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Collaboration and Innovation React to Form Soko’s New Innovation Hub

Sometimes elements combust in the most productive ways.

Based in Florence, Italy, third-generation chemical company and research lab Soko Chimica takes inspiration from its rich past, optimism from a post-pandemic present, and plans for a better future. To foster positive interactions that solve for an increasingly sustainable vision of the textile and garment industry, Soko created The Innovation Hub, an inspiring in-house collaborative space operating since March 2021 and opening to clients and visitors in May.

“Being from Florence, our Renaissance culture leads us to believe in rebirth and renewal, thus the Soko Innovation Hub was born. Here, innovation, creativity and ideas come together,” said Matteo Urbini, CEO, Soko Chimica. “More than just a research and development laboratory, The Hub is a center where we share our innovations and products with brands, designers and all players of the industry. We believe in the unity of intentions; that sharing can create more viable solutions to sustainable production difficulties in the denim supply chain.”

Here, Urbini outlines how cross-collaborative development efforts can be even more fruitful than the sum of its parts:

How does The Hub gather information from all areas of your business to maximize results?

The hub is linked to the entire Soko network made up of our collaborators, agents, technicians around the world. It allows us to get feedback from customers, trends, information and research from various areas in a relaxed, collaborative setting. We listen to what the market needs and then find practical solutions. Our target is to help our customers and contribute to their success. The new Innovation Hub is a forge where we create solutions to make finishing processes simple, effective and better than conventional ones. All our efforts are focused on developing products and processes that minimize the impact on the environment, with the aim not only of creating alternatives, but improving the quality and practicality of production processes. In short, making garment production simple and effective.

What is Soko’s latest ongoing research and development initiative that rolled out through the  Innovation Hub?

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One of the first is the Soko Black Magic, a product created to revolutionize the treatment of black denim. Obtaining gray and light gray tones is characterized by very long laundry processes, using high temperatures, lots of water and aggressive products such as caustic soda. This also creates high CO2 emissions and considerable stress on the fabrics, risking production waste due to fabric damage, in particular stretch garments. Thanks to our innovative Soko Black Magic, process time and water consumption are reduced up to 70 percent, with a lower activation temperature and with less dangerous chemicals. This improves productivity with less environmental impact, in addition to stress-free fabric. This result is not only eco-friendly, it [also] improves productivity.

How is Soko using chemistry to solve sustainable fashion problems?

Sometimes, the aesthetic of garments sustainably washed fail in authenticity, resulting in a flat look lacking in nuanced contrasts. Our answer to this lack of personality is Soko Bioclean, a product that enhances the natural high-low of blue denim, highlighting the white of the worn areas and helping merge the laser effect with the overall look of the wash. This results in a more authentic, premium denim look.

How do your sustainability procedures minimize water usage?

We develop products and processes that minimize the impact on the environment—not just with the aim to create alternatives, but to improve the quality and practicality of production. In short, making garment production simple and effective. One solution is to group several processes into one using the normal washing machines everyone has, thus allowing huge water savings (up to 75 percent less water consumption). Soko created enzyme compounds specifically for this type of use.

Some say Italy’s Renaissance was borne from the plague that preceded it. Do you see a heightened opportunity for creativity post Covid-19?

We are optimistic about the future. Renaissance needs the right mindset. We reacted to the Covid-19 earthquake with dedication to improve our facilities and ambiance—Innovation Hub, showrooms and areas for events and visitors. In 2020, Soko passed the Oeko-Tex audit, which then allowed us to certify about 60 products of our “green” range with the prestigious “Eco Passport.” This puts us in line with the ZDHC Roadmap to Zero with Level 3. We also have GOTS-certified products. Soko adopted Higg Index to measure and grow sustainable practice—it is an SA8000 certified company and meets national and international certification standards. This year, virus permitting, we will organize events and collaborations with brands, textile companies, design schools and all the fashion players willing to work together, sharing ideas and seeking for new solutions.

To view a video on Soko’s innovation hub, click here.