Rudolf GmbH, managing director
Dr. Wolfgang Anton Schumann
Rudolf GmbH, managing director

Deep Dive

With revamped branding and 100-years of experience moving the needle in sustainable chemistry, German chemicals company Rudolf Group and managing director Dr. Wolfgang Anton Schumann is ready to take on another century of innovation. 

Schumann, the third generation of his family to lead and own the company, has been in his position since 2007. During his tenure, Schumann has navigated the group’s global expansion, including new eco-conscious developments like the Offuel range of denim finishing agents that are made using alternative materials to crude oil and Cycle-Logic, which chemically recycles polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastics into raw inputs that can replace fossil fuels in Rudolf’s manufacturing.

Meanwhile, his work as chairman of the Sustainable Chemistry for the Textile Industry (SCTI), a group of leading chemical companies, underscores his passion to drive transformational change in the textile value chains. SCTI recently partnered with Bluesign for a “first-of-its-kind” index for substances that offer transparency on the chemical’s circularity viability, greenhouse gas emissions during production, and the source of the raw materials. The index will also require that the downstream use of the chemical is optimized to save resources.

“This partnership exemplifies our organizations’ joint expertise and how collaboration creates solutions that can drive meaningful change across an industry to reduce impact on people and our planet,” Schumann said.

What denim buzzword do you think is overused? And what would you replace it with?

It feels like the word “sustainability” has lost all meaning. Many companies are rushing to polish their green credentials to keep themselves relevant as demand for sustainable fashion grows rapidly, with many not doing enough and some possibly greenwashing.

What do you wish more consumers knew about the jeans they buy?

The invisible—yet exceptional—ever-increasing research and development carried out through the entire supply chain.

If you had one request for denim brands, what would that be?

To find convergence in terms of approach to chemical safety. Despite all the good intentions, the proliferation of certifications and approaches is causing a remarkable waste of resources, and it’s not solving the issue.

What can other apparel categories learn from the denim industry?

Denim requires a lot in terms of water, energy, labor and possibly chemicals. And yet, the denim industry has been going through a steady process of continuous improvement for at least 20 years, which requires intense communication within the value chain. Hopefully, a similar level of internal dialogue can be exported to other apparel categories.

What was your most recent denim purchase?

A pair of Blue of a Kind jeans. While I still somehow struggle to see how the full upcycling of clothing and denim can become a mainstream business, the brand plays a pioneering role in this arena. And the products are beautiful.