Genoa aims to become the next jeans capital. The Italian city on the Ligurian Sea recently hosted the first edition of Genova Jeans, a yearly event meant to celebrate the story and heritage of jeans, but also the occasion to praise a piece of clothing that is synonymous with freedom of expression–even more now that the Taliban has banned them.
Genoa considers itself the cradle of jeans due to historical studies proving that since the 1200s a sturdy indigo fabric similar to denim was used there for many things, including early workwear and sacred ornaments. Thus the name of the “Genoese” fabric, meaning “from Genoa,” might have become “jeans.”
Starting a “diffused” museum
The event, held on September 2-6, 2021, was a cultural initiative meant to inform how jeans are made, how they will evolve and how much more responsibly they could be produced in the future. It also aimed to set the start of a diffused jeans' museum that could also become a permanent attraction for the city.
How it all started
Within this initiative, and thanks to jeans and fashion, this city with much beauty but also full of contrasts wants to lift its head and start a new course after the 2018 collapse of its highway bridge Ponte Morandi (which resulted in the death of 43 people) and the rebuilding of a new bridge–Viadotto San Giorgio–gifted to Genoa by archistar Renzo Piano in 2020.
The Genova Jeans event had been in the works since 2020. It was planned by Genoa’s municipality and three main partners–Candiani Denim, Diesel and Eco-Age. “It all started a year ago when Candiani’s Alberto Candiani, Diesel’s Andrea Rosso, Manuela Arata, Genova Jeans’ director, and me met in Genoa,” said Livia Firth, founder, Eco-Age, a sustainability consultancy company.
A multicultural event
This first edition was an immersive multicultural event held in different locations of the city, through its streets in the Medieval area near the harbor, other buildings, museums and magnificent palazzos. It offered a series of events and experiences such as art exhibitions, conferences, meetings, entertainment and shows throughout its quarters. The spaces of the Biblioteca Universitaria in Piazza Principe housed “Jeans: From Its Origins to The Myth” which presented the story of the Genoese genesis of jeans and their evolution.
Candiani discloses what’s behind the seams
Through a path in the city, a special “info-taining” installation by Candiani Denim “Behind the Seams: How Much Do You Think You Know About Your Jeans?” explained just how high the impact of jeans production is on the environment and what new sustainable solutions can be found for it.
The Street of Jeans
The blue jeans’ route stretched itself along a newly-baptized street, the Jeans Street that occupies Via di Prè, Via San Luca and Via Del Campo, unfortunately known for hosting an underworld, all near the harbor, the biggest port of the Mediterranean counting a yearly passing of four million tourists. While many stores and local enterprises supported the newborn event by paying homage to the blue cloth with special shop windows and in-store installations, Diesel occupied some three streets’ shop windows presenting some of its historical ad campaigns and look books.
Diesel’s heritage on show
The Italian jeans brand also organized “Diesel’s Denim Heritage. A Walk in Its Archive” with 16 outfits (about 80 pieces) from the company’s private archive. Also on show was the first Diesel outfit personally designed and sewn by Renzo Rosso in the 1970s.
Jeans as art
Art also played a role this event. A key stop along its path was exhibited at the Diocesan Museum, which houses the “Teli della Passione,” indigo dyed cotton-linen ornaments from 1540 painted with white sacred scenes and made with a material recognized today among the ancestors of denim.
The Risorgimento Museum hosted a great piece of art by denim artist Ian Berry who donated his reproduction of a painting showing Giuseppe Garibaldi, an Italian patriot from Genoa who united Italy in the 1860, entirely made with denim.
Diesel’s Renzo Rosso: “This street has given me an emotion”
Renzo Rosso, Diesel’s founder and owner, also participated in the event’s opening day. “I am very happy to be here in Genoa. I had never seen this street, and it’s beautiful how my team has interpreted the story of denim, as Genoa avails itself the fathership of this product. It’s also very beautiful to see this street as it is so global and hosts so many cultures, different ways of thinking and different stories that have passed from here,” he said.
“All this historical change Diesel did was a great evolution, and Candiani is bringing sustainability and modernity to this material. Also, because even if we don’t know it, denim has polluted a lot. So it is great looking at this material and its history, and how it will evolve in the future. Considering that denim will never grow old, it will always be worn as it is highly comfortable as you can wear during weekends, for a protest, for relaxing, in the open air but also in very special occasions. It is the only material in the world that can be transformed and one can make it become something totally different…”
When asked how the next edition of Genova Jeans could be he answered: “The first idea that comes to mind would be to collect as much material as possible from this edition, for instance, for making a book that can show everything that has been done here in these days as a start for some sort of museum. This way you could easily show it in other fashion capitals like Paris, London, New York, Shanghai, where they would go crazy for that. It’s a pity that so little people could travel here and see all this, as they would have certainly wanted be part of this.”