We interviewed Alberto Candiani, from Candiani Denim, about the future of the blue world
CANDIANI IS KNOWN AS THE “GREENEST MILL IN THE BLUE WORLD”, CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHY?
Three simple reasons. I call them “environmental”, “environ-mentality” and “environ-mental-issues”.
We are located in a Nature Reserve (Parco Del Ticino) right outside of Milan.
Environmental restrictions are the most severe in the World and trust me it’s not easy to run major textile operations in such a place.
Water waste management, chemicals allowance, emissions and I’m not even mentioning the EU jurisdiction, the rules, the REACH protocol, etc…
The environment itself has forced us to constantly invest into new technology and industrial efficiency in order to stay clean and competitive at the same time.
This factor lead us to become the “cleanest” mill in the World which can nowadays be defined as “the greenest”.
My whole family lives in the mill compound. As a kid my bedroom was literally facing the finishing division.
We want to live and work, work and live in a nice and clean environment.
Same for our workers, they demand a clean and efficient working place and they also take care of it.
Sustainability also means social responsibility. Too many focus on the “eco factor” only forgetting quite often about humans and their rights.
How we work in Italy is a best practice example. We never thought of relocating our operations in cheaper or so-called more competitive areas. We respect the environment, starting from our workers and our history.
This is possibly a Candiani DNA issue. We are truly obsessed with innovation, precision and “being clean, neat”.
When customers visit our mill they are suddenly shocked about how we keep everything clean. They think we are crazy, and we might be, but that also means most of the competition is kind of nasty.
Also all Candianis are obsessed with innovation and R&D, obsessed! We knew how to make Premium Denim qualities, we now know how to make them with a much lower impact on the environment, leading to a true “zero”, focusing on reduce, reuse and recycle concepts.
Today innovation equals sustainability and viceversa.
SO WHAT ABOUT THE FUNNY POST YOU MADE ABOUT BEING THE “GRINCHEST”?
Well, I found out some of my workers call me the Grinch. As a nickname. They might be right, it is kind of appropriated, especially this time of the year.
I’ve always been a very direct guy and I always thought it was a good thing.
Aging made me more and more practical, but my guys would use other words as “cynical”, “prickly”, “annoying”… whatever.
What matters is that he Grinch is a Green creature.
The truth is that I simply hate politically correct stuff and any sort of BS, starting with the EcoBS. Those are the worse, as greenwashing.
In our industry 90% of what is claimed “green” it is not. It’s just marketing. The problem is that many, too many, can’t really understand what is going on here.
This is why at Candiani we try to make our sustainability very tangible in terms of product R&D and extremely transparent when it comes to marketing.
I feel kind of responsible here cause I personally launched this “sustainable trend” over ten years ago and I don’t mind people jumping on the green train if they really mean it.
The funny thing is that 9 out of 10 guys who were telling me that sustainability was just BS ten years ago, well, they are all struggling to catch up now.
I have to give credit to Francois Girbaud, who wasn’t probably a mentor to me but I’ve been crazy enough to listen to a crazy guy like him.
He truly inspired me with his genuine vision and his environmental concerns were just right.
He is the reason I decided to focus and study all the industrial details, the sources and the technologies which could have significantly improved Denim in the past ten years.
Here I have to mention Kingpins and particularly TRANSFORMERS who are trying to give voice to the true sustainable makers.
HOW WAS YOUR 2018 AND HOW IS 2019 LOOKING LIKE?
2018 was pretty good, same as 2017.
The problem is that all the efforts we make in terms of R&D would certainly deserve more than “pretty good results”.
Costs are the real struggle. It is not easy to stay competitive with the rest of the Denim World.
We produce in Italy, with Italian costs and rules. Every year we keep investing in new technology and industrial improvements.
In the end not many customers are really willing to spend 1 or 2 Euros more (per meter) for a better fabric.
This is also why we need to make extra marketing efforts in order to visualize and explain why is that extra Euro there for.
When you source Candiani Denim you are not just purchasing a more premium quality with soft touch, amazing color and innovative performances.
You are also buying a much cleaner piece of fabric, Made in Italy, with special contents which will eventually allow you to save money at the laundry stage.
2019 is looking interesting to me. Business shall be decent considering the solid basis we have built in the past few seasons.
Personally I have the feeling this whole “vintage-salt&pepper” thing will go down, slowly, but it will.
It might not be good for Denim and the industry in general, but at least we will finally get to see some more creativity into the fabrics in terms of character, constructions, contents and colours.
