WUULS: traceability, authenticity, vegetables dyes lovers
When the entire supply chain is at km0, tracing it becomes child’s play. This is the case of Wuuls, a knitwear brand born in the Gran Sasso National Park in 2019 and founded by brother and sister: Emanuela and Francesco Picchini, born and raised in the unspoiled nature of the Apennines.
We had the pleasure of chatting, through our Podcast, with Emanuela and witnessing how Wuuls is an example of sustainability concerning the short and traced supply chain, for the use of wool from sheep relieves in the National Park and for quality vegetable dyes.
Serena: Emanuela, would you like to talk to us about how Wuuls was born and what are the values carried forward by the brand?
Emanuela: Wuuls was born mainly from the idea of reinvesting in our territory by rediscovering an ancient tradition, to then create modern garments made to last over time.
Our goal right from the start was to make better products in a market saturated with bad practices such as fashion.
S: I know that Wuuls is very linked to the enhancement of the territory and is characterized by a short supply chain. Can you explain to us how this correlates with sustainability?
E: We are linked to the enhancement of the territory and we are talking about a short supply chain because it is a local supply chain located right in central Italy. This is made possible by the fact that Italy is a country rich in tradition and experience in textiles, so it is not necessary to outsource labor or search for raw materials elsewhere (as shown by the same raw material that we use, native to the central Apennines). So, in the first place, we got this chance; then, for us, creating a local supply chain also means trying to control the supply chain as much as possible and having a greater awareness of all the processes that our garments undergo during the implementation phase. The management of the value chain is a fundamental aspect for us when we talk about sustainability.
S: This makes me think of the problems related to the interruption of supplies from abroad during the lockdown due to the pandemic … will there be a tendency to bring some processes back to Italy, or not?
E: I think so. It is a challenge for the near future to be circular and self-sufficient within one’s local economy; a challenge that, in my opinion, companies must face soon. This was demonstrated precisely by the lack of the possibility of procuring or managing all production systems outside one’s state.
S: So the short supply chain is an advantage, even if it is often associated with a higher cost?
E: That’s right. It is an advantage to manage a local supply chain or at least localized within your own country. I imagine that there is great expertise also outside and in very different continents from ours, however, it can represent an advantage both from the point of view of the dynamics linked to sustainability and from the management point of view and therefore of greater control and greater transparency.
S: Traceability is a keyword on your site. What does transparency towards the consumer mean for you?
E: Traceability, you used the right term! For us, it means being completely transparent towards consumers and educating them on the journey that products take before ending up in their hands. By traceability, we mean the ability to describe the path that the garments take along the supply chain.
If done properly, it allows you to visualize what may be the gray areas of the supply chain, and therefore, correct them.
S: Would you like to tell us about the natural dye that you make together with Tintoria Ferrini? The colors that identify you are the shades of yellow and blue: how did you work to optimize the aesthetic result of these shades? What are the qualitative differences of natural dyes compared to dyes that use chemical and polluting components?
E: I would like to start by making you understand why we must adopt this type of technique.
Going backward, we found out what damage substances do in manufacturing processes. 9 billion kilograms of chemicals are used by fashion every year to complement textile products.
It has been estimated by the Italian Textile and Health Association that 8% of skin diseases are caused by the substances we use in dyeing processes (Editor’s note: Report on the 4th National Conference of the Textile and Health Association, Rome 2013).
Hence the desire to collaborate with Ferrini dyeing and use rediscovered ancient dyes (those completely vegetable) and made contemporary by current technologies. Tintoria Ferrini is our partner in this challenge.
Our main colors are blue and Smoketree, a kind of dove gray. We get blue from a vegetable pigment, Guado, known as one of the most appreciated natural pigments in the world: it was already marketed by medieval traders for the precious value it retains over time.
The Smoketree, on the other hand, is a branched shrub with shades similar to yellow/gray/dark green: these shades give the dove gray and the pigment is obtained from the leaves of the young twigs. It is native to a large area of southern Europe and is widespread especially in Italy, which is why we have chosen to use it.
