Alberto Candiani wants to see the entire denim market embrace sustainability—and not just as a marketing ploy.
Alberto Candiani’s connection to denim stretches further back than he can remember. He was literally born into the business his great grandfather established 80 years ago. “My parents’ house is in the company compound,” he explained.
Growing up, he spent his summers as an unofficial intern, bouncing around the Candiani mill helping out with dying, weaving and finishing. Back then it felt like punishment, though he soon came to love it.
Now as owner, Candiani makes the rounds to each division of the company every day, though he confesses that R&D is his favorite (adding the daily ritual of lunch and arguing with his dad also tops the list). “The creative part is the most fun and relevant part. We survive because of innovation,” he said, adding that his focus is on sustainability. “We’re working on denim 2.0, which is made in a very different way without compromising the aesthetic quality and performance.”
Candiani wants to see the entire denim market embrace sustainability—and not just as a marketing ploy. “To make it tangible it takes investment, science and technology,” he said. “Nowadays, too many mills and brands, they hide behind the green leaf and you have to investigate and look at your suppliers.”
The necessary changes will come, he said, if denim can ever get the respect it deserves. “Denim doesn’t get the same relevance as other textiles like silk or wool. It’s more popular but it’s taken too much for granted,” he said. “Not many things last as long as denim if you look at society and fashion. It’s an everyday thing that makes our universal society uniform and that’s impressive.”
As for the mill, it’s the last of its type and scale in Europe, and that’s not lost on Candiani. “If you look at the economic conditions, to make what we make where we make it is complicated,” he said. “I’m proud to do what I do where I do it, and I’m not trying to relocate to a cheaper place. I just want to do it where we’re from and that really matters.”
What is your first denim memory?
“My first memory was going to a trade show at 11 or 12 and seeing my father touching denim [and the way he was] enjoying himself. It was kind of weird.”
What is your favorite pair of jeans?
“I'm in love with one of the first samples I made myself. They’re sort of ugly but they’re a five pocket and a little baggy. Replay was big in that day so we made it like that a little baggy. It was from the first organic cotton denim we made and it was selvedge and it was green and I thought it was the brightest idea ever.”