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From Compost to Catwalk: Denim’s Saucy New Chapter in Sustainability

Triarchy and Candiani Denim bring plastic-free stretch denim to Bergdorf Goodman.

From Compost to Catwalk: Denim’s Saucy New Chapter in Sustainability

This was a never-before-done project, firstly in creating plastic-free stretch denim and secondly in using it to cultivate the growth of tomato plants.

Ahead of Earth Day, Triarchy made the Fifth Avenue fashions scene just a bit greener.

The Los Angeles denim brand bowed a polyester-free tuxedo dress made with Candiani Denim’s Coreva technology at Bergdorf Goodman. The dress was recently worn by supermodel Amber Valletta for the Green Carpet Fashion Awards. 

“Way too often, innovations get stuck in the funnel and never reach the end consumer because of reasons that can be related to high costs, lack of marketing or wrong communication strategy,” said Alberto Candiani, president of Candiani Denim. “Coreva and Triarchy are a match made in heaven as together they are stronger than the sum of their parts.”

The New York City retailer held an in-store event celebrating the bespoke dress during a special Earth Month “Conscious Curation” pop-up installation on Thursday. Attendees were encouraged to shop the plastic-free stretch tuxedo dress created for Valletta, which is exclusively available at Bergdorf Goodman as well as select Neiman Marcus locations for $595. Guests were served canapés made with tomatoes grown with composted denim.

“The future of sustainability in fashion is rooted in innovation, and what Triarchy has accomplished is nothing short of groundbreaking,” said Yumi Shin, chief merchandising officer for Bergdorf Goodman. Their use of Coreva fabric reflects what happens when creativity and research intersect. We’re thrilled to introduce the brand to Bergdorf Goodman customers who are always in pursuit of extraordinary designs and innovative practices.”

Coreva is the world’s first plastic-free stretch denim fabric made with plant-based yarns. Triarchy holds exclusivity on the technology in North America for the remainder of this year. Instead of using spandex or petroleum-based plastic, Coreva uses natural rubber derived from trees to provide a similar elastane feel while remaining biodegradable. Candiani claims that lab tests have proven that jeans made with these plant-based yarns can disintegrate into compost that fertilizes the soil in less than two years.

“When bringing to market something as pivotal and game-changing as plastic-free stretch denim, I believed it was very important to tell the story alongside the maker of the material,” Adam Taubenfligel, Triarchy cofounder and creative director, said. “This technology has the potential to pivot the denim industry away from its abhorrent dependence on crude oil-based plastic fibers and as Candiani helped us create this reality that empowered Triarchy to be the torch bearer of this technology it only makes sense to tell this story together. It’s an honor not only to have the North American exclusive on the fabrication through 2024 but also that Candiani trusts us to tell this story together means the world to us.”

Triarchy was a partner at this year’s Green Carpet Fashion Awards. During the event, Valletta informed guests that they were dining on pasta with a tomato sauce that was made from tomatoes grown in soil using composted Coreva offcuts. This sauce was made available for attendees of Bergdorf’s installation to sample — a move more “powerful than a thousand words.”

“Why have brands been using and abusing ‘organic cotton’ as their main marketing story to promote sustainability? For the simple reason that it allows a quick psychological connection with probably the most important thing we care about: food,” Candiani said. “Our mission with Coreva, besides enabling circularity, is to create a new, even more powerful link with food — and hence human health — than the concept of organic cotton.”

This sauce was made through a circularity project between Candiani and the farming initiative Quintosapore, which explores the intersection of fashion and food. Hypothesizing whether we could imagine a future where we eat what we wear, the project is a starting point to examine whether fashion and agriculture can be connected outside of the typical linear model. It demonstrates that fashion waste doesn’t have to be environmentally harmful and can even be used to grow sustenance.

“The initial goal was to simply explore the intersection of regenerative farming, soil health, circular fashion and food. The results of the test highlighted that the addition of compostable Coreva offcuts had no negative impacts to the soil or delicious tomatoes, in fact it supported a healthy natural system, and we noticed increased water retention,” Nicola Giuggioli, founder of Quinto Sapore, said. “We are now discussing the next steps: what else can we grow? And how can we use Coreva in different ways — for example, as a mulching solution — further increasing the options in which we can collaborate with the fashion industry.”

The emergence of tomatoes as an unexpected byproduct of Triarchy’s endeavor with Candiani and then with Quinto Sapore underscores the “serendipitous nature” of sustainable innovation, Taubenfligel said, noting that these examples serve as a “beacon, signaling to other brands and retailers that viable solutions exist and are ready to be scaled.”

But, much to Taubenfligel’s reluctance, sustainability remains “predominantly confined to luxury circles.”

To democratize it, brands that leverage sustainability in their marketing would actually need to embrace these eco-friendly technologies in their practices, Taubenfligel continued. The industry can scale these technologies and drive down costs through collective adoption.

“Until then, sustainability will persist as a luxury topic, running parallel to greenwashing,” Taubenfligel said, noting that the Neiman Marcus Group is a strong supporter of sustainability as it “actively advocates” for these stories within its stores. “Bergdorf Goodman being amenable to us growing tomatoes on their denim floor to tell this story really shows their dedication to advancing sustainable practices in retail.”