4 agosto 2022
by Laura Antonini

Jeans, an Italian story

La campagna pubblicitaria di Roy Roger's firmata da Bruce Weber
La campagna pubblicitaria di Roy Roger's firmata da Bruce Weber

They have forever been pretty much the symbol of casual clothing, seducing entire generations since their appearance in early westerns, without ever going out of fashion. Yet quality jeans are often native to Italy. Not only for their origins in Genoa in the 15th century, precisely when Christopher Columbus hoisted the sails in the direction of what would later be called the Americas, or for the record of the oldest jeans in the world worn by none other than the hero of two Worlds Garibaldi when the Thousand landed in Marsala, and today one of the most viewed relics in the Museo Centrale del Risorgimento in Rome, but also because of the many Italian brands that have decided to invest in and produce jeans, producing innovative collections that, be it for the style or for the research into increasingly sustainable materials, appeal to international markets and are popular among celebrities.

Among the pioneers of this Italian history is Roy Roger's, a brand conceived by Francesco Bacci in 1952, exactly 70 years ago, in Campi Bisenzio (Florence). Together with his wife Giuliana, a few years earlier, he had already established ‘Manifattura 7 Bell’ - today SEVENBELL, producing handcrafted garments and trousers mainly in cotton and gabardine, in an Italy that was picking itself up after the postwar period. Francesco was captivated precisely by “the American world seen in all the films.”

Quality and Italian-made, in fact, are cornerstones of the Roy Roger's brand.

A trip to America, “without knowing a word of English, in search of the company Cone Mills Corporation, leader in the production of denim, the new all-American fabric unique in color and durability,” says his grandson, Niccolò Biondi, current managing director of the maison that he runs together with his mother Patrizia, President of the group and his brother Guido, creative director. “In New York, Francesco signed an agreement with the Cone Mills Corporation, a partnership that continues today, and chose the name Roy Roger's, in honor of the American tailor who, at the end of the 19th century, created the work dungarees worn by Californian farmers.”

Since the early models in stiff fabric, difficult to sew—to the extent that the Baccis were driven to using machinery intended for working leather—the brand has grown exponentially. “Roy Roger's were the first Italian blue jeans. And they have always been made in Italy. Quality and Italian-made, in fact, are cornerstones of the Roy Roger's brand. And it is precisely the importance of Italian manufacturing that leads to the fine quality of the finished product. Following this principle has enabled the survival of superior Italian craftsmanship, which would otherwise have been lost over time. This precious heritage is today synonymous with ‘well-made.’

In the 1960s, the new fashion for casual wear and youth protests made jeans the symbol of identification for an entire generation. Meanwhile, in 1956, the Tuscan fashion house launched the first blue jeans collection for women, a revolutionary idea at the time, which changed the perspective of the market: blue jeans were no longer just work pants but instead became a casual garment in all respects. At the end of the 1980s/start of the 1990s, the baton was passed to Fulvio Biondi, the founder’s son-in-law, who initiated an innovative product and marketing strategy, promoting the history of the company.

 “Today,” continues Niccolò Biondi, “Roy Roger's are the result of continuously seeking the highest quality materials—our denim comes from America, Europe and Japan—and continuous experimentation with innovative washes, craft processes and cutting-edge technologies. But, above all, the ability to rework historical models to conceive new ways of wearing and experiencing blue jeans.”

The jeans are still identified by a black triangle on the back pocket. “It has always been the signature of the brand. As well as the ‘money pocket’ on the front, designed for keeping loose change to hand. The first five-pocket Roy Roger's—called ‘normal’—also had zippers on the back pockets, an idea patented in the 1950s to protect your weekly pay while you worked. The zip is still found today in the models inspired by the old design. The men's models currently most popular in Italy and abroad are the ‘new 529’ and the ‘517’.

For its 70th birthday, at the latest edition of Pitti Uomo in Florence, there was a big party with dinner in the hall of the Cinquecento in Palazzo Vecchio. The brand also created a mini movie on its 70-year history, edited by fashion photographer Bruce Weber.

Another Italian story is Candiani Demin, an Italian family-run company founded in 1938, between Milan and the Alps in a nature reserve, the Ticino Park. This vertically integrated denim factory supplies some of the best-known fashion brands in the world, creating the fabrics that form the foundation of the high-end denim industry and evolving over the years while also ensuring adequate focus on sustainability. 

After deploying the latest textile innovations to patent the biostretch fabric COREVA, which can be used to make the world's first 100% biodegradable and compostable jeans, Candiani has recently launched, together with Lenzing—an innovative European company that produces fabrics in special fibers—the project TENCEL™ Limited Edition x COREVA™ that combines a new cellulosic fiber, made using a significant amount of hemp pulp, with the first biodegradable stretch denim. “In a world where resources are dwindling and there is an unmanageable excess of clothing to be disposed of,” explains Alberto Candiani, owner of Candiani Denim, “it is everyone's duty to look towards sustainable consumption and production, with the maximum focus on renewable resources, biodegradable and compostable materials. The denim industry must be at the forefront of this revolution, and we are really excited to be able to collaborate with international companies such as Lenzing and to be able to share our innovation and our values with the rest of the fashion industry.”

Another brand, Shaft, is highly popular among the very young, also because Maneskin have worn their jeans. In reality, the brand was founded in France in 1968, by Monsieur Shafir—hence the name—who married a woman from Tuscany, and thus as early as the 1970s, production was moved to Italy. The twins Lorenzo and Letizia Palchetti Tosi took over the brand in 2006, developing a business producing jeans 100% made in Italy. 

“Our brand,” they say, “is Italian in the creativity developed in the fabrics and new fits that we offer every season. Specifically, we work with Italian fabrics, Italian manufacture, Italian laundries and dry cleaners and Italian accessories. We have a very short supply chain that extends from Florence to the Marche. We are Italian in the vision that binds us to our company: we are so passionate about the product that every single garment is studied down to the smallest detail and is tried on different body shapes to ensure perfect fit.” 

We have been working with Maneskin for many years, ever since they left XFactor. We have always believed in them and they too have always loved our brand

Their most popular model are the flare fit jeans. “The Lola model is our iconic bootcut, nowadays also worn by men. We also work a lot with very light denim fabrics, such as silk denim, over which we have exclusive rights, which are very soft and super-fine, perfect even for summer.”

But how did they end up working with Maneskin? “We have been working with Maneskin for years, ever since they left XFactor. We have always believed in them and they too have always loved our brand. They have always valued our rock and roll jeans over the years and we have established a relationship of respect and complicity. We have dressed them for many tours over the years but the greatest satisfaction is seeing them with our jeans in real life or when they met Mick Jegger in Las Vegas, when, at such a crucial time for their career, they were wearing our jeans.”


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