Italian premium denim manufacturer Candiani Denim recently organized its first Candiani Open Mill Day at its premises in Robecchetto con Induno, in the northern area of Milan. The aim of the initiative was, while continuing its 80th anniversary celebrations (also see: https://www.sportswear-international.com/news/portrait/Interview-Why-is-Candiani-celebrating-its-80th-birthday-by-stepping-into-sustainable-apparel-noch-bei-Chris-14037), to show clients and denim aficionados how the company’s overall manufacturing approach is low-impact.
The event gathered together about 70 insiders from the international denim and fashion scene for an intense working day. Hosts included insiders from Dondup, Levi’s, Ralph Lauren, Gucci, Guess, Amsterdenim, Blaumann, Zerres, plus a bunch of denim heads including Ropedye, Men's File, Denimhunters, Ruedi Karrer (aka @swissjeansfreak) Guido Wetzels and the whole of Jeans School-House of Denim team from Amsterdam.
The insiders visited the company’s two factories spread over a total of about 170,000 sq. meters in Robecchetto and Malvaglio and learned about the company’s history, its excellence in manufacturing 100% made in Italy premium denim, and its newest environmentally-friendly achievements throughout all of its manufacturing steps–spinning, dyeing, weaving and finishing.
Leading the journey were Gianluigi and his son Alberto Candiani, owners, together with Simon Giuliani, marketing manager and “professor” of the “Candiani Denim Blueniversity,” a special tour through Candiani’s productive hubs, its past and the history of jeans.
“After visiting Candiani Denim, our customers are suddenly surprised about how clean and efficient our mill is,” explained owner Alberto Candiani. “If you ask my dad, he will probably tell you it is never clean enough and will spot a spider web somewhere nearby. This way of caring about our company has become a way of life and it has influenced my personal sustainable approach towards fabric engineering. Denim was not born as the cleanest fabric on the planet and mills have wasted and polluted waters for decades without caring about the consequences. The problem is that most denim mills still do it as most of the countries still allow this to happen.”
He continued: “In the past few years we have kept a pretty low profile in promoting our green approach simply because we have always operated eco-sustainably and because we thought that the whole industry was acting more or less in the same manner. Though this is not happening at all and it’s the reason why we decided to finally transparently show how Candiani makes a difference.”
The company, founded in 1938 by Luigi Candiani, started as a small production of workwear fabrics. In 1960 his son Primo transformed it into a vertically integrated structure, while Gianluigi took its control in 1980 and transformed it into a premium denim company by introducing ring-spinning system, leaving open-end yarn production, and focusing on top-quality ring stretch denim. In 2000 Gianluigi’s son, Alberto, started being involved and drove the company’s development to become a leader in sustainability.
Today’s state-of-the-art practices
Candiani Denim considers itself the largest denim mill of Europe. It employs 700 people, it produces about 30 million meters of denim yearly, offers about 300 different articles from 7 oz to 16 oz–all in ring denim–and exports them worldwide.
In 2012 it established its own development center aimed at supplying clients advanced technical support for getting the best from each fabric technically and creatively. A similar design center was opened in 2016 in the US to guarantee the same service to one of its main markets.
Committed to sustainability
The company is strongly involved in preserving the environment as it is based in the middle of Ticino Park, an area between the Alps and Milan where local environmental regulations and restrictions cannot be found anywhere else in the denim industry. “Through its 80 years of life Candiani has gained high experience and a strong environmental awareness because of its surroundings. Such awareness has become its mentality and has taught us how to create fabrics aiming to push boundaries and change the conception of what a jean ‘should be.’ For this reason we follow three main guidelines–reduce, reuse and recycle,” explained Giuliani.
“We recycle 100% of our cotton productive waste at all stages: fibers, yarns, fabric and the cotton nets that are wrapped around the cotton bales. We re-employ 50% of our leftovers added with 50% new fibers–be them cotton or other environmentally-friendly fibers in order to guarantee they are resistant enough and can be used for producing new GRS approved denim. The other part of cotton leftovers are upcycled for insulation materials for housing and cars,” added Giuliani. Though the company, in addition to natural and recycled fibers, also uses artificial fibers such as Tencel, Modal and Refibra. Plus it uses BCI cotton, which counts for about 50% of the total cotton it employs.
Many steps in the same direction
Throughout the visit of the company’s factories, Candiani pointed out many of its industrial eco-friendly achievements. It uses pre-reduced indigo which is more expensive than powder indigo, but more sustainable as it releases less harming substances–52% less sodium hydroxide and 63% less sodium hydrosulphite.
“The colors and dyestuff we use are created in a tank, utilized in the dyeing baths during the dyeing process, then sent back and stored. This way the color never gets discharged,” explained Giuliani. “The water we use to rinse the yarns before and after the dyeing is water we reuse from the finishing department,” he added.
The company reuses waters in other production phases plus, before sending waters to be depurated, it pre-treast them by neutralizing their PH value without using chemicals, but by recycling part of their own CO2 emissions. This way it can save 1,417.5 tons of hydrochloric acid and chemicals.
Candiani has also developed other methods for cutting water, chemicals and electricity consumption by developing techniques that can provide different effects like a wash-down look and a no-fade look. The wash-down look is obtained by employing Kitotex, a patented technology derived from Chitosan, a natural polymer obtained by recycling shrimps’ exoskeletons which helps reduce the consumption of water (-50%), chemicals (-70%) and energy (-30%).
It also developed the N-Denim treatment through which denim almost doesn’t fade. This system helps the dye penetrating deeply in the yarn while reducing dyeing baths from seven to two using 30% less chemicals. Moreover it avoids using harmful substances such as hydrosulphites and fixation agents.
Its Indigo Juice technology, instead, is a water saving dyeing technology suitable for easy fade denim. Thanks to it, the dye remains on the surface of the yarn and, when jeans are washed in laundries, they fade much faster than when using traditional treatments, while during the dyeing process it can save 15% water and 15% energy.
By comparing a regular pair of jeans with one produced with Kitotex and Indigo Juice, and made with Candiani’s new fiber Re-Gen made without any new cotton, this last one employs 33 liters only rather than the 2,660 ones (including the water used for growing cotton), 70% less than a regular one. It uses only 200 grams of chemicals rather than 700 grams, or is 74% less.
While successfully concluding Candiani’s first Open Mill Day, Alberto Candiani commented: “With this and similar future initiatives we want to prove that a ‘better’ denim can be done already. And ‘better’ means that more sustainable and responsible products yet with innovative looks and performance can satisfy both the environment and the customer.”