Revolutionizing fashion by creating beautiful, sustainable clothing

Interview with Daniel Sperandio, one of the founders of Re-Bello, the Italian fashion brand with a vision to revolutionize the fashion world by creating sustainable clothing — while maintaining beauty — fashion’s main ingredient.

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Daniel Tocca and Daniel Sperandio, founders of Re-Bello

he name Re-Bello comes from merging the words Re, standing for revolution, and Bello, which means ‘beautiful’ in Italian, as Daniel Sperandio, COO and founder of Re-Bello explains. The message is in the name; Re-Bello’s wish is to revolutionize the fashion world by creating sustainable clothing while maintaining beauty, fashion’s main ingredient.

A revolution of beauty

The fashion industry accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions and is one of the major culprits for environmental degradation. For a long time, the fashion world has ignored its negative environmental impacts, but lately, both big players and smaller fashion labels are assuming their responsibility to help protect our planet. The innovative Italian fashion label Re-Bello has been one of those who recognizes the need for implementing sustainability principles into fashion. At Re-Bello, they found a way to combine design, sustainability and transparency in their clothing.

One of the ways they achieved this was by using our ECONYL® yarn, a 100% regenerated nylon from pre- and post-consumer waste, such as fishing nets and carpet fluff. Besides ECONYL® yarn, Re-Bello’s AW17 (autumn/winter 2017) collection contains Tyrolean mountain wool and is thus entirely sustainable and ethic.

Re-Bello offers their customers a unique feature; they have the option to look-up everything on where and how the garment they’ve bought was made — by typing in the code on the product label in the Your product’s story section on the website. This is a commendable step toward greater transparency in the fashion industry.

Daniel shared with us the inspiring story of Re-Bello and discussed his views on sustainability and transparency in fashion.

“We sell more than clothes. We sell stories, a lifestyle.”

Your brand invites people to join the sustainable lifestyle. What does it mean to you? Who is Re-Bello’s target consumer?

“We want to inspire people to be environmentally conscious when it comes to style. We want to make them aware of how polluting the fashion industry is, and provide them with an alternative — without giving up the fashion aspect.

We are addressing pragmatic, responsible people that like nature and are concerned with their health. But our consumer is also a bit of a dreamer, because in Re-Bello, we sell much more then clothes. Everybody sells clothes. We are selling stories, real stories. We are selling a lifestyle.”

What motivated you toward sustainable fashion? Why is sustainability important for you personally?

“Fashion is the second most polluting industry on earth (the first is the oil & gas industry). We all buy new clothes each year, and we use them to express ourselves, to communicate who we are. Therefore, fashion companies have a very high responsibility toward people. This is what inspired us toward a sustainable concept of fashion, and we really want to make the difference with our approach.

Sustainability was always important for us. Growing up in Alto Adige, in the north of Italy, in the middle of nature and the mountains, I think that we developed a close relationship to nature and therefore to sustainability.”

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Trentino, Italy

How does this close relationship with Trentino manifest in your work? Did it inspire your philosophy in any way?

“Of course. We are all very connected to Trentino Alto Adige, and we all love the place we live. We had a lot of opportunities to move the company to the ‘big cities’ (e.g. Milano), where the fashion scenes take place, but we are strongly tied to our roots. We believe that our business location also perfectly reflects our philosophy.”

New generations, digital natives, will be much more aware about sustainability

How important do you feel sustainability is for Italian customers? And abroad? What about the new generations?

“In Italy, the concept of organic/sustainability is still new, and very few consumers pay attention to it. Abroad, e.g. Germany or UK, the trend already seems to be declining, because companies were not able to make sustainability and bio clothing attractive enough, compared to the food industry, where companies were able to make eating bio food cool. At Re-Bello, we prefer to speak about responsible innovation instead of bio/organic. We think the concept of responsible innovation is more up to date, open to innovations like the ECONYL® nylon, and keen on a step-by-step improvement approach, instead of a more radical organic approach.

Currently, most people start to become aware of sustainability and social matters when they approach 30–35 years old. In the future, we think this is going to change radically. New generations, the digital natives, grow up with a lot of information (from TV, school, etc.) about sustainability. They will be much more aware than we were.”

What would you say are the crucial things that consumers should consider when buying an item of clothing?

  • “The composition (they should prefer recycled, organic or closed-loop manmade fibers);
  • Where the garment was made in (avoid buying garments that are made in countries where the minimum standards for working conditions are probably not met);
  • The quality-price ratio (a low-cost item is not always the cheapest if you consider that at most, it will probably only last for a few weeks);
  • Quality before quantity (garments should be made to last, therefore quality should be a high priority, and design at least to last for a medium term).”
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Re-Bello wishes to minimize the environmental impact by choosing sustainable fibers of high quality, by focusing on new and innovative materials, upcycling and recycling.

Why is transparency so difficult to obtain in fashion?

“First, the supply chain is very long and fragmented. Second, most often, many different and small steps take place in very different places all over the world. Third, it costs money to be transparent while the trends are going towards cost reduction. Fourth, few are really asking for it, and finally, laws are not strict enough.”

The idea of a sustainable fashion startup came from the lack of fashion and style in first sustainable fashion labels

You were a fashion startup. Can you tell us the story from the very beginning — where did the idea come from?

