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Denim students take on Italy!

By Eva van Stekelenburg, 4th year Fashion & Branding (and Denim student!)

Image: Inspecting denim samples at chemical company ‘Nearchimica’ (credits: Hugo Henri Guthan, Estonian exchange student from Danish TEKO)

Image: Inspecting denim samples at chemical company ‘Nearchimica’ (credits: Hugo Henri Guthan, Estonian exchange student from Danish TEKO)

 

Last month, the students of the minor Denim took a trip to Italy, where they visited the important factories that make the denim world go round, including the Candiani Mills. The Denim Minor is an AMFI minor that unites all three departments of the Institute (Branding, Management and Design) and is welcoming exchange students as well. Together they work on creating a sub brand for an already existing brand. This semester sub brands are created for for G-Star, Denham and Kings of Indigo (also known as K.O.I.). With its hands-on approach, it is an exciting minor that feels like a reality school programme. As a part of the minor students get to experiment in the Amsterdam-based ‘Blue Lab’ denim laundry, collaborate with the famous Candiani Denim Mills as well as visit the headquarters of the brand they are working for. It’s an opportunity to establish many new contacts and discover the intricate world of denim.
 

Image: Cotton being spun at the Candiani Mills (Image by Eva van Stekelenburg)

Image: Cotton being spun at the Candiani Mills (Image by Eva van Stekelenburg)

Along with minor coordinators Jo Watson, and – not to be missed – denim enthusiast Guido Kerssens we met in the early hours of the day at Schiphol, where we smoothly checked in despite some oversized hand-luggage. During the flight most of us took advantage to doze off and dream about perfect twill weaves and Italian Selvedge denim. After our touchdown in the Italian countryside of Milano we made our way over to the Candiani Denim Mills. Here, (the very handsome) Simon was awaiting us and wished us a warm welcome to the factory – literally, with homemade oven spaghetti dishes and the softest mozzarella, salads and Bresaola.
 

Image: Simon from Candiani explaining the denim production process on-site. (credits: Hugo Henri Guthan, Estonian exchange student from Danish TEKO)

Image: Simon from Candiani explaining the denim production process on-site. (credits: Hugo Henri Guthan, Estonian exchange student from Danish TEKO)

At the Candiani Mills we revised the samples we had sent out to be made – based on our technical packs. We got to meet the factory workers that had made our jeans samples and experience hands-on what it’s like to collaborate with a factory – interesting! We also got a facility tour from Simon and we got to see the actual denim production process, from raw cotton till a finished pair of jeans.

 

Image: Discussing our designs at Candiani (Image credits: Eva van Stekelenburg)

Image: Discussing our designs at Candiani (Image credits: Eva van Stekelenburg)

Next stop was the world’s biggest trim supplier ‘Prym’, located in a beautiful valley two hours from Milano. Here we got a guided tour of the whole facility in English-Italian. Amongst all the buzzing machines and mechanical devices (making a tremendous amount of noise) we found buttons in production for Louis Vuitton, Won Hundred, Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein. Once again we realized there is so much still to learn when it comes to the production of clothes!

 

During our trip we also visited chemical company Nearchimica. Fellow Denim Minor student Jade van Straalen (3rd year Fashion & Management ) also visited the factory: “In the early morning on Wednesday we went to Legnano to the Nearchimica Spa factory. We had a great presentation about their sustainable processes and dyestuffs. I really appreciated they admitted to areas where they could still improve as they feel they are still using too much water and chemicals with which they can never be completely sustainable. Personally, I am still convinced ‘sustainability’ is often used as a marketing tool and you never know how sustainable a factory really is. By changing a little small thing you can already say that it is ‘sustainable’. So it’s hard so say, when is something really sustainable?”
 
“At Nearchimica we also had a tour of all the different machines. The only downside to machines is that there are so many interesting things happening inside the machine it’s a pity you can only look at the outside.” One example of where we all would like to see what is happening inside is in a Jeans-Baking-Oven-Box machine. With stretch being used more often in jeans, most of us thought stretch was determined by the weave of the fabric. To our surprise there was another method:  a chemist at Nearchimica informed us that there are ‘oven’ machines that can determine the amount of stretch in a material – its elasticity – depending on how long the fabric is baked. The longer the fabric is ‘baked’, the less stretch it contains.
 

Image credits: Hugo Henri Guthan (Estonian exchange student from Danish TEKO)

Image credits: Hugo Henri Guthan (Estonian exchange student from Danish TEKO)

Over the duration of these four days in Italy, we visited countless factories that produced all elements that make up a deceivingly ‘simple’ pair of jeans. We learned that in reality, jeans are all but simple!

We already knew that for one pair of jeans an average of 6000 liters of water is needed, but actually seeing the whole production process is quite something different than just reading about it. It was also interesting to see how all the firms are working on making the production process more sustainable and I realised that as a Branding student I can add to that in the future. For instance by informing consumers they can participate in making fashion more sustainable by educating them about how to take care of clothes!

 

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