Romeu Covolan co-founded what would become Canatiba Denim Industry in 1969, more than 50 years ago. Begun as a weaving company, Canatiba started our producing shirt fabrics and even upholstery. Covolan operated the mechanical looms and manual shuttles, while his brother Darci Covolan oversaw sales and market opportunities.
Aware of denim’s rising star—and the then limited size of the Brazilian denim industry—Covolan began adapting Canatiba’s machinery. By 1980, it had entered the denim market, putting the business on “a blue road from which it would never stray,” he said. From that moment on, two ideas became a part of the “Canatiba way of being,” the executive said: innovation and denim culture. “With each fiber, with each new technology available, there was the weaving that was not afraid to experiment, dare and innovate,” he added.
This spirit has led the business to pursue environmentally friendly practices “long before the word ‘sustainability’ became a mantra in the Brazilian industry,” Covolan said. Decades after entering the denim world, the Better Cotton Initiative-certified company traffics in natural and biodegradable linen, recycled cotton and lyocell fibers and Rhodia-certified biodegradable polyamide. The mill’s sustainable processes have led to a 90 percent reduction in the use of fossil fuels, 40 percent water reuse, heat energy reutilization and dyeing techniques that save 80 percent of the water.
Today, Canatiba Denim Industry operates three large manufacturing units that produce more than 11 million linear meters of fabric each month.
What is the biggest misconception that consumers have about sustainable denim?
Many consumers relate sustainable denim to organic cotton only. Sustainable denim takes evaluation of the whole production chain—evaluation of the source of the raw materials, chemicals, water and energy consumption, environmental impact of the production—and the wellbeing of all the people involved in the production process. That is why Canatiba is constantly investing in production improvements and certifications to promote sustainability.
What can the denim industry do to ensure a positive post-pandemic rebound?
During this pandemic period, we’ve learned to value and respect even more the people around us, life, health and the environment. That is why promoting sustainability and educating people to consume responsibly is the right path. Consumers need to demand transparency and be assured that the denim they consume is made respecting the environment and the people involved in the processes.
Skinny jeans: Over or a new staple?How can denim retail improve?
A new staple. New stretch technologies are allowing higher performance and a much more comfortable denim with shape maintenance and high stretches.
How can denim retail improve?
Through innovation, sustainability and fair trade.
How many pairs of jeans do you own?
So many pairs of jeans. With every new collection, I make myself new jeans to evaluate the performance, comfort, washes, color and shapes. I’m always looking for ways to improve our products.
Which jeans do you wear the most, and why?
Skinny jeans made with Canatiba fabrics because they are the best fabrics in the market.