YOU ARE KNOWN AS A VISIONARY ENTREPRENEUR, WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF AS A THE “INDIGO MUSK”?
Oh no… not really, even though I share the innovative mentality of the auto-motive industry (when it’s genuine) including Tesla’s of course.
As a matter of fact at Candiani we approach innovation in a very similar way.
You can’t think of a new car model consuming more, polluting more and performing less that the previous model, right?
Same at Candiani: we engineer our fabrics with the goal to be more efficient in production, to eliminate waste and finally to match the latest sustainable washing technics without loosing the versatility of our products.
WHAT IS COOKING IN YOUR INNOVATION KITCHEN?
Too much. We are pushing heavily on the R&D pedal. In the end that is my favorite part of the job.
We decided to only focus on recycled and renewable sources.
For example we just launched together with Roica Eco-Smart our own GRS certified elastomer, we call it RELAST.
KITOTEX became the only way to dye our yarns. We also added vegetal Chitosan to the conventional one and it’s working great.
This natural bio-degradable polymer is a miracle, I’m glad we got the Worldwide exclusive patent for all Denim applications.
KITOTEX allowed us to replaced all the “ugly” chemicals you need to add to indigo.
Also, the sludge (waste) we create because of the dye-stuff residuals will be soon adopted in agriculture as compostable fertilizer.
In this direction we will be launching soon a truly innovative post-industrial waste program called “SOIL” which si going to lead us towards a wast free future and not only that.
Biodegradable and compostable ingredients will be key in a World where landfill is quickly becoming the real number one issue.
YOUR TOP 10 DENIM BRANDS OF 2018?
Oh God, these question always put me in troubles…
Ok, will try and apologies if I am forgetting some other good ones.
1. DENHAM (no surprise, they are just they best global Denim brand out there).
2. CLOSED (contemporary, well made, neat for men and women).
3. AMIRI (I respect this new luxury Denim brand cause it prooves luxury can exist in Denim too).
4. MATIAS DENIM (amazing research, fabrics, details and they fit me great).
5. DONDUP (they really changed their Denim collection, looks great, contemporary and sustainable).
6. CARE LABEL (nice and well crafted Italian dungarees).
7. CITIZEN OF HUMANITY (in the end the most consistent LA brand, together with AG JEANS to be hones).
8. COF (always good stuff for the true Denim lovers).
9. ACE RIVINGTON (Americana at its best with a sustainable touch).
10. BENZAK (too cool, still).
WE SAW CANDIANI GOING FOR MANY COLLABORATIONS IN 2018, WHICH THE MOST INTERESTING ONES?
The collaboration with Atelier&Repairs has been the coolest one. We created a capsule collection to celebrate Candiani’s 80th Anniversary.
We only used our REGEN Denims, made with waste-fibres only, and it came out brilliant, a real Candiani premium signature.
We wanted to prove that recycled stuff can turn into a beautiful product, that’s why we picked Atelier&Repairs.
Maurizio Donadi‘s interpretation of the Candiani roots combined with our innovative NDA has been a unique experience.
On a different level I shall mention a very significant industrial collaboration with J-CREW and SAITEX which gave birth to an amazing ECO collection which is now ins tore.
Or the one with HUGO BOSS. We created three special Denims with very premium features exclusively for HUGO BOSS and the result was an excellent product based on the beauty of the Italian fabrics.
ANY SPECIAL CHRISTMAS PRESENT UNDER YOUR TREE? ANY PARTICULAR WISHES FOR THE UPCOMING YEAR?
Let me mention the special gift we put under the Candiani Christmas tree for all the women working for us.
People might not see that, but women cover a major role in our company and they deserve more credit.
Let me add that in general women’s accuracy is essential for the whole textile and garment making industry, including Denim.
Our workers could choose between a nice pair of Jeans or a cool trucker Denim Jacket, both custom made by DENHAM (our favorite brand who also turned 10 this year).
They do not always get to see where the Denim we make will actually end up going. Denham taking care of this for us was something special.
Now all our “blue-collar-ladies” own a super-premium and sustainable piece which is finally representing the conclusive fruit of their work.
Also, as I mentioned above Candiani turned 80 years old in 2018.
We were meant to celebrate this important event with all our workers in the building where the original factory was founded in 1938.
Unfortunately the restoration took a little longer than what originally expected so we couldn’t be ready for Christmas.
We’ll do it next year, so let me wish happy 81st Anniversary to Candiani and all our workers and a very successful 2019 to all our customers and partners.