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Why the Future of Denim Production is Regenerative

The future of fashion is sustainable—or is it?

According to Michael Braungart and William McDonough, the authors of Cradle To Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, sustainability can’t be the business of “doing less bad.” The only thing that truly matters is that we have a positive impact in the end.

Enter the emerging world of regenerative practices. Textile Exchange defines regenerative as “causing something to heal or become active again after it has been damaged or inactive.”

A regenerative approach, thus far, has been mostly considered in the context of agriculture. It is represented by a series of practices that aim to revitalize biological processes and enable ecosystems to self-regulate with the need for only minimal human intervention. It is quickly gaining popularity, having proven to provide a long list of benefits such as carbon sequestration—the creation of healthy soils that are more resistant to erosion—an increase in crop yields and financial benefits to farmers, to name a few. Think about what this could mean for the world’s most popular natural fiber—cotton—and the millions of farmers who cultivate it across the globe.

Candiani, for example, believes in the promises of regenerative agriculture to grow crops, such as cotton. In fact, we think it’s the only way forward. But we also believe that the benefits of regenerative approaches shouldn’t end at the cotton field. Our vision for the future is one where industrial processes and products are regenerative as well.

When thinking about denim production, a regenerative approach is deeply rooted in systems thinking and circular principles—the elimination of waste and toxic inputs and closed-loop processes. But going a step further, regenerative industrial processes would also offer a positive impact (in other words, giving something beneficial back).

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One glaring opportunity to realize this comes from the waste and sludge associated with the dyeing and finishing processes. When inputs originate from bio-based and non-toxic materials, once treated correctly, they can become a rich compound of macro- and micro-nutrients that can later go on to be applied to fields as a bio-fertilizer.

Similarly, at the product level, the goal is to manufacture a pair of jeans that, after they live a long and happy life, having cycled through countless renditions of wear and repair, are then returned to the biological cycle—not as an inert substance but as a nutrient-rich soil amendment. When applied to fields of cotton, hemp or natural indigo, this completes the loop and starts the denim-making cycle again.

COREVA™ Technology, developed by Candiani, is the world’s first biodegradable stretch denim. This is a prime example of a regenerative approach in practice. However, it represents only the first step in our greater vision for the future of denim production and the fashion industry as a whole.

So, can we say that the future of fashion is sustainable? Yes, it is. But it would be more accurate to say that it is regenerative. One where at every step in the supply chain, byproducts become benefits to the greater system, leaving it better than it was before.

Learn more about Candiani and its recent reboot in this video that debuted at the Kingpins24 digital event on April 22-23.