14 Questions for Alberto & Gianluigi Candiani

Montag, 04. Dezember 2017
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Here come the plus four questions and answers from the 10 Questions Interview from J'N'C Magazine N°70 / 4-2017

Candiani Denim, established in 1938 in a tiny town near Milano, is a family-run business known as one of the greenest and most sustainable denim companies around.

1. What constitutes the perfect pair of jeans in your opinion?
Alberto: The perfect pair of jeans consists of five ingredients: the fabric, the fit, the wash, its sustainable features and its longevity (ageing nicely), without being affected by fashion cycles and trends.

2. Stretch denim made you famous at the end of the 90s. What innovations are you planning at the moment? Which ones do you think are possible but have not yet been realised?
Gianluigi: Stretch was our forte in the 90s and 2000s; it’s what set us apart from other mills but we have continued to evolve and sustainability is now our focus. Alberto has taken Candiani to the next level and has different projects underway at any given time. A few years ago, we believed some of his ideas couldn’t be turned into a reality, but his constant research and devotion to using the newest technologies available are now making his ideas possible.
Alberto: Real biodegradable and compostable denim is on the way; we want 100% recycled materials including fabric with stretch. It’s only a matter of time.

3. You’ve developed your own dyeing process that you call “Indigo Juice”. How does it work?
Gianluigi: We have to give credit to Mr David Austoni here. He has been our general manager for 25 years and he simply brought back to life an old-school dyeing technique that can only be applied to slasher dyeing.
Alberto: We can’t disclose all the secrets behind this peculiar way of dyeing, but we can say it involves 100% indigo shades, a touch of glucose and colour that is made to fade easily (saving water and energy in the laundry process).

4. Alberto, you are meanwhile running Candiani in the fourth generation. What changed for the company after you took over?
Not much, the company is super-solid and that is thanks to my dad. I simply pushed down heavily on the innovation pedal. Probably the main difference now is that innovation is on the same level as sustainability, without forgetting the importance of aesthetics and performance. These factors are all built into our DNA.

5. The boundaries between work and family are blurred in your traditional family business. Is that a blessing or a curse?
Gianluigi: Great question. In the end, it’s a blessing. If you have been to the company, you know our house is literally inside the mill. That alone tells you how much family and business are connected at Candiani. We don’t look at the company as a simple industrial facility capable of creating revenue. The mill is an organic structure made up of people that have worked for and with us for so many years. This company is a blessing.

6. What is Candiani Denim’s USP?
Alberto: Our USP is all about our identity, so:
WHAT: the best denim
WHO (makes this superior product): us and our people
WHERE: Robecchetto, 30 minutes away from Milan
HOW: in the greenest way possible
WHEN: today for the future.
In fact we are always looking to the future instead of hanging onto the past. Our heritage, while incorporated into our denim, is not 100% of what we do. Some mills focus too much on heritage and get stuck in the past without looking ahead.

7. You describe yourselves as the “greenest textile company”. What is it that makes your production cycle so sustainable and what other plans do you have in that direction for the long term?
Alberto: You’ve probably found the answer to this question already. More than just being in Italy, we are located in the Ticino Park. It’s quite a thrill to run major textile operations from a national nature reserve.
Gianluigi: We have always been subject to extremely severe environmental regulations and, for us, that is a plus. “Cleanliness” is in our DNA. This mentality and way of life is then reflected in the way we run our company. For us, it’s important that Candiani adheres to these regulations and this way of production, not only because of the mill itself but because we want it to be an honourable place of work for our employees. This “clean” mentality is then carried over into our production and eventually the final product (denim).
Alberto: The definition of “better denim” isn’t simply about a nicer fabric, but also needs to be a cleaner one, with the lowest impact on the environment in each of its production processes. At Candiani, reduce, reuse and recycle are key to improving sustainability and also maximising efficiency.

8. When trying to achieve a sustainable manufacturing process, what challenges do you face as a producer?
Alberto: The biggest challenge is helping our customers to understand what we are doing, showing and proving our sustainable features in a way that they can make sense of, appreciate and eventually translate this into marketing materials to support their products and their sales. Our marketing team is doing a fantastic job of creating a specific way of communicating these features, touching on every single sustainable aspect of Candiani in a tangible way, with an appealing denim language.

9. What are the external factors that influence your design – what inspires you?
Alberto: We always look at trends of course, denim, non-denim, technologies, innovation of any kind, from apparel to food. Bearing in mind we need to be one step ahead the market as we work on our collections almost two years in advance against the market itself. So, what is out there now is already old news for us. For any trendsetter ideas, pure creativity is more important than market research and trends analysis even though we have to be very careful when presenting our innovations. In fact, if we play too much in advance we might end up inspiring the competition, which is not what we want!

10. You’ve been working with the Denham brand for more than nine years now. Are there any other companies you would like to cooperate with?
Alberto: Around ten actually, and we want to congratulate Jason Denham and his team for such a great achievement. You can easily recognise the brands we cooperate with most, thanks to our Rivetto D’Oro (the Golden Rivet), a distinctive sign, which rewards our top customers who share our values (made in Italy, sustainability and innovation). We are very happy and proud of all the current companies we are cooperating with and aren’t really looking to expand our special collaborations at the moment. Even behind the scenes, with no co-branding involved, we have very special relationships with many brands, especially in the US, where our best service is given by developing exclusive fabrics.

11. What are your criteria when choosing a cooperation partner?

12. As a result of industrialisation, the tradition of craftsmanship is gradually disappearing. Is that also the case at Candiani? How can this be prevented from happening?
Alberto: Not really, at least not in our case. As a matter of fact, technology can replace humans, but at Candiani the number of employees has always grown as our technological investments have increased, which makes our staff and our machines kind of friends. A good example is our Design Centres in Milano and Los Angeles, probably the most advanced laundry labs in the world, where we test our fabrics, run workshops for our customers and create our collections. We have every kind of technology in our laundry but I would describe the workers in these divisions as artisans and not operators.

13. What style of jeans do you prefer to wear yourself? Do you have a favourite pair? Is there a trend, cut or style you wish you’d never tried?
Gianluigi: I mostly wear our own samples. I get them tailored and washed in our design centre; I like to have a custom wash and a classic look, so in terms of fit I usually lean towards a relaxed, straight leg – the perfect complement to a blazer.
Alberto: I do the same for my jeans, but my wardrobe variety is slightly bigger: I have about 500 different pairs but I don’t think I have a collector’s “problem” as such! My preferred fit is baggy with a low crotch but at times I can surprise you with some serious skinny stuff too, especially if I am in my “rock star mode”.

14. Denim is…
Alberto: The most democratic fabric in the world – it just needs to be a little cleaner.

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Tags: candiani, alberto candiani, gianluigi candiani
POSTED by Cloat Gerold & Thorsten Osterberger at 11:07
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