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Candiani Denim Honors Its Past by Securing a Sustainable Future

Candiani Denim’s transformation from a weaving facility founded in 1938, into the multi-faceted textile operation it is today has been the direct result of the Candiani family’s shared passion for denim, innovation and sustainability.

The family-run mill, located in the Ticino Park nature reserve outside of Milan, honors its 80 years of denim know-how and heritage with sustainable technologies and fabrics that push the industry’s boundaries. Through its development of chemical- and water-reducing technology, Indigo Juice, and its use of Kitotex, a technology that uses a natural polymer that saves water, chemicals and energy, Candiani has set the bar high for innovation—both for itself and for the industry.

Up next for the company? Biodegradable denim.

As the mill celebrates its 80th anniversary, global manager Alberto Candiani, the great-grandson of founder Luigi Candiani, reflects on what has made the family’s mill into a globally recognized name for quality denim, and dishes on how the mill is transforming the next generation of jeans.

Rivet: From the way brands design, to the way consumers shop—everything is changing. How has the role of a denim mill changed?

Alberto Candiani: We used to make denim fabrics. That was it and that is obviously still our main focus, but that’s no longer enough. We need to constantly come up with new fabrics and create wash instructions for their use. We do this with the help of our design centers in Milan and L.A. With these centers, we educate our clients about how to optimize the fabric treatments according to their sustainable contents and how to process them efficiently.

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In addition, we feel the need to communicate the story behind Candiani and our fabrics, so we supply our clients with all of our marketing literature in order to educate and hopefully provide answers to the questions that they didn’t know should be asked. This kind of R&D, service, marketing and educational approach represents the modernity of a denim mill on a global scale and fills up the void left from the wild outsourcing mentality which has prevailed in the past 25 years.

Rivet: Four generations have worked at the mill. What mark will the current generation leave?

AC: The current generation will make a new denim, a Denim 2.0. Quite honestly, denim as we know it should be gone by now. It is a filthy mess and just think—it’s the most worn item in the world…it’s a real disaster.

Candiani has always focused on clean production, but it’s now time to make a whole new fabric with biodegradable and even compostable features without compromising aesthetics and performance. In celebration of our anniversary, we will be using one of these fabrics, our newest development called Re-Gen denim, to create our 80th Anniversary Collection. In addition to using Kitotex and our Indigo Juice dyeing technology to make this fabric, Re-Gen is composed of 50 percent Refibra fibers and 50 percent recycled cotton in both the warp and the weft, which means there is no fresh, raw cotton woven into this “no cotton” denim.

We are also launching a new fabric family called INK, which stands for indigo, nitrogen and Kitotex—all biodegradable materials. This is a new generation of denim that is 100 percent landfill-free with zero chemical residuals and it’s biodegradable.

As a kid, while watching “Star Trek,” I never saw a pair of jeans on the Enterprise. I don’t want to envision a futuristic world where humans, humanoids and aliens wear basically Lululemon.

Rivet: Candiani is a heritage name, but also a leader in innovation. How do you define “heritage denim” these days?

AC: At Candiani, heritage and innovation go hand in hand. We are 80 years old, but we don’t look at the past the way we look at the future. The past is our history, our experience, our work. The future is innovation, and with no innovation there is no future. Even more importantly nowadays, there is no future for the planet if we do not immediately apply sustainable innovations to what we do. Heritage denim is a nostalgic definition of whatever denim was 150 years ago—an amazing piece of workwear for the U.S. miners, a beautiful coat for the army in the port of Genova, a strong blue fabric with plenty of natural imperfections. We still make real heritage denim with our true ring character, made in the most authentic way, without any artificial additions. We still make amazing 15oz. selvedge qualities, 100 percent cotton, 100 percent indigo. This is part of us, of who we are, the real challenge is to preserve the same beauty while “killing” all of the nasty stuff that the word “heritage” is hiding behind its romance.

Rivet: What keeps you excited about the business of denim?

AC: Innovation, revolution, change. These factors are a daily challenge and my favorite part of this job is R&D and fabric engineering. I am positive Candiani can seriously change the whole industry and that’s how I wake up every morning, thinking I can do something relevant for the industry, the consumer and the planet.

Rivet: What do you want Candiani’s legacy to be?

AC: Visionary. I want the vision to become real though, and we need a lot of science, research, investments and passion to make this happen.

Rivet: If you had to look into your crystal ball, how do you envision the industry in the next
10 years?

AC: The problem is that in today’s world, they manufacture very cheap crystal balls and they don’t work as well as they once did. In my crystal ball, I saw a projection of myself wearing a pair of Candiani denim on the Enterprise. I saw some bad companies going to other planets looking for cheaper production with the funny excuse of “educating the aliens.” I saw bad guys not caring about what they consume, eat, wear and throw away. But I also saw conscious consumers who care because they believe that less is more if less is also better. I saw a few good companies making the right choice for planet Earth, so hopefully we don’t have to leave it for the Enterprise.