Today´s Revolution Talk is hold with CEO Managin Director at Nanollose Ltd. which is an Australian-based company that creates a plant-free cellulose fibre. This fibre could become the most sustainable fibre ever as it does not require the source of agricultural land or natural resources.
Raffaele obtained his Fashion Design and Textile Science Diploma from the Bentley College of Technical and Further Education in Perth, Western Australia. After working for his family garment manufacturing company, he moved to Hong Kong where he spent 24 years in the garment industry as a leader of large scale global product development, sourcing and retail operations.
You have held multiple Vice President positions at some of the largest global apparel brands including GAP and VF, which includes brands like Wrangler, Lee and Rock & Republic. AT VF, you operated from the Headquarter in Hong Kong and you were responsible for a $720M P&L and the sourcing of the world’s largest denim businesses based on an annual order quantity of 56M pieces. For GAP you were responsible for a Profit & loss of US$1.5B. These are huge numbers and I can imagine a big pressure to increase on-time delivery for the fast fashion world, which is obviously not sustainable.
What are your experiences with the environmentally unsustainable fibre production methods used for fashion and textiles in the fast fashion industry you worked for in the past? And what inspired and motivated you to join Nanollose
Germano: Huge numbers come with huge challenges, but being able to work with this scale can also facilitate huge opportunities for huge change. The entire sustainability dynamic that’s happening in the industry will only move rapidly and be significantly accelerated by the super users. After all they have the scale to positively impact & influence behaviour.
In my past I have seen good initiatives that address the topics above, the only thing that stifles them is “The sense of urgency”. However today this urgency is heightened by the voice of the customer, community and perhaps even governments who are demanding change & new requirements. This zeitgeist is needed to influence better industry behaviour, support the changes needed & embrace new innovative companies that offer sustainable solutions.
I grew up in and around this industry that I hold dear and love, and will not be part of the finger-pointing crowd. I along with Nanollose, choose to be part of the crowd that will provide sustainable solutions. This new dawn of sustainability is the inspiration of why I have augmented my career path and hence the reason why I joined Nanollose.
There is obviously an increase in urgency from all facets of the industry (brands, retailers and manufacturers) to search for sustainable, long-term fibre alternatives. When did you realize that consumers and the fashion industry are increasing the search for sustainable, long-term fibre alternatives?
Germano: I’ve seen the sustainability dynamic unfurl for the past 10 plus years. From mitigating manufacturing waste, raw material & transport optimization, along with drip irrigation for cotton growing to even waterless dyeing.
I’ve always felt that we must work towards a whole new slew of sustainable things. On an average 60% plus of the total cost of a garment comes from raw materials, so being positively impacted that would be a significant plus. So for us, we focus on the raw materials! The time has come to turbo charge change. This industry’s DNA is all about change and together we can do it.
We use plants and trees for fibres to make clothes. Can you explain some of the current production methods and why there is an increasing spotlight on the environmental impact of these industries?
Germano: Firstly, I would like to commend those companies that currently procure wood from sustainable forests and plantations. This admirable practice assists in mitigating destructive deforesting practices that negatively impact ecosystems, which provide habitats for many terrestrial species along with positively contributing to water quality.
With that said we still have the industrial process to tackle. Simply put, we cut down trees, we debark trees, we pulp trees, and then put them through a heavy chemical process called krafting that extracts the cellulose from the pulp that goes to supply multiple industries.
In the case of textiles, the cellulose is then synthesized to make fibres. As a result of this krafting process there are by products that are not entirely desirable or fully utilized. We at Nanollose do not need plants or trees to obtain cellulose.
Your company Nanollose is developing a world first sustainable Plant-Free fibre, tell us how the fibre is grown and the benefits over current fibres like cotton?
Germano: Yes, we are plant free & tree free. At this stage I am not able to share specifics other than we take liquid bio-masses that are waste products, we then seconde mother nature to perform her magic and pass it over to us to perform our magic.
If we compare ourselves to current wood and cotton procurement our process results in;
• NO PESTICIDES
• LOW WATER CONSUMPTION
• NO DEFORESTATION
• NO KRAFT PULPING PROCESS
• LOW ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT
• LOW ENGERY USE
• QUICK GROW CYCYLE 18-22 days (Compared to 6-8month of cotton & 12-18 years of trees)
How was the fibre initially discovered?
Germano: The story started 10 years ago. Our founder is an agricultural scientist that made a mistake one day while he was making wine. He took this mistake, which was jelly, and proceeded to make a dress. Intrigued with this concept he continued to experiment for many years.
Can the fibre be used in the same way as other fibres to make clothing and textiles?
Germano: The short answer is yes. We are working towards being able to fit into existing industrial infrastructures with little to no retrofitting to existing plants or processes.
How do you plan on providing your fibre to end-users? Do you plan to involve Nanollose directly into the supply chains of brands?
Germano: Our plan is to infuse ourselves directly amongst the supply chain ecosystems. Work directly with the fibre and fabric makers, and work directly with brands and retailers. The best model is for us to be in the middle where we all work together.
In 2014 Nanollose created a dress made from beer for marketing purposes, what is your vision for the next stage of development and commercialisation of company?
Germano: Our vision is to be ingrained into a sustainable supply chain. The next stage for Nanollose is to work closely with key partners that share the same ethos and will help us with their scale and support so we can start providing raw material-fibre solutions for product.
How many progressive brands and companies are starting to facilitate this new dynamic of sustainability by involving themselves deeper in the textile supply chain?
Germano: We have had many conversations with progressive brands and companies wanting to not only assist us but also facilitate this new shift. They and their customers all want feasible, sustainable long-term alternatives.
What does success look like for Nanollose in 2 years, and what are the challenges you might face to make this a reality?
Germano: This is a very good and broad question. For us, success would be many things:
• Acceptance, implementation and wide usage of our fibre in many textiles sectors and other related industries.
• Being endorsed & adopted by a healthy bunch of key and formidable industry partners.
(brands, retailers, manufacturers)
• Develop our technology in countries that have industries that cultivate trees for the textiles sector.
• Become an industry-household name that is recognised as one of the go to fibre companies in this space.
• Having a KPI that shows every time we increase our volume fewer trees are cut down.
• Deliver value to all (including our shareholders who help us do what we do)
• And lastly, on a personal note, working alongside industry champions
In terms of the challenges, I actually believe our challenges are opportunities:
• Acceleration of scale – This is normal for any small company, and for us scale is being able to supply our fibre to end-users. This is new and takes effort, but very possible.
• Scale in Application – Here I see less headwinds as our technology is designed to click into current infrastructure making it easy to plug in and play.
This Revolution Talk is sponsored by Nanollose.