and to empower you to be your most confident self in the world.
Want to learn more about Warp + Weft? Check out their website!