“The idea for Re-Bello came up in Amsterdam, Netherlands, when walking through some shops, one of the founders Daniel Tocca noticed the first sustainable fashion labels selling their garments made from hemp, linen or organic cotton. The fabrics looked interesting, but the fashion and style were completely lacking. They looked more like a ‘Kartoffelsack’ (potato sack). This experience was the trigger for our idea: we decided to make a collection that combines sustainability and fashion/Italian design. After a period of testing (in a garage of course), we decided to set up Re-Bello and started looking for the first business angels to finance it. This was just the beginning of a very long and difficult journey, which provides new challenges each day.”

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Jackets in the AW17 collection are a proof that clothing, made from sustainable materials, doesn’t have to sacrifice style or beauty.

What would you say was the turning point in your journey up to where you are today?

“Being a startup means living in a carousel of feelings and emotions. Every small step ahead is the result of several trials, errors, and delusions. Therefore, I really cannot speak of a specific turning point but more of a really tough journey.”

This year, we promoted ‘Io Penso Circolare’, an award for startups in the field of circular economy. So, we are very interested in how a startup can step into the next phase. There are many fashion/design students that would like to start their own business as well. Can you tell us a bit more about it? What would you recommend, based on your experience, to young designers who want to follow a similar path?

“Going from being a startup to a phase two is such a slow passage that it’s difficult to find a precise turning point. I believe it is important to have great business partners in this step. If you do, fine tuning, growing and all that comes with it, and growth will happen gradually and naturally. A good team is worth much more than a good idea. Good people with a mediocre idea will succeed, while a mediocre team with a good idea will probably fail. Finding good business partners is very difficult. To start a company with someone is like a marriage. Therefore, the business partners need to be selected very carefully. The success of the idea and the entire business will depend on the founders and the lasting of their relationship, in good and specially in difficult moments.

Try to find partners with skills that are complementary to yours; you need both, the dreamer and the more pragmatic person, the seller/marketer and the analyst, the creative and the technician.”

The creation of a collection starts with the selection of the materials

One of your first steps was researching into materials. Why they are so important in your philosophy?

“If you ask the best designers how they approach the creation of a collection, most of them will answer that they start from the selection of the materials. It is a bit like Michelangelo used to say, ‘The sculpture is already in the stone’. When you concretely feel (with tact and sight) the structure, the touch, the softness or comfort, the draping effect, etc. of a fabric, you can already imagine the best design to make out of it. This is the only way you can apply the right fabrics to the right garments and maximize the qualities and characteristics of each.”

What do you check when researching for new materials?

“There are several characteristics I look for in a new material. Of course, they need to be sustainable, but not only that. Depending on the garment we want to make out of it, there are several other characteristics. But generally speaking, each material we introduce in our collection should evoke a ‘wow’ effect in our clients. This is the only way to convince a high number of people that better for the planet means also better for you. Finally, as we are still small, minimum purchasing quantities and lead times are important.”

How did you find out about ECONYL® yarn?

“I first read the news on ANSA announcing the collaboration of Levi’s and Aquafil. After some research and networking, I found out that one of our fabric producers is making fabrics out of the ECONYL® yarn.”

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By choosing ECONYL® yarn, made from discarded carpets, fishing nets and other waste products, garment producers are helping preserve national resources and diverting waste from landfills.

What can you tell us about the new collection that includes some items made with ECONYL® yarn?

“The AW17 collection is the first Re-Bello collection, including some items made of ECONYL® fabrics (8 jackets in total, using 2 different fabrics). All ECONYL® yarn jackets have been padded with Tyrolean mountain wool, and the production took place in Veneto, Italy. This makes the ECONYL® yarn jacket a highly innovative garment that is 100% sustainable and ethic.”

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The AW17 collection contains ECONYL® yarn and Tyrolean mountain wool and is 100% sustainable and ethic.

What is the role of technology and research?

“Very important. Re-Bello is registered as ‘Startup innovative’. In collaboration with our partners/producers, we make several R&D projects. Most often we focus on applying new technologies in new garments, combining new technologies, and developing new fabrics with new yarn mixes.”

Do you also consider sustainability in the design phase? How?

“Of course. When we prepare the collection mood, we always try to be coherent with our brand philosophy. For example, the main theme for the SS17 collection was ‘recycling’ and ‘patchwork’, and the one for the next SS18 will be ‘water’.”

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Re-Bello swears on materials that are produced ecologically and ethically but are at the same time innovative, comfortable and stylish.

What lies ahead

What are your plans for the next 3 years? Where do you see Re-Bello? And where do you see the fashion world?

“We want to continue growing by tripling our turnover. We want to open our fist Re-Bello stores and increase the brand awareness as much as possible, especially through the online channel which we strongly believe in, and which is registering the highest growth rates. In a few words, we are following our mission to become a European leader in sustainable fashion.

Regarding the world of fashion, I think that there will be small changes in terms of sustainability, but in the span of only three years, for sure no significant changes will happen.”

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Far from “Kartoffelsack”!

Do you think people still have the perception that sustainable fashion is “Kartoffelsack”?

“Sometimes the perception is still there, and for sure it is driven by concrete facts of how sustainable fashion labels used to design their collections in the past. But nowadays, everything is changing; if you have such a feeling, just look at our collections.”

Where are your products available?

“Our products are available in several multi-brand shops in Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and BENELUX. Of course, we sell also on our on-line shop.”

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Recycling? Yes, and further! We regenerate nylon waste into new materials for brand new products. Download our sustainable design ebook http://bit.ly/2rzwzLj

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