Furthermore, Tintoria Fellini also gave us some of its know-how in terms of color rendering performance. A peculiarity of vegetable dyes is that it changes from collection to collection since the pigments are not always the same, making each garment unique!
S: What about the rendering of time instead? Because the product is meant to last, right?
E: Yes, for this we have to thank a partner like Ferrini, a historic and highly professional company that is well able to give stability to the dye.
As these are delicate garments we produce, it would be better not to expose them to direct sunlight when drying them (this is especially recommended for blue) because the color may change over time.
S: You talked about health because you mentioned the textile and health report which reminds you that 8% of skin diseases also derive from the garments we wear; then you talked about transparency and traceability. In your opinion, why does a consumer come from Wuuls? What binds him to the company?
E: What we have noticed is that consumers are tied to our project for the quality of the garments. Many became fond of the quality of the wool and the fact that they liked the idea of buying a garment that had 100% natural non-toxic dyes.
I believe that the next step is to understand whether they are linked to Wuuls for the quality of the article itself, or even for broader issues such as supply chain management, complete transparency, and credibility towards the consumer.
S: What is your target?
E: We carried out market tests to understand what our target was and I must say that many middle-aged consumers have approached. This, in our opinion, is linked to the fact that we make a very basic garment.
We have not yet pushed ourselves in search of the precise target, we are still doing tests. For now, we have received most of the interest from a higher target but we would like to convey our message to the younger generations. We are therefore trying to understand if it is a question linked to the design of the project and therefore to the fact that extremely basic products are more popular with a higher target. We are questioning ourselves!
S: Is sustainability helping you? What are the obstacles you face?
E: Surely there is an international debate that, fortunately, requires sustainability and which also helps small businesses to emerge. The transformation of companies towards more sustainable goals has now become necessary; we can also see this from the goals designated by the United Nations, which indicate the way forward for sustainable development.
Therefore there is certainly help in understanding our project, but there are still obstacles related to the lack of awareness of the final consumer.
For example, specific issues of the textile sector such as vegetable dyes: it is difficult for a consumer to understand what the added value of vegetable dyes is.
Some issues are easier to understand, such as organic cotton: today almost all consumers are aware of what it is. The dyeing processes, on the other hand, are still an unexplored field.
Education and the great leaders of the sector could certainly help in general awareness of the sustainability of the market.
On the other hand, emerging in a market where there is a lot of greenwashing is difficult. It is not easy to make people understand which are the real aspects and which are exclusively used as market trends.
We always hope that honesty pays off, but this remains the toughest challenge.
S: Future projects?
E: We are trying to push forward how the consumer can handle garments when at home, to make the product last longer and, therefore, also have the ability to repair it. We are also trying to set up a sort of corporate communication that can educate as much as possible about what our strengths are and explain it as precisely as possible, to give notions on the subject and give the consumer the ability to be able to distinguish our reality from that of others who carry out projects that are not exactly transparent.
In conclusion, although it is still a Startup, we can say that the very young founders of Wuuls have very clear ideas on the subject of sustainability.
The quality of their garments much appreciated by their customers is the result of a strong respect and passion for the territory in which they grew up.
Emanuela taught us that loving the territory means checking that every step of the production chain is carried out in full respect of all the resources involved: from the sheep that supply the wool to the extraction of natural pigments for dyeing the garment.
Do you want to have a traceable supply chain too? Do you want to be as transparent as possible with the customer?
Dopo anni di studio in Marketing e Management, si è instaurata in me la convinzione che un’impresa può essere sana e redditizia solo se non si limita a considerare il profitto economico, bensì anche quello sociale ed ambientale. Cresciuta da una nonna sarta e dopo un’esperienza lavorativa in Yamamay, ho deciso di unire le mie competenze e la mia forte passione per l’ambiente e la natura specializzandomi nel campo della sostenibilità.