Denim has never had a positive reputation. As the fashion industry is making moves to becoming more sustainable, denim manufacturing has come under scrutiny for its unnecessary use of chemicals and obscene water waste

And while the industry has seen significant changes in a short amount of time, is it enough to make the material sustainable forever? For this to happen, it has to start a lot earlier down the production line and begin with the denim mills themselves. Candiani, an Italian family-run company that started producing the fabric in 1938, are setting the example for others to follow. 

COREVA™ is their latest invention that aims to disrupt the denim industry forever, and their newly opened store in Milan is centred around it. Made with a plant-based yarn that's been obtained from natural rubber, this is a stretch denim that contains zero plastic. To add to this, its completely natural composition means no chemical dyes have been used, and it will biodegrade after only six months on a compost. Surprisingly, the idea for this material came to the owner of the mill, Alberto Candiani when he was doing his usual salami shop in the factory's local delicatessen. "I have been to Candiani’s local delicatessen about a thousand times but for some reason, on this particular trip, when I saw the natural rubber salami packaging, something clicked. I knew the future of stretch denim was about to change forever," he says. "We immediately got to work and found an incredible partner who was essential to developing the natural rubber COREVA™ stretch yarn. And after four years of research, development and countless tests for performance, quality, and durability, we have achieved a bio-based and compostable stretch yarn that performs in a very similar way." The fabric first launched in 2019 with a few select brands like Denham, Stella McCartney, Hiut, and Kings of Indigo, as Candiani were still in the process of fine tuning, but it quickly gained recognition. "It’s only since March that we have been able to offer our full range of COREVA™ fabrics to all of our clients and already, the fabric is basically 'sold out' – which is incredibly exciting! Now, we will continue to work to size up production so we can offer COREVA™ on an even larger scale."

But why aren't there more denim mills doing the same? Along with the years of research and performance checks, Alberto believes that many mills aren't ready for the investment. "I’m not just talking about money, and the costs associated with inventing a technology, but also the time," he explains. "Additionally, the cost of the finished fabric is significantly higher than that of your average fabric. We know, however, that the brands who are interested in COREVA™ technology place innovation, circularity, and a better future over price." 

As well as buying sustainable materials the denim mills like Candiani offer, another popular way of creating denim products sustainably is through upcycling. Marques’Almeida, a mainstay on the London Fashion Week calendar, have recently collaborated with 7 For All Mankind on a denim capsule. reM'Ade by 7 For All Mankind consists of eight ready to wear styles, made of old stock and excess fabric. "We had a wonderful first experience collaborating with 7 For All Mankind a few years ago, and we reconnected in this very difficult year," shares Marta Marques, co-founder of Marques’Almeida. "We spoke about what our priorities are as businesses and creative people, and we were incredibly in sync in how sustainability was a big focus for both our brands!" 

Using deadstock instead of buying sustainably-made materials seems an obvious choice for smaller brands who are trying to do better; they may lack the funds needed to invest in the latest eco-friendly advances. But for Marta, it goes beyond that. "I think for us at Marques’Almeida, it
was about taking an accountable first step," she shares. "Working as a sustainable brand is a minefield: there's so much greenwashing; there's so many marketing efforts that are maybe not transparent enough, and for a brand like ours it can feel daunting to even try. Using deadstock was a no brainer – we couldn’t go wrong there." 7 For All Mankind are also working on becoming more sustainable, working towards a goal of becoming 80% sustainable by 2023. Wherever it's possible, they're working towards using recycled materials, eco hardware – the metalware on the Marques’Almeida collab are made of such – and sustainably-produced Tencel fibres, whilst also reducing their water and energy consumption and their use of chemicals. They're also members of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, which Global CEO at 7 For All Mankind, Francesca Toninato, explains has been incredibly beneficial to them. "They have developed the Higg Index that enables brands and retailers to accurately measure and score the sustainability performance of companies and products. This is an incredible and invaluable tool for us to use through our sustainable journey." With access to such an valuable resource, they should be well on their way to achieving their targets.

If used worldwide, either option will inevitably reduce denim's negative impact on our planet, but that still doesn't solve the issue of overproduction. Whilst there's a constant demand for newness by consumers and retailers, this won't be tackled anytime soon. But, Alberto's motto is one we should all live by. "Less is more, if less is better," – we couldn't have said it better ourselves.

Shop reM'Ade by 7 For All Mankind here and Candiani COREVA™here.

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