COVID Times – A Talk with Alice Tonello

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Continuing our series of daily Live IG talks with important personalities in denim world, Sandeep Agarwal spoke to ALICE TONELLO from Tonello Group, Italy. Tonello is a well respected name in the global denim and apparel industry providing unique washing , dyeing and technology solutions to the manufacturers worldwide. With her global perspective and being an important player in the supply chain, it was important to have her views . Lets check out the verbatim discussion below :

Sandeep:

Hey Alice , I welcome you and hope that all of your family friends are safe and healthy in Italy.

Alice 

Yes, thank you, Mr. Sandeep, our family is fine and also the tonello team. We have three weeks of lockdown in all Italy and things have been improving daily and it looks like we can probably restart work next week.

Sandeep

That’s a wonderful news !  It has been such a huge tragedy that nobody expected and there are so many lives lost and the with the fighting spirit of Italians, I know you will be able to come back strongly. 

Alice

Thank you, Sandeep. Yes, I think Italy can be considered an example of resilience and if you permit me, let me thank all our workers and the employees who never pull it back during the difficult day and always support the company’s needs. 

Sandeep:

That’s great, Alice. What do you make of the current situation and how it is affecting our industry and specifically  a technology company- your company? 

Alice

Sandeep, as you can imagine, this situation has created a huge crisis for all kinds of supply chains. Our production, unfortunately, has suffered. Some orders are getting delayed but we are positive. We have been working on some new ideas and our engineers have been brainstorming on different machine applications and I think this is the right time to think out of the box. 

We are trying to understand how to use existing available resources. Many laundries in Italy are innovating and coming up with new technology in these tough times. In another part of the world, companies are using our ozone machine for sanitization and at this moment these are some examples that can really bring change and can help in this situation.

Sandeep: 

Absolutely, so when we come back to our industry, what do you think are the changes we are going to see because they are huge challenges that we are looking right now with the entire supply chain which is totally disrupted and closed. Right now I’m sure nobody can really make full sense out of it but at least what is your take on this of  what is really happening and what is going to happen? 

Alice

Sandeep, I think every day is about what is going to change and how we can support in the best way, how we can be part of this change. Of course, as you say it is very difficult to predict but I think it’s a sign to reflect on some points. 

For example, it is the right time to think about the volume that we are producing, to think about the quality, to think about how sustainability has been used inappropriately. I think some deeper thought process is required when we go back to normality.

The consumer will probably have a different priority than buy a pair of jeans but​ ​on the other side, I think there will be a desire to return back to do something. Let’s say normal but maybe with a different approach on value and with a different approach on quality, probably it will be lesser but better .

Sandeep

How is sustainability going to be  redefined in terms of what we have been saying for the last two-three years? There have been a lot of talks of sustainability and also some action but I really don’t know how much good it was but in real terms how much it will make a difference in the coming months?

Alice

I think also  the terms of sustainability will change a little bit, more responsibility from a different point of view. Let’s say how the garments are made? With which product it has been made and under what conditions(Factory and worker conditions) it has been made?

I don’t know if it will be a priority for the consumer when we will return back to normality to buy a pair of jeans but I believe that they will take care much more about a lot of things including water, chemicals, and other resources exploited to make a pair of jeans. We also hope the consumer will become a little skeptical and stronger because now when we have seen that so many big retailers have canceled orders and workers are suffering so maybe a sustainability angle also includes how you are treating the human resource. 

Sandeep

What are your thoughts on Nearshoring? Do you think this is going to be aggressively adopted by brands and retailers?

Alice

I completely agree with you. I feel retailers will be more comfortable having very short runs and they don’t want to wait for long lead time, items in production which are to be delivered in five to four months and to be in stores in six months. So probably they would like to have shorter beds – for two months or three months. 

I know that many brands have already canceled their season preview so I think some small beds will be most preferred. And so I believe that some company has to become more flexible and faster to guarantee these kinds of requests. 

Sandeep

One more thing that we are hearing is digital, everything is going to be digital. So what let’s say for your kind of technology company, what does it mean? Does it affect you anyway in some ways where things are going digital?

Alice

We have been working for the last few years on digitalization and so far as the Tonello is concerned, I would like to give some examples. In our company, we’ve innovated a new way to wash a pair of jeans which is completely digital, simple and automatic. 

By Digitalisation we mean that we are able to see from home or from the office what is happening in your laundry, how many liters of water your washing machine is consuming and also energy, steam and time.

With this technology, one can check, irrespective of location, what is happening in your washing machine in real-time and without any human manipulation. In Today’s time, Transparency with consumers is also very important and therefore going digital is very important.

Adriano said in the past that after some time we have to try more to reduce waste of time – for example during the collection development there is much different software and this for sure can help in terms of sustainability and responsibility. 

Sandeep

Adriano said that a 50% reduction in denim business would be seen. My question is, do you think some of the different categories of products might come up which might replace some of the apparel which is being currently produced, for example, PPE- Personal Protective Equipment, designer mask or might be , Homewear products etc which in the supply chain might be a kind of oxygen for suppliers?

Alice

I think in some cases- yes and in some cases, it can help if some company can find some new​ ​ideas. Comfortable clothes, for example, are really important, the mask we are wearing in Italy, never happened before this emergency. There will be some more categories but I don’t think this is going to be an alternative to what we have lost.

In some cases, maybe 20% of their capacity, can be used for producing masks in this emergency but we have to use our mind to create something new and to be ready when they return to normality.

Sandeep

How do you see the consumer behavior post-pandemic? What you think there will be some changes in the consumer behavior either in Asian Market or in the European market? Or will it be some kind of a similar reaction to the one we saw?

Alice

I think once  people will return back to normality, they need some time, let’s say they have the desire to restart but it depends on how much this emergency affects the economical situation. Also maybe their approach to go to the shop and their approach to try something will be different and we have to think about it. 

Maybe the online shopping will increase and I don’t believe it will return back to normality quickly, therefore we have to be stronger and to think of something different to give some new ideas to the market and at this moment we need to try to understand the new needs, the new values of the consumer.

Sandeep

One of the questions which are coming up is about antimicrobial , anti dust, water resistant and other denims which help in health and wellness. What is your take on this and how can you help in this regard. 

Alice

Absolutely Sandeep, Our Ozone machine can do and has been already doing the sanitization to the garment for many years and we used to do this in a small quantity. Normally we use huge quantities to do the bleaching with our ozone machine but in a small quantity, our technology can do it.

The sanitization process can be easily done with our ozone machines, our client can easily do the processing and so can be very flexible and wash a pair of jeans and after that in the end if they want, they can do sanitization and send to the customer, to the shop.

For example some special products by nebulization, we have the nebulization system which can be used. Rudolf company , which is a chemical company, t are producing anti antimicrobials or something I said to apply at the end of the blowing the processor and that’s  good.

Sandeep

What are the biggest positives you see from this situation, though it’s a very difficult situation, still do you think any positives are coming?

Alice

This is a very difficult question, but from all the difficult situations and from all the crises, something new can happen, sometimes you have to think about it in a different way. I hope this situation will compel all of us to be more honest in terms of sustainability, transparency and I believe that all the companies that work honestly in a transparent way and support the customer will have the chance to reinvent themselves without any problem.

Sandeep:

Thank you so much, Alice, it was a real pleasure speaking to you.

Alice

Thanks to you, thank you for sharing and we catch up very soon again.
(check the video of her talk below )

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