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Ladies of Denim: Alice Tonello

From fiber to factories, the women working in denim are making a lasting impression. In this series, Ladies of Denim, Rivet chatted with the females that are driving innovation in speed, sustainability and design in the denim market. Some are self-made, others have indigo running through their blood. All are passionate about denim.

Alice Tonello, Tonello Marketing and R&D Manager

RIVET: What’s your denim pedigree?
Tonello: When my uncle, Osvaldo Tonello, built the first washing machine in 1975 he would never have imagined that it would be the beginning of a long story. The RC 60-120 was born of a far-sighted and successful idea that came at the right time and in the right place. These are the years of the denim revolution. Shortly thereafter he passed the baton to my father who has continued this adventure. I remember my visits to the factory when I still didn’t know the difference between a nail and a bolt, the impossible working hours, the pizzas eaten between the washing machines, and the smell of iron. That’s how I got involved in the world of denim.

RIVET: Why have so many denim companies remained family-owned?
Tonello: I believe that denim is a world of passion, genius and creativity. It is easy to let yourself be attracted to it and be carried away. I believe that many companies have remained family-owned because denim needs a soul.

RIVET: What was your first denim job?
Tonello: I started working at Tonello 10 years ago, but really, when I was younger I used to spend my summers treating and scratching jeans with the first mannequins and the first scratch brushes.

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RIVET: Do you consider denim to be a boys’ club?
Tonello: It’s true. It is a boys’ club, but by now we all know each other and as a woman I feel completely at ease.

RIVET: Do you think you bring a different perspective than your male colleagues?
Tonello: Maybe a different sensitivity or attention to detail. Sometimes being a woman has its advantages and relationships are different, but I’m just myself.

RIVET: What is your first denim memory?
Tonello: A photo of my mom taken when she was 16-years-old, while wearing a splendid pair of Roy Roger’s bell bottom jeans.

RIVET: Describe the perfect jean.
Tonello: Comfortable, unsurpassed fit, high-quality fabric treated without chemicals.

RIVET: What is your favorite pair of jeans to wear?
Tonello: A pair of 3×1 that I received from Scott Morrison. It feels like I’m not even wearing them.

RIVET: What is your favorite brand?
Tonello: Timeless Levi’s.

RIVET: Who do you admire in the denim industry?
Tonello: I admire everyone who has made innovations, who has discovered new treatments, new fabrics and who has helped denim become all it is today. I admire the companies that focus on high quality without compromising, that are passionate in searching for new solutions, as if every day was their first day.

RIVET: What are some important characteristics to have in order to succeed in denim?
Tonello: Passion, attitude, foresight and respect.

RIVET: What are you most proud of in your career?
Tonello: Working with my dad.

RIVET: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received while working in the denim industry?
Tonello: Here’s the best advice I received when I’d just started working at Tonello: “Put on your blue coveralls and a pair of gloves, go join the production workers and learn all that you can from them.”

RIVET: Tonello is making strides to make denim more sustainable, but it doesn’t happen overnight. How do you stay motivated?
Tonello: We believe the same thing today that we believed when our clients were telling us that saving water wasn’t all that important. Now, however, it’s an element that makes the difference. The market always needs a forerunner, someone who looks to the future and proposes cutting-edge solutions. With great humility, but also with great awareness, we think that that is our role, our mission.

RIVET: What’s on your to-do list for 2017?
Tonello: At the moment we are working in our research department, with a completely new creative area and a project that involves various designers and artists. All this helps us in creating and defining new technologies and solutions for the world of denim.

RIVET: Why do you believe in denim?
Tonello: It’s part of us. It is our history. Denim has changed our world and our way of living. And besides, without denim, maybe there would be no Tonello.

This article appears in Rivet Magazine. Click here to read the full issue.