GenovaJeans Delivers 360 Degree View of Jeans—Past, Present and Future

Art, music, history and sustainability came together for GenovaJeans.

From Oct. 5-8, the Italian port city of Genoa celebrated its heritage as the birthplace of jeans and its future as an incubator for innovation in the jeanswear market.

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City-wide cultural and educational events spanned panel discussions on sustainability, cocktail parties in city squares and a popup market offering upcycled jeans and denim-inspired fragrances. The MEI National Museum of Italian Emigration hosted a special exhibition on how fustian cotton produced in Genoa in the 16th century became the precursor to jeans. ArteJeans presented the work of 14 artists, each of whom showed pieces incorporating fabric from Candiani Denim.

The “Godfather of Denim” Adriano Goldschmied kicked off the four-day event with a keynote speech recounting how his journey is connected to jeans.

Though he idolized the U.S. soldiers who liberated Italy following the German occupation in 1943 and the blue jeans they wore off duty, Goldschmied said he aspired to work in the engineering field—not in fashion. He landed in the middle of it, however, selling jeans in the ’70s to the demanding jet-set clientele of a luxury ski resort. “They were always asking for something new, something that others do not have, and this led me to be interested in innovation,” he said. “I understood how to stir up desire in consumers. My vocation was to make things.”

This interest in innovation has long been the backbone of Goldschmied’s endeavors, from launching (and re-launching) his first brand, Daily Blue, to establishing Genious Group, a “home for creatives” and the catalyst for brands like Replay, Goldie and Diesel. “I always [combine] creativity with technology,” he said. “All of my career, my path with all the brands has been characterized by innovation. This is the direction GenovaJeans should follow for the future.”

The Jeans Lab

Located on Vie di Prè, the Jeans Lab is a hub for designers and artisans who upcycle or recycle denim. The storefront lab opened earlier this year, showcasing the work of 18 creatives including Doria 1905, Gil Santucci, Kingkong and more. Classes and workshops will begin later in the year, thanks in part to fabric donated by Candiani Denim and machinery provided by Diesel.

Manuela Arata, president of the marketing committee of GenovaJeans, said the lab is the first step toward establishing Vie di Prè and the surrounding area, where the 16th-century fabrics were produced, as the beating heart for blue bloods.

GenovaJeans bunting crisscrossed the street for the event. A boutique store window highlighted garments made with Candiani Denim. Others dressed their windows with vintage jeans and baby dolls decked out in indigo. Some, such as a fish market and a flower shop, strung jeans and denim banners across their stores’ façade.

“The hope is, in 10 years, to change the face of this street while maintaining its character,” Arata said. “This is the oldest part of Genoa’s historical center. The architecture is fantastic and for centuries it’s been a multicultural and [diverse] place because it’s located behind the port.”

Designs and artisans

The event provided a platform for jeans brands to share their products and stories.

Though some of the brands presented in the Heritage exhibition at the University Library have been in the market for less than a decade, they are either pioneers in sustainability or preserving traditions and heritage designs, said Giusy Bettoni, CEO of C.L.A.S.S., the sustainable fashion advocacy, and a contributor to GenovaJeans.

The exhibition featured Roy Rogers, Pepe Jeans and Diesel, which Bettoni described as the “essence of responsible design” in Italy. Blue of Kind earned a spot for being one of the first brands to scale internationally with garments created from upcycled denim fabrics.

Blue Blanket, founded by industry veteran Antonio Di Battista, highlighted denim’s storytelling element. Though he makes more commercial jeans for Roy Rogers, he uses only unwashed selvedge fabrics for Blue Blanket, to allow jeans to fade naturally. “There should be a history behind a garment,” he said, presenting new and worn-in versions of a loose-fit dark indigo pinstriped jeans.

A second exhibition displayed the talents of “New Gen” creatives and designers who are making sustainability a part of their DNA.

Exhibitors included Andrea Gross, Gilberto Calzolari, Patine, Marcello Pipitone, Regenesi, The Blue Suit and Zerobarracento.

GimmeJeans presented hemp-blended denim, including fabrics harvested by co-founder Francesco Vantin. A fiber-fur jacket made with responsibly sourced mohair and organic cotton was part of Jeanne Friot’s presentation. The designer also showed pieces dyed with 100 percent plant-based indigo. Ksenia Schnaider showed a bag made with a leather alternative and a denim jacket and jeans made with recycled cotton and dyed with a water efficient yarn-dyeing technology.

Supply chain

The former Oratory of San Tommaso was home to innovative supply chain exhibitors.

Tencel partnered with Blue of a Kind to make gilets originally designed 30 years ago by Bruno Munari for the publishing house Corraini Edizioni. The pink and blue vests have pockets to hold several books, creating a type of wearable library, and are lined with Tencel Luxe, a fine filament yarn that produces silky-smooth luxury fabrics with color vibrancy and a liquid-like drape.

The closed-loop story of Renewcell’s Circulose was told through materials that visitors could touch and feel. The company presented discarded textiles that were shredded and turned into slurry. The slurry is dried to produce sheets of pure Circulose, which can be made into new textiles.

On the mill side, Pure Denim highlighted the first denim fabrics made with Bemberg, a fiber derived from the hair around cotton linters and processed in a closed-loop system. Albiate 1830 showed fabrics made from recycled waste and organic cotton. The fabrics require no additional dyes and obtain their unique color from the recycled content. The mill also presented organic cotton fabric dyed with Stony Creek’s natural indigo.

Simon Giuliani, global marketing director for Candiani Denim, shared the five-year process it took the mill to develop its award-winning Coreva technology, the world’s first biodegradable and compostable stretch denim. With 77 percent of the jeans in the market containing stretch, Giuliani said the company knew it couldn’t ignore the role denim plays in contributing to microplastic pollution.

Cadica presented its range of sustainable trims and packaging, which the company’s internal creative team develops with brands. YKK Italia showed zipper tapes made with organic cotton and Tencel, and options made with chemically recycled polyester.

Alberto Lucchin, marketing and sustainability manager at Tonello, described how a combination of laser, ozone and no-stone technologies can dramatically cut down on how much water it takes to produce jeans. He also shared how the industry’s mindset has evolved over the decades. The company started in the ’80s when stonewashing was the most desired effect. Later, Tonello introduced a front-loading washing machine to reduce water, but Lucchin noted at the time it was more about efficiency than sustainability.

“When promoting the machines and [how they save time and water], the customers would say, ‘I don’t care, water is free.’ Of course, nowadays nobody would say that.”

Soko Chimica is also in the business of reducing water. The chemical company shared how its technologies can reduce the water consumption of one pair of jeans to less than 30 liters. Officina39 presented Recycrom, the chemical company’s range of pigment powders employing textile fibers from used clothing and manufacturing waste.

Officina39 and Lenzing were among the supply chain ingredient makers artist Juan Manuel Gomez used in his piece, “Trace and Repeat the Painting, 2019,” on display at GenovaJeans. The art features patches, embroideries and other elements made by 10 people in different places around the world. The piece represents the journey of fabrics and the numerous hands they go through before becoming jeans.

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