La pandémie et le secteur textile, rencontre avec Toni de chez Albini

The pandemic and the textile sector, meeting with Toni from Albini

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Since its beginnings, Hast has established a beautiful and solid relationship with Albini, a historic Italian house specializing in fabric manufacturing. Some of the shirts presented in our successive collections are made with fabrics from Albini.

Founded in 1876, Albini and its various workshops are located around the aptly named Albino, a small town in Lombardy, nestled in a basin, where the Alps show their last peaks. From the balconies, we can admire a majestic mountain belt, standing guard, silently. In Albino, the houses have pastel walls and there are as many cafes as there are convents made of old stones and with golden rims inside which pretty Madonnas are celebrated.

In addition to other sites established in the south of Italy but also abroad, the Albini company manages its spinning and finishing activities here, as well as the inspection of its finished products, which are made of cotton, but also in linen and lyocell, a new fiber made from eucalyptus. In total, Albini produces some fourteen million meters of fabric each year. We filmed behind the scenes of this factory in order to present it to you in detail in 2017: Watch the video .

But for several days now, in these places where the machines usually pull the thread and spin the bobbins at full speed with a happy din, we find only silence or almost.

The Coronavirus has been there and forced us to stop and close everything. Containment required. It must be said that Albino is located not far from the Italian epicenter of the virus. The city even made headlines after Russian army soldiers dressed in suits that could be diving suits were called in to thoroughly disinfect a retirement home where 35 people died after been infected with the virus. A few days ago, we contacted Toni, the Albini representative in France, by telephone so that he could explain to us the various consequences of the crisis on the company's business and ambitions.

How did Albini manage the confinement requirements imposed by the appearance of the Coronavirus?

Here, the confinement took place in two phases. First, as in France now, places of life, restaurants and businesses of all kinds were closed. At that time, industries considered “non-essential,” of which we are a part, could still work, as long as they respected current safety standards, from distancing to masks for each employee. On the Albini side, the teams dedicated to fabric quality control therefore continued their activities, for example. That said, while usually three teams take turns, there was only one left, the one in the morning. While all the marketing staff were teleworking.

We need to think about fabrics that, in addition to being beautiful, can protect. From this point of view, it is a revolutionary moment. The crisis must be a total questioning of our industry.

Since March 26, we have been in the second phase of the fight against Covid-19: Italy has imposed general confinement and all our sites are closed. The only thing that is possible for Albini to do today is to deliver the finished products that they had on their order book. We can cut the fabrics to package them and send them away. It is also possible to ensure the correct receipt of materials already ordered by us. But that's all. The finishing machines are now at a standstill, there are no longer any tests or checks for anything.

What are, in fact, the economic consequences linked to this sudden stop?

Today, nothing comes out of the stores. To be honest, we're not in the deep end yet. We are only at the beginning of a descent and we don't know when it will all end. So, we try to hold on to what we can. A few days ago, information reached us from China: there, for its first day of reopening after confinement, an Hermès store accumulated more than 2.5 million euros in sales. In one day ! It's something that leaves you a little dreamy.

In Europe, perhaps there will be some so-called “revenge” purchases in the wake of deconfinement. We will want to consume to compensate for everything we were not able to do before, to mark the return to freedom, like at the start of the sales. But it won't last, it will be a wave that will quickly subside.

Quite simply because we will then be faced with significant economic concerns. Some will have seen their salaries drop due to the crisis, others will no longer have work. There will then be something else to do other than consuming clothes indiscriminately. It will undoubtedly be necessary to apply the philosophy of less but better, sustainably.

Has the Albini house thought about reinventing itself, like all these textile manufacturing companies which have started to mass produce masks for healthcare workers?

At the start of the crisis, the company was the subject of requests, several of which came from French customers, to find out if it was possible to produce fabric with the aim of making masks for caregivers. At that time, we only had poplin available, with more or less tight mesh, which was not always ideal for making truly effective masks, which could act as a medical barrier, but certainly useful for the general public.

These are initiatives that we will continue and improve over time, and in this period even more, we hope that this will inspire other workshops, customers and consumers!

We made some deliveries of fabrics which seemed to us to be of good quality for companies which, usually, are subcontractors in the luxury world.

Lately, there has been a lot of talk about the connection between the current pandemic and the environment. What about the environmental dimension at Albini?

In recent years, there has been a lot of talk about the use of organic fibers. The latter have the obvious advantage of having a less aggressive impact on the planet. We chose to use American cotton because its production is governed by a tamper-proof traceability system, in the form of a DNA fingerprint. Once the product is finished, woven, dyed and sewn, it is possible to trace the precise origin of the cotton, which is not the case for most textiles today.

We also looked at the question of recycling cotton, without adding synthetic material. For 2 seasons, we have been offering shirt fabrics in 100% cotton, with 60% recycled cotton. We are working to make these recycled fabrics finer, with a higher count and therefore more luxurious, without making them more fragile. These are initiatives that we will continue and improve over time, and in this period even more, we hope that this will inspire other workshops, customers and consumers!

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