Want to subvert the traditional apparel supply chain? You must possess a “little bit of craziness,” according to Giulio Bonazzi, CEO and president of Aquafil, an Italian company that transforms abandoned fishing nets and castoff bits of carpet into good-as-new nylon fibers. Speaking at a panel at the Textile Sustainability Conference in Washington, D.C., last week, Bonazzi noted that his propensity for seeing goldmines in landfills hasn’t always drawn plaudits. In fact, he was often ridiculed.
Few if any are laughing now, however. Since Aquafil launched its first Econyl plant in Slovenia in 2011, the company has incorporated its regenerated yarns into swimwear by Adidas, blue jeans by Levi’s, and bags by Stella McCartney. Eleven-time world champion surfer Kelly Slater, who uses Econyl as a virgin-nylon replacement in his Outerknown menswear label, also counts himself as a fan.
Bonazzi admitted that getting to this point hasn’t been easy. Because no such supply chain existed for what he wanted to do, he had to build one from the ground up.