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Rivet 50 Radio: Alberto de Conti

The effects of Covid-19 sent the denim industry into a pause felt all around the world. Like many of its peers, textile chemistry company Rudolf Group spent that time developing innovations that would make a significant impact once business resumed. And while innovating during the pandemic carried with it certain challenges, isolation proved to be a fertile ground for big ideas, according to Alberto de Conti, head of the fashion division at Rudolf Group.

“It was extremely difficult to introduce anything commercially, [since] everybody’s priority, understandably, was to survive,” he said. “But on the other hand, because everybody was physically locked at home with a lot of time on their hands, it was great to have conversations with different groups and individuals to prepare for the future.”

Many of these ideas came to fruition through Hub 1922, Rudolf’s denim innovation center, which the company launched in 2019. During the pandemic, the company introduced Washless Denim, a combination of two existing Rudolf technologies, Bionic-Finish Eco and Silverplus, that together address the opportunity to reduce domestic washing.

Though there’s a large demand for more sustainable denim, de Conti noted that there isn’t necessarily a demand for denim that requires fewer washes. In order for there to be a demand, there must first be education, he said.

“Truly responsible apparel brands or retailers should share knowledge with their customers, educate them, push them in the right directions and provide better quality, longer lasting garments,” he said. “They have an opportunity to design products differently.”

So that’s exactly what the company is doing. Through his efforts on the board of the Transformers Foundation, de Conti has been able to influence the industry to work more responsibly. Hub 1922’s innovations are an extension of this strategy.

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“What would we do if oil dried up and finished off tomorrow? What would people like to find in denim after months or even years of lockdown?” he said. “These are examples of thought processes that we’re going through, because modern chemical R&D, or as we like to call it ‘aspirational chemistry,’ is a journey of discovery that we hope can transform the denim industry.”

Click here to listen to the full conversation with de Conti.

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This podcast episode is made possible by Cotton Incorporated, a not-for-profit company funded by U.S. cotton producers and importers, and whose mission is to increase the demand and profitability of cotton. Discover What Cotton Can Do.