We were invited by Tela Genova and Regenesi to Genoa to discover more about the history of Italian denim during GenovaJeans. But what does the capital of Liguria have to do with jeans, and what were figures like Adriano Goldschmied doing at this event? When we think of jeans, we think of the American dream or the iconic Levi’s 501. Something that can be found in everyone’s wardrobe: a simple work fabric that has revolutionized the way we dress. But perhaps not everyone knows that this material was born right in Genoa, and the city – proud of this little-known heritage – has launched GenovaJeans to celebrate its history and look ahead to a future of sustainable denim. Let’s find out more about this event.
A bit of history
On the GenovaJeans website, we find a lot of information about the history of denim and its origins, thanks in part to contributions from personalities such as Marzia Cataldi Gallo, an art, costume, and textile historian, Monica Bruzzone, and Clelia Firpo. They are all authors, academics, and professionals focused on the study of jeans and its history. Let’s go back in time to 1538, where we find the ancestors of jeans in the Teli della Passione, «a series of 14 linen-cotton cloths dyed with indigo blue and white lead» that tell the story of the Passion of Christ. A few years later, in the inventory of a Richmond merchant, we find Whitt jeanes, an archaic term to describe white fustian produced in Genoa. In 1826, Alessio Pittalunga dedicated himself to a series of watercolors depicting Ligurian folk costumes, where the presence of jeans in the tradition of popular clothing between the 18th and 19th centuries is already clear.
From Giuseppe Garibaldi to Diesel
It was Giuseppe Garibaldi himself who wore blue fustian pants – later becoming the world’s oldest jeans – when he left from Genoa Quarto to Marsala for the Expedition of the Thousand in 1860. Thirteen years later, the U.S. government granted Davis and Levi Strauss patent number 139,121 for riveted copper fastenings designed to make pants pockets more durable for gold prospectors in California. In 1929, the Great Depression hit America, creating a fundamental opportunity for jeans: poverty led many to consider purchasing affordable fabrics like those worn by cowboys, who then became legends along with jeans. Less than ten years later, Blue-Jeans even appeared in Vogue. In Italy, Luigi Candiani began producing fabrics, specializing in jeans after the war, and today his company continues its operations while striving to adhere to sustainability criteria and look to the future. Elio Fiorucci then enters the scene, thinking about jeans after arriving in London in 1965 and opening his first store in Milan two years later. In 1978, Renzo Rosso and Adriano Goldschmied founded Diesel in the province of Vicenza, and the rest is history.
Tela Genova and Regenesi
Brands like Tela Genova and Regenesi are part of this history and participated in GenovaJeans to testify to their authenticity and artisanal tradition for the former, and the issue of reuse for the latter, which is reinterpreted in this new denim season. Starting from themes such as sustainability and vintage. During the event, archival pieces come to life, and the circular economy theme takes center stage in all discussions about the future of denim. At the same time, Regenesi – founded in 2008 and working to become a spokesperson for sustainable luxury – launched the “Rigenera i tuoi jeans” (Regenerate Your Jeans) project during GenovaJeans.
In short, GenovaJeans has proven to be the perfect opportunity for a dive into the history of jeans, but also to remind us how important it is to think about the future of fashion in terms of circular economy and sustainability. Many brands were present, and the atmosphere was not only one of innovation but also of craftsmanship, tradition, awareness, and responsibility.