For s/s 2024 Candiani is launching three new groups of denims made with cotton grown according to regenerative agriculture.
Simon Giuliani, global marketing director, Candiani Denim, explained how the project was born and what are the company’s future targets.
We started our recent project “The Road to Denim-Cotton with a Purpose” collaborating with Rodale Institute of California, among other partners, thinking that there is a long journey which is far behind a pair of jeans and, mainly, that’s cotton, and it based upon three main elements: a seed, soil and a fiber.
What experiment did you start?
We bargained up with the Rodale Institute, a well-respected institution specialized in organic and regenerative agriculture, that doesn’t apply this method just for cotton, but for everything they grow, including mostly vegetables and consumer veggies.
We decided to create this seed type as it produces a higher quality fiber. We chose it for two main reasons.
First we wanted to obtain a high quality traceable cotton. In the industry they often trace cotton types with markers within the plant or in the fiber, but once they reach a mill they are mixed with other cotton types, and you often don’t recognize where the cotton comes from.
In our case, instead, by giving the growers a number of seeds, you can expect a correspondent quantity of cotton grown by them.
The second reason is that when you work with preferred cotton like organic cotton, you can have a lower quality fiber. This can happen because it is often grown without pesticides, herbicides and similar things, and according to the season when it’s grown its quality can be jeopardized.
At that point we have an extra long staple cotton, which means we always have a good quality fiber and, on top of that, we can decide if we want to grow it, in agreement with the farmer, with a specific agriculture - organic or regenerative.
Organic cotton improves soil health, eliminates hazardous chemicals, and respects human rights along the whole value chain. It is currently grown in seven countries and must be GMO-free. Organic cotton aims to work with nature and get rid of toxic substances, but it does not necessarily avoid other harmful agricultural practices such as tillage, and the certification process is viewed by some as burdensome and overly complex.
In the over the last 20 years, organic agriculture has been significantly appreciated as opposed to industrial agriculture, though bringing with it other difficulties like a three-year transition period for changing agriculture methods, the growth of a significant amount of weeds, a complex chain of custody requirements, lower yields, poorer fiber quality and smaller quantities of organic cotton available.
Moreover, today, demand is far outpacing supply, making up only one percent of all the cotton produced globally. Considering how many brands claim to use organic cotton for their denim, production should be at least ten percent. Therefore, not everyone is telling the truth.
Regenerative cotton aims to restore soil health and biodiversity using specific techniques such as reduced or no-tillage, cover crops, crop rotation, and reduced or no chemical additives. The availability of regenerative cotton is currently limited, and there is no universal and shared definition of regenerative agriculture. Still, the many benefits linked to its way of working with nature and for environmental integrity have garnered much interest from the fashion industry.
When will these new fabrics made with regenerative cotton be available for the market?
We have already started offering them for s/s 2024. We have started using a mix of this cotton grown in different parts of the world, like Algosur from Spain, Bowls, from California, and Scheffer from Brasil… For the future we like the idea to buy cotton from nearer countries, too, like, for instance, Greece and Spain. This way, cotton transportation from those near countries can help reduce our carbon emissions.
What kinds of denims are you offering?
We offer three groups of fabrics: Premium Regenerative Denim made with 100% regenerative agriculture fibers; Premium Recycled Denim, made with 76% fibers from regenerative agriculture and 24% from post consumer recycled cotton; and Premium Circular Denim, made with regenerative agriculture cotton and Coreva, our plant-based stretch yarn obtained from 100% natural rubber.
Moreover, as our Blue Seed produces longer staple fibers, while other denims can contain maximum from six to seven percent of recycled fiber, and our regenerative cotton is stronger, we can use up to 24% recycled fiber in the fabric and up to 70% for the yarn. Therefore, it is possible to produce higher-quality jeans made with recycled cotton as these fabrics are made with higher quality fibers.
Are there any limitations in terms of weights?
We don’t see any problems as for s/s 2024 we are also launching a collection of super lightweight fabrics made with 100% regenerative cottonincluding denims that weigh from 7 oz. upwards.
We asked Rodale Institute to sow blue seeds and then asked them to fertilise that soil with Coreva fabrics. We had already done lab tests which confirmed that the Coreva fabrics are biodegradable, biocompatible, and compostable.
Though we also wanted to make a test in natural conditions and Rodale Institute got a confirmation of what we knew already, plus it discovered that by using Coreva as fertilizer the plant retains more water, therefore you can use less water to grow it.
Our strategy would be to buy always more cotton near to us in order to lower our carbon footprint.
Moreover, it is also important using European cotton as according to limitations imposed by EU the use of GMO seeds is already forbidden. This means that European cotton is already better than qualities grown in other continents–despite many still don’t know it.
What types of cotton is Candiani using now, and what are its next targets?
While we haven’t been using any traditional cotton for many years, out of our about 20 million meter yearly production, we are offering more or less half of our fabrics made with organic and BCI cotton, and half with regenerative cotton. From now on we would like to substitute BCI cotton entirely and by 2023 we would like to use 50% organic and 50% regenerative cotton.
BCI mainly focuses on training smallholder farmers to use more sustainable practices. It is currently grown in 23 countries and accounts for 22% of the world’s cotton supply. This cotton is widely available and easy to farm, but some issues could concern the mass balance system, no chain of custody guarantees, and accusations of little oversight back to the farm level.
Will the use of regenerative cotton also cause an increase in the cost of the fabric?
The great thing about regenerative is that cotton its prices are more competititve than organic. The price of organic cotton always depends upon its availability. As most often organic is available is very small quantities, when it’s there it is very expensive and not scalable.
A sustainable alternative has to be also competitive in terms of prices. And regenerative cotton can be.
Could your denim production be entirely based on regenerative cotton?
It’s a very far aim by now, as we have seen recently everything can change so fast…