“Nordics have an extremely strong social conscience”

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Sónia Luso has now worked for Riopele for over a decade and is a specialist in the Nordic markets. She considers that in countries such as Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, there is “an extremely high level of social awareness”. “Their high economic, sociocultural, social democratic and competitive levels result from an education based on strong principles, moral and human values, endowing society with an extremely strong social conscience and in personal and professional relationships are characterised by their openness and transparency”, she highlighted.

Do you still recall your first day at Riopele?

I took up my position in June 2011, in RFS researching the Nordic market. In January 2013, I joined the Riopele sales team taking on responsibility for the sales area management from Russia and Sweden. In 2014, I launched the Danish market, hitherto closed, and that, of the four Scandinavian countries is now the largest.

How was that day?

I remember my first day at Riopele perfectly, how anxious and enthusiastic I was to get the chance to work in a vertical company, taking into account how my experience thus far had been more closely connected to services.

From your perspective, how has the company evolved over recent years?

Evolution has been fundamental to its success. The investments in production have enabled a wider and swifter response to the diversity of orders from the various markets, with distinctly different needs and demands; the developments in the technology tools, driven by the pandemic, enable us to remain close to our clients and have now become an indispensable tool, both when visiting clients and in accompanying the daily work. In the research and sustainability fields, I would highlight the partnerships (both with institutions and directly with clients) that have certainly contributed to our progress, innovation and recognition by both clients and our supply chain partners.

What are the main cultural differences between Portugal and the Nordic market?

They are countries with unique identities. Their high economic, sociocultural, social democratic and competitive levels result from education – from childhood through adulthood – based on strong principles, and moral and human values, which bestow a very firm social conscience on these societies and with personal and professional relationships characterised by their openness and transparency.

Despite similar cultural and geographic characteristics, do you notice any significant differences in the product preferences among Riopele clients in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden?

They all share a preference for natural fibre products, sustainable; sophisticated and differentiating fabrics. We may state that the most innovative market is Sweden that emerges as a pioneer in the development of concepts, fibres and new products within a sustainable framework, with priority attributed to natural fibres that, on the one hand, are more resistant to usage, which are the Riopele DNA products, and driving development and innovation on the other hand. In turn, Denmark, despite its enormous demands, is nevertheless more willing to try out the converted Riopele DNA products, as is the case with recycled polyester. Nevertheless, we are now experiencing growth in the demand and options for natural fibres.

What is the level of awareness of Nordic clients concerning sustainability?

The level of awareness is extremely high. Considered the drivers of sustainability, Nordic clients can apply their ideals to the major global markets through the implementation of practices in the productive and social process, for example putting into practice the circular economy.
The rising presence of natural and/or fibres in client collections is already beginning to get quotas imposed by national entities as a means of ensuring slower and more sustainable fashion, which reflects in smaller, more responsible collections but also displays higher quality and durability.

What is the role of Riopele in helping drive sustainability in the fashion brands of these countries?

Riopele plays an absolutely fundamental role in this scenario. With 100% vertical production, great capacity for innovation and adaptation, the heavy investment by Riopele in the inclusion of sustainable fibres into its production, as is the case with viscose Lenzing and especially recycled polyesters, excellent Riopele DNA fibres, as well as the development of the Tenowa brand, are key factors in the choice of Riopele as project partner for the launching of new products onto the market. Examples would include the brands – SNT in Denmark and Filippa K in Sweden – through open and direct dialogue and an exchange of know-how between the client and supply chain partners, which are successfully developing projects that enable Riopele to strengthen its presence in these markets. This dynamic is essential to the smooth progress and innovation of both Riopele and its clients.