The owner of Candiani Denim is putting his own spin on retail.
Known for taking risks and making investments in new sustainable technology, Candiani Denim has set the bar for sustainable fabrics. And along the way, the heritage denim mill has stepped out from behind the scenes to become an ingredient brand that consumers associate with quality.
In April, owner Alberto Candiani opened the first Candiani Denim store in Milan, where consumers can shop jean styles by some of the mill’s top brand partners, including Ace Rivington, Atelier & Repairs, Denham, Dondup and an upcycled collaboration with Blue of a Kind. There, shoppers get a taste of premium Italian denim and an interactive view of how their jeans came to be.
Why are you drawn to denim?
I was born into denim—literally. The house where I was raised is located inside the mill—it’s a very Italian thing to live and work in the same place. I spent my whole childhood playing around the mill which, in some ways, is still a kind of playground in my eyes. As I grew, I discovered the beauty of what we were making at the mill: denim. The blue fabric stuck to me and the interest kept growing until I officially joined the company while studying at college. It's always been somehow imprinted in my DNA.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome as a retailer?
The main challenge is to explain Candiani as a denim brand—not a jeans brand—because at the store, we only sell our top customers and co-branded projects. We do this through storytelling, which has a massive role in our store. We describe each collaboration with the brands we carry and reveal our history as well as our sustainable innovations through imagery and videos. Our main focus is explaining what premium denim is, and showing how we can define Candiani Denim as the true premium denim.
We also take the time to describe Candiani itself, as a textile company located just outside the city. Which brings me to my next challenge: convincing the customers that denim is an Italian textile—more than being American or Japanese—starting with the origins of the denim fabric itself, the blue jeans “blue de genes,” of Genova, and the Italian workwear heritage.
What do you wish you would see more of from denim brands?
Innovation and attention to detail. Brands have to make a huge effort to differentiate their jeans from the others. Fabric research, attention to detail, superior aesthetic, contents and performance are the elements needed to make a jean stand out from the rest. It's complicated, but research and development is the most fun part of a brand’s job.
Why do you think your customers return?
Customers return because Candiani Denim is a specialty store that offers exclusivity. In fact, most of our brands develop unique pieces for the Candiani store only. Our customers can’t wait to come back and look at the novelties and the latest arrivals, but they also love to find out more about denim. The impression I got through my retail experience so far is that the average denim store doesn’t know much about denim, and what’s worse is, these stores don’t have enough passion to communicate to the end consumer what an amazing fabric it is. At Candiani, this is much different, because for us it’s effortless as we are the ones making the actual fabric and we transfer that passion all the way down to the retail experience.
What’s exciting you about denim in 2019?
Everything. Denim is changing and change is always exciting, even when it concerns such an iconic item. Denim is changing its contents and compositions more than its aesthetics. This is because sustainable innovation is finally turning denim into a much better product, but the end consumer has to have the tools to differentiate between what really is sustainable innovation and what is just greenwashing.