Meet the Jeans That Can be Planted!

This innovative denim has a backstory going back generations.

Jan 30, 2022
Special Collections: CHANGEMAKERS
Meet the Jeans That Can be Planted! | This innovative denim has a backstory going back generations.

The story of the most sustainable pair of jeans is also the story of a family whose members have dedicated their lives to denim innovation. Each successive generation helped this family-run enterprise level up. 

Today, it is the great-great-grandson of the family business founder who has brought Candiani and the whole fashion industry to new heights by creating the first fully compostable stretch denim, as Rivet reports.

Local and sustainable production
While most denim producers have outsourced their textile production to countries like India and Bangladesh, aiming to significantly reduce costs, Candiani—the sustainable denim supplier of major brands like Lee, Levi’s, Lucky Brand, Hugo Boss, JCrew, Stella McCartney and Diesel—is now the biggest denim manufacturer in Europe still producing locally, Reasons to be Cheerful, a nonprofit editorial project, reveals.

It is in Milan, Italy, where Alberto Candiani created the first fully biodegradable jeans using a plant-based yarn obtained from natural rubber to replace synthetic petrol-based yarns. The story goes that the idea for sustainable stretch yarns was an epiphany Alberto had while he was eating salami twined in natural rubber netting. The rest is history. 

Once the innovative denim came to life, a brand new pair of jeans was put to the test by being buried in forest land for six months. At the end of that period, what Candiani’s team discovered was remarkable: the fibers had almost fully disintegrated.

The new technology is called Coreva. It proves the real commitment of the family business to create sustainable garments. “They are extremely durable, but at the end of their life, yes, you could send them back to us and we recycle them, or you could fertilize your veggies with them. We have even fertilized cotton fields with our scraps.” Alberto Candiani, the company’s current owner, told Reasons to be Cheerful.

Tackling the environmental challenges
Jeans—one of the most popular garments worldwide—generate an environmental impact that has become a real global challenge. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, it takes around 2,000 gallons of water to make a typical pair of jeans. And during production, around 71 pounds of carbon dioxide are expelled, a Levi’s sustainability report reveals. That’s equivalent to 53 seven-minute showers, driving a car 78 miles and watching TV on a plasma screen for 318 hours. What’s more, most jeans are manufactured with stretch denim made with plastic, which can take hundreds of years to degrade.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. By creating a circular model in which fabrics are biodegradable at the end of their lifecycle, tons of garments can be prevented from ending up in landfills or from being burned. Candiani has not only achieved this by going plastic-free, the manufacturer also reduced water use by 75 percent and the use of chemicals by 65 percent, Reasons to be Cheerful details. And there’s more: they even reuse all their waste fibers for their recycled denim line, being able to produce a pair of jeans with only five to eight gallons  of water, the company’s owner revealed.

A commitment to a greener future
Although Candiani creates a product that is about double the price of conventional denim due to the higher labor and manufacturing costs involved, business is flourishing. Not only has the company tripled its production, but its motto of “the greenest mill in the blue world” is credible. It has already received several industry green awards, including the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) for ecology and social responsibility. 

As the company states on its website, it is not necessary to compromise on design, quality or durability to become green. Its innovative biodegradable stretch denim fabric proves that legacy and innovation can go hand in hand to bring us closer to a circular, more sustainable reality.

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With a love for fashion, technology, self-development, nature and communication, Daiana is a freelance writer. She is the creator of an online community platform dedicated to providing inspiration and information on trends, developments and positive impact initiatives in the world of Sustainable Fashion.
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