The textile industry (the fashion industry) is one of the most profitable and at the same time polluting industries of the Earth. Its annual turnover is 1,500 billion euros and it produces over one billion clothes per year. And the projections are clear…With a 63% increase in the textile production by 2030, it is obvious that this sector will have an ever-greater impact on the environment and on the Earth ecosystem. In this perspective, various initiatives are emerging: they conceive production and consumption processes in a rather different way. One of these is Rétro eco à porter, an eco-sustainable fashion brand that uses organic and eco-friendly fabrics (mainly bamboo, organic cotton, organic wool) and non-toxic dyes to produce handcrafted elegant, modern and durable dresses. How does the idea of Rétro eco à porter was born? What are the advantages of ecological fibres? How can sustainability in the fashion industry be increased? Manuela De Sanctis, founder of RÉTRO ECO À PORTER, answered to these and other questions.
RÉTRO ECO À PORTER is an eco-sustainable textile brand founded in 2010 by Manuela De Sanctis, fashion designer at the Academy of Costume and Fashion in Rome. It produces handcrafted feminine dresses and eco lingerie with organic and eco-friendly fabrics, with non-toxic natural dyes.
Manuela De Sanctis is a fashion designer, graduated at the Academy of Costume and Fashion in Rome. She has always been sensitive to ecological issues. After the Academy of Costume and Fashion in Rome and three years of work in the commercial sector in Rome, she decided to create a line of ecological and sustainable clothing for women.
This interview was made in August 2017 and published in November 2017 on www.lteconomy.
Oggetto: eco-sustainable textile items
This interview was made by:
… opening a textile company in 2010 without taking into account the sustainability factor was absolutely wrong and anti-economic!
It is true, the textile and apparel sector has undergone a large drop in sales in the past few years and we have not overpassed it unharmed. But we are still here! The reason? Our choices towards ecology and quality.
I must say, here in Italy consumers in North-Italy and in Lazio (Rome in particular) are more sensitive to sustainability. The market abroad is more developed., especially in Germany and in north European countries... In Germany, there is Innatex, the most important fair with reference to organic textile.
Softness, comfort, breathability, lack of smell and thermo-regularity. These are the main advantages of our fibres. ‘How soft it is!’ This is the first thing our customers say when they buy our items.
The environmental benefits are enormous: no polluting processes are used; our fabrics are dyed with chromium, bromine, arsenic and formaldehyde-free dyes. Their fibres are often grown organically.
Our main future project is the commercialization of ‘Ecolingerie,’ our organic cotton collection financed by Italy’s Lazio Region (after a competition we won 2 years ago). It includes bras with a size ranging from B to H.
Question 1. Dear Manuela De Sanctis, thank you for being with us. In 2010, you founded Rétro eco à porter. Why an eco-sustainable textile company?
Well, First of all… I have always given great importance to environment and eco-sustainability in my life (you know EPG, 0km goods etc…). It all started when I was working in a big showroom in Rome (Italy), after an academic course. I was struck by the enormous waste of materials and packaging, as well as the huge collections of items made in China or made in India. So…I determined on creating a low-impact made in Italy brand! But let me be clear on one point…The reason was not just ecological ideology. It was also economic: opening a textile company in 2010 without taking into account the sustainability factor was absolutely wrong!
Rétro eco à porter’s dresses from ‘bamboo’ fabrics
Source: Rétro eco à porter
Question 2. In particular, can you tell us who are your products targeted to? What are the most successful items? What about your distribution-channel strategy: direct, indirect, e-commerce?
Our main customers? At the moment, responsible and attentive people: those who generally already use organic food and cosmetics. Trousers and t-shirts. These are the items we sell most. As for our distribution strategy, we have a mix of choices: direct, indirect and e-commerce channels. Why? Let me think… and pose this question: do you want to spread your products and your philosophy as much as possible without spending so much in promotion campaigns? Well, this is the way to do it…We do prefer invest our money in improving the quality and sustainability of our products.
Question 3. Is yours just a niche-market, or is it going to expand and welcome new companies? What are the Italian regions and the Countries where sustainability in clothing is growing more?
In Italy, ecological clothing is still made by craftsmanship and small-medium-sized businesses. It is absolutely a niche market, but since we opened (7 years ago), big steps have been made: the availability of fabrics and the number of companies devoted to sustainability have increased a lot. It is true, the textile and apparel sector has undergone a large drop in sales in the past few years and we have not overpassed it unharmed. But we are still here! The reason? Our choices towards ecology and quality.
I must say that here in Italy consumers in North-Italy and in Lazio (in Rome in particular) are more sensitive to sustainability and they are increasing. The market abroad is certainly more developed. In particular, ecological and sustainable clothing is widespread in Germany and in north European countries, where there is also a huge presence of large, globalized and specialized companies. Do you know Innatex? It is the most important fair with reference to organic textile. It has been taken place in Germany for more than 20 years.
Rétro eco à porter’s bamboo, linen and organic cotton t-shirts
Source: Rétro eco à porter
Question 4. Your products are made with natural dyes and eco-sustainable textile fibres, mainly of vegetable origin: bamboo, organic cotton, organic wool. What are the advantages and disadvantages (for people, the environment and companies) of these fibres compared with the synthetic ones?
Softness, comfort, breathability, lack of smell and thermo-regularity. These are the main advantages of our fibres. ‘How soft it is!’ This is the first thing our customers say when they buy our items. The environmental benefits are enormous: no polluting processes are used; our fabrics are dyed with chromium, bromine, arsenic and formaldehyde-free dyes. Their fibres are often grown organically.
The disadvantages? The singularity of the fibres. As they are not heavily treated, they react differently when processed.
Question 5. What are the peculiarities of eco-sustainable textile fibres compared to non-organic and synthetic fibres, (e.g., polyester)? Do they require specific technologies and production processes?
Well, let’s first compare organic and non-organic fibres. The production process is similar, but there are three main differences in my opinion: 1) the use of organic methods; 2) the reduction of chemicals; 3) the reduction of the finishing phase. The same is true for new eco-friendly fibres such as bamboo viscose, rice or banana viscose, and the castor-oil derived Evo biopolymer.
Eucalyptus and bamboo require innovative processes compared to artificial fibres. In fact, some of them are patented.
Some Rétro eco à porter’s hemp, organic cotton and wool items
Source: Rétro eco à porter
Question 6. What are your future plans? Do you think to extend your production to other sustainable natural fibres, such as hemp, flax, nettle, eucalyptus? What are the main factors to take into account to increase sustainability in the whole textile supply chain?
Our main future project is the commercialization of ‘Ecolingerie,’ our organic cotton collection financed by the region of Lazio (Italy) (after a competition we won 2 years ago). It includes bras with a size ranging from B to H.
As for the other fibres… Linen is always present in our summer collections; we also use hemp, as our customers prefer changing types of fabric. As for nettleand eucalyptus fibres, we are in a start-up phase; in particular, for nettle, which gives the garments a beautiful silk-like effect.
What about sustainability? We are doing our best, I think the maximum… However, investments by textile companies in research and development of ecological and biological yarn fabrics will surely allow us to expand our offer.
Rétro eco à porter’s Ecolingerie made of silky milk fibres blended with cotton and elastane
Source: Rétro eco à porter
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