José Rafael Royo Ballesteros has made it something of a personal mission to spread the gospel of Tejidos Royo's dry indigo technology.
It may come as a surprise that José Rafael Royo Ballesteros’s blood doesn’t actually run blue. After all, by the time he joined Tejidos Royo in 1996, his family had been manufacturing denim for four generations.
As sales manager, Royo Ballesteros helps develop business outside Europe. As a Royo, he participates in strategic decisions. He’s also made it something of a personal mission to spread the gospel of dry indigo, the company’s waterless indigo-dyeing technology, to companies that can “make a change” and integrate the process at scale. “The textile industry needs to be change drastically,” he said.
That might be a strange statement from a 115-year-old business, but Royo Ballesteros can read the tea leaves of climate change and resource scarcity. He wants to ensure that Tejidos Royo endures for another century, perhaps beyond. Certainly the company has often been ahead of the zeitgeist. Royo Ballesteros recalls selling Tencel, which uses less land and water than cotton, to Marks & Spencer circa 1998 as Tejidos Royo’s “first step toward sustainability.”
More firsts followed, not just for the company but for the textile industry at large. Tejidos Royo was the first mill in Europe to use pre-consumer and post-consumer recycled and organic fibers in its fabrics. With its help, Country Road became the first major Australian retailer to incorporate Lenzing’s reconstituted Refibra fibers into its garments. “And my baby, dry indigo, the revolution of the 21st century is about to happen and Tejidos Royo is going to be the first one to do it,” Royo Ballesteros added.
These minor victories add up. “Each one of us has the responsibility to do something, probably small, but when you add a lot of smalls, you get a huge trend,” Royo Ballesteros said. “Denim is beautiful, original and will never be out of style. But we can make it in a much more responsible way.”
What is your first denim memory?
“There are so many. I remember my first pair of jeans—Levi´s, of course. My father brought them from New York around 1978. At that time, we were getting out of a dictatorship in Spain, and those Levi´s were a symbol of America, modernity and freedom. Every day, after school was finished, I put them on and I felt better. The trousers were my little piece of freedom. From them on, blue has always being in my closet.”
What is your favorite pair of jeans?
“I have two. The first is a 10-year-old pair by Johnbull in Japan, The style is different from what you find in Western part of the world. They are heavy but authentic, and the more I wear them, the more I like them. They are a part of me. The second is my Levi’s Japanese Edition 1962. They are worn out and close to being unwearable, but the color of the trousers is unique and I have not been able to find anything similar to replace them.”