“Fabrics should be durable”

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One of the younger members of the Riopele team, with broad skills in the R&D field, aged 28, Ângela Teles has further responsibilities in the domain of sustainability, regarding the development of new fabrics, as well as running and promoting innovation projects. She believes in teamwork, in joint projects and in investing in “innovation processes that open up pathways to new approaches and opportunities, fostering creativity”.

Riopele announced a very ambitious target for sustainability with 80% of its fabrics containing a sustainable facet by 2025. What steps are being taken to achieve this target?

Product associated sustainability is much broader. We have to take into account the materials we use, the way we produce and where we do this. Despite all this, raw materials continue to be one of the points of reference and with the greatest impact on the sustainability process of the textile industry. For this reason, we increasingly seek to incorporate more responsible materials and introduce new fibres with the characteristics of circularity, bearing in mind that to be sustainable, a fabric must, above all, be durable.

Might these environmental concerns prove restrictive to the creativity involved in developing new products?

Sustainability and all the resulting concerns should be perceived as a challenge. Technology is frequently seen as a solution for our environmental problems but creativity is just as important. It is vital that we are able to change mentalities and reflect as citizens of today how we feel in relation to sustainability. Driven by this change, more innovative materials and processes emerge, opening the way to exploring new approaches and opportunities, nurturing our creativity. This precisely represents the great challenge; using all our creativity, looking globally and reinventing the ways in which we build fabrics.

Riopele exports over 95% of its production to practically 50 markets. From the commercial point of view, do you feel there is greater pressure to develop new environment friendly products?

The expectations of customers are changing. Consumers are looking for companies and brands that they consider have genuine commitments towards environmental and social issues. The requests for more responsible products have grown exponentially in these last four years. We consider that it’s important to be proactive and not to wait for legislation to make changes. We are taking our path and accompanying our customers on theirs.

What countries are in the vanguard in the field of sustainability?

The environmental question has achieved a global scale that leaves nobody indifferent and it has become necessary for all brands to rethink their approaches to business and turning consumption more sustainable. It is almost impossible for consumers in any part of the world to ignore the changes caused by climate change and environmental degradation. Clearly, not everybody is aware in the same way or working with the same urgency. The Nordic countries, such as Denmark and Sweden, but also Germany and Belgium expressed such concerns from a very early stage and continue to be among the most aware but we cannot overlook Spain, especially the Inditex Group, as well as France. Furthermore, the pandemic period served to deepen this theme in other markets, such as the USA.

Riopele is a specialist in the production of polyester. What makes this raw material so interesting?

Polyester is a fibre which has played an essential role in the textile world ever since its invention in the 1940s. In 1963, in a period of great change, Riopele created the Texlene® brand. This brand revolutionised its times, breaking with tradition and adapting to the needs of modern life through the performance characteristics of polyester as a fibre. Later, in 1996, there came one of the most innovative and respected Riopele brands, Çeramica®, an investment in developing articles with breathable properties and high comfort levels, taking into consideration the easy-care concept, recently evolving into a new generation, Çeramica Green®, incorporating recycled materials.

Riopele is a member of various joint R&D projects in the field of sustainability. What is the importance of networking and with various external partners?

Creativity and innovation are part of our philosophy, we strive to be in the vanguard and, for this reason, the R&D projects are an extremely powerful tool. In the current world, with the demand for results and speed of response, there is no space for making it alone, so gathering synergies is vital. Working with partners is therefore essential as this enables us to pool individual competences, experiences and strategies to boost the overall probability of success. We focus on proximity and transparency with our partners to ensure we are well positioned to deal with the challenges of sustainability.

The company, which is about to celebrate its 100th anniversary, has made consistent efforts to capture and retain talent. What is the integration of a young person in their twenties into a company with the size of Riopele?

I can only talk about my own experience as we all live and feel these things differently. Riopele is a company full of its own history but extremely resilient, which knew how to adapt and consolidate its national and international position. I feel the responsibility of becoming part of a company of this scale just as I recognise and value the people who accompany us along this route. I consider myself fortunate to be part of this family.