Italian denim mill Candiani celebrated the grand opening of its Los Angeles Design Center Wednesday night with an industry cocktail party.

The facility, located on South Hope Street in Downtown Los Angeles, houses a small laundry and a development area where Candiani will research and create new innovations in fabric and washing for the premium denim community. As one of the world’s most sustainable denim mills, Candiani aims to set a new standard in sustainable practices in the denim city. The laundry will consume less water than any standard dry cleaner in the L.A. area.

About 37 percent of Candiani’s overall business takes place in the U.S. With new opportunities to work with local designers and brands, Candiani Global Manager Alberto Candiani expects the mill’s U.S. segment to grow, saying, “The Design Center will help to make our fabrics more present and more used in our customers’ lines. Furthermore [a strong U.S. dollar] is finally allowing us to be more competitive.”

Rivet caught up with Alberto Candiani and found out how the Design Center further cements Candiani as a go-to partner for premium denim brands and what the mill hopes to achieve at its new California home.

RIVET: Why was it important for Candiani to open a center in the U.S.?
Candiani
: For many years now L.A.-based brands have represented over 30 percent of our business. L.A. brands are generally more excited about fabric innovation than the rest of the world. Our Design Center will be the perfect place where brands can explore our latest innovations in the most sustainable way. Over 15 years ago, Candiani played a big role in the emergence of the L.A. premium denim industry. It all started with our fabrics, and we intend to maintain our position and identity as the best high-end denim supplier.

RIVET: In terms of innovation and design, what is L.A. lacking?
Candiani
: L.A. is lacking technological and sustainable evolution. Some steps have been taken lately, but the whole industry is going to move much more in this direction in the future. Of course it takes big efforts and investments, but L.A. is still one of the denim capitals of the world, and has to lead it.

If we are able to give this push towards more sustainable practices in L.A., we will raise the bar of global premium denim—big time.

RIVET: What are some of the design center’s capabilities?
Candiani
: We wanted to differentiate our offering in such a small and competitive market as L.A. Ideally we would make exclusive fabrics all the time for all of our customers, but unfortunately that is not always possible. However, at the Design Center we will be able to work on exclusive interpretations and custom-made looks.

The Design Center is where fabric meets wash, or better, it’s where the “’magic” happens, and the designer becomes the “wizard.” Together with the designers we can guarantee exclusivity and diversification.

The truth is that we know our product better than anybody else, and our Design Center is there to share with the customers the best and most environmentally-friendly way to use these fabrics. Each workshop result will be kept secret with the customers and we will share with them all the details and information about the developments we made together, so that they can replicate the process and achieve the same effect at their own facility.

RIVET: Is the L.A. center the same as your center in Italy?
Candiani
: After we saw the success of our Design Center in Italy we decided to create a fully “interconnectable” twin structure in L.A. because the U.S. market represents an important share of our business. The facility in L.A. reflects Candiani’s core values: made in Italy, innovation and sustainability. And like the one in Milan it is the perfect place to work on exclusive and custom developments with our clients, starting from a deep knowledge of the fabric and all its potential once it gets washed and transformed into a pair of jeans.

RIVET: Water is a big concern for California. How are you addressing water conservation at the center?
Candiani
: Absolutely, this is also one of our biggest concerns at the mill especially when it comes to indigo dyeing. Of course we won’t have this issue at the Design Center in L.A. since we’re not producing fabric there, but as we will be washing there. All the laundry machines are from Tonello and Jeanologia, which are the most advanced in saving water. We are proud to say that if everything at the Design Center is working at full capacity, the amount of water consumption of the facility will be less than 50 percent of a standard downtown dry cleaner.

RIVET: In terms of design, what do you hope to achieve at the L.A. design center?
Candiani
: Having such a strong partnership with our main suppliers Tonello and Jeanologia we will always have the latest technology and laundry techniques at the Design Center. We will also teaching our “less is more” concept, taking full advantage of each single fabric to achieve many different looks in the cleanest way possible. Also, we will have some of the Italian technicians going over regularly in order to bring and share inspiration, know-how and manual technique to the L.A. facility. The goal is to diversify and differentiate our customers’ image, supplying everything they need from fabric to treatments in order to strengthen their product and to reinforce their identity.

RIVET: How are your U.S.-based customers different from your European customers?
Candiani
: The U.S. brands are more receptive when it comes to innovation and fashion trends, the Europeans are more into sustainability and treatments. Now that these two things are coming together I see a massive opportunity to link them up, and think that Candiani is perfectly placed to be a significant part of this.