Candiani: Dyeing to improve the textile industry

Freddie Anderson finds Italy's most famous denim manufacturer open to leading the march for a more sustainable and eco-friendly textile industry.
Candiani: Dyeing to improve the textile industry
The curly loops of yellow plastic handles hung empty from the usually busy carriages of the DLR train I found myself on one cold winter morning recently. Departing from London's Shadwell station at the crack of dawn on my slightly convoluted way to Milan, its elevated train platform granted a vision of the sharp morning sun weaving in between the glass skyscrapers of city banks in Canary Wharf. Unlike the bright morning sun in East London, Milan, a few hours later, was buffered on all sides by grey shapeless clouds, but even they wouldn't dull my anticipation for a trip that I had been looking forward to for some time - a visit to Candiani denim. Transferred from the airport, the car stopped behind some unassuming, faded green wooden gates in the piccolo town of Robechetto con Induno. About a 30-minute drive from fashion mecca Milan, remains a family business that has been discreetly but effectively evolving the production process of denim for four generations. Set in a picturesque nature reserve in the heart of Ticino Park, the local district has a deep and important textile heritage, whilst its businesses sanctify a sincere dedication to preserve tradition and drive environmental awareness. It all began in 1938 when Luigi Candiani started a small production of workwear fabrics in the town, but recently, globalization and its impact on the fashion industry, particularly its excessive speed, has petitioned a major re-think for people within the industry. At the core of this assessment is the subject of sustainability. Candiani have in fact been pioneers of sustainability in their field. Not so long ago, it would’ve been very rare to receive an invitation to attend an open day - it still is to an extent, but over the last few years, Candiani have felt an obligation to be completely transparent in sharing their knowledge of the production processes of denim.
Warping Department.
Spinning Department.
Territory (Robechetto).
In timely fashion, the open-day coincided with the end of the Green Carpet Fashion Awards hosted by Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana in collaboration with Eco-Age, which took place in Milan’s La Scala. The guests were a population of international denim insiders, journalists and other fashion industry experts. Waiters wore black waistcoats, bowties, and sported smart moustaches. Strong Italian coffee was copiously administered on arrival. Escorted to a vast warehouse dominated by large cotton bales, guests were met by Simon Giuliani, marketing manager and “professor” of the “Candiani Denim Blueniversity,” but not before Alberto Candiani who took over the reins of the family mill in 2000 had given the audience a welcoming introduction. Denim was not born as the cleanest fabric on the planet, but listening to Simon explain in mind- blowing detail their methods of production, it soon became obvious why Candiani is known as the greenest textile company in the blue World. It all starts with the design and engineering of the production cycle, where they have implemented ground-breaking reduce, re-use and recycle systems. They have developed methods for cutting water, chemicals and electricity consumption by establishing techniques that can provide different effects like a wash-down look and a no-fade look. Denim is known to be decadent in its water usage, but at Candiani they have come up with a revolutionary water saving dying technology. It works by keeping the indigo very superficial on the yarn and when the jeans are washed in the laundry it takes only a fraction of water to wash-down the indigo, saving 15% of the water in the process. The have also developed the N-Denim treatment, which is a futuristic dying technology that enables a deep penetration of the colour of the yarn. It reduces the number of dying baths from 7 to 2, using 30% fewer chemicals. This treatment is a prime example of how Candiani have managed to dramatically improve their sustainability efforts without compromising the aesthetics, which in this case has been advanced.
Spinning Department.
Yarn Storage.
The processes of spinning, dying, weaving, finishing and quality all have innovative and complex sustainability measures in place. I feel that their decision to now be transparent with the knowledge that they’re imparting will hopefully trigger a domino effect for similar institutions worldwide. Just last week it was announced that Stella McCartney, who was one of the first designers in the fashion business to embrace sustainability, has partnered with Candiani to create the world’s first biodegradable stretch denim called COREVA, created using plant-based yarns for the brands Autumn 2020 collection. Alberto Candiani says, “In a world where resources are diminishing and landfills are overflowing with discarded garments, it’s our duty to look for renewable resources, in addition to biodegradable and compostable materials. Denim has to take the lead as the indigo flag of this revolution and we are thrilled to be working alongside Stella McCartney to share our innovation and beliefs with the wider fashion industry”.
Weaving Department.
Alberto Candiani with Robert Grimi.
Cotton Warehouse.
On a tour of the factory, weaving in and out of the many retro coloured machines they have in operation, Simon, through a radio, gave an in-depth insight into the mechanics and importance of each machine, which was quite something to behold. He pointed out a gentleman in his 80th year who had started out as an apprentice, but still comes in a few days a week as he’s unable to fully retire from Candiani. The company’s involvement with its community is historically recognized by the people who live locally, which attests to the business's unwavering commitment to being socially sustainable. In view of this, nine families within the company have reached their third generation, and 30 have reached their second. The strength of the company is also demonstrated by its relationship with employees. For 115 people, being hired by Candiani S.p.A has represented their first and only job. At Candiani, it’s clear to see that environmental and social change is actually happening with a revolutionary effect, and their decision to be transparent should prompt other textile enterprises to do the same. With all of this in mind, they also convey the fact that the most important things in life are friendship, family and human connection, whatever you make in life. Whatever you do, do it with passion, innovation and a warm, Italian-style heart. Candiani is that unique place, where they have stretched the possibilities of sustainability and are now educating the fashion world to follow suit. Candiani, through sharing their knowledge are positively changing the attitudes of consumers, which can only be very encouraging for the future of denim.