In the vast world of the Circular Economy, there are figures and realities that shine for their determination to give new meaning to what many consider “waste”. Giulia De Rossi, founder of Nazena, is one such figure.
With her startup, she has embarked on a journey to rediscover the hidden value of textile waste, transforming it into sustainable and valuable solutions for the industry.
We had the opportunity to speak with Giulia to find out more about her vision, the challenges she faces, and how upcycling is revolutionizing the textile world.
Hi Giulia, introduce yourself briefly. Who are you and what role do you play within the startup?
Hi, good morning everyone and thank you for this chat.
I am the founder of Nazena. Nazena is an innovative startup born in 2019 from my then still very vague idea to find an outlet for textile waste, both pre-consumer and post-consumer.
Tell us briefly about your reality. What is Nazena and what are you involved in?
Nazena is a startup operating in the Circular Economy sector.
Our goal is to find a solution to prevent textile waste from ending up in landfills or simply being thermo-valorized.
We realized that through research and a lot of testing, in collaboration with materials engineers, we can actually recover textile waste.
This innovative process we have developed, now patented, allows us to create a new material similar to cardboard or plywood.
Any results you can tell us about or customers you are dealing with?
After a few years of material testing, in late 2021, we began to acquire our first customers. Interestingly, many of these interactions came out of events like Ecomondo.
The reception we received was overwhelming, with many companies, including major high-end fashion groups with production facilities in Italy, contacting us to collaborate.
Together with these companies, we have initiated various projects, some of which have been ongoing for years. For example, we recently concluded a project with a company in Vicenza called Forint, part of the Marzotto Group.
With them, we turned production waste into price tags, which are then applied to new garments.
Can you tell us about the uppers reuse project?
The uppers reuse project has been a very exciting path with great potential.
Our collaboration with Sfridoo is about the reuse of sneaker uppers by a large company in the fashion industry.
The idea arose from the growing awareness of the importance of upcycling and the desire to find innovative solutions for production waste.
What was your contribution as Nazena in the design of the uppers?
As Nazena, our role has been crucial in providing the technical expertise for the uppers recovery process.
We studied the composition of uppers, analyzed possible solutions, and developed methods to transform this waste into new products.
Through our feasibility and processability studies, we were able to determine how best to use these uppers to create sustainable and valuable products.
What were the main obstacles or challenges you encountered while making this project?
One of the biggest obstacles was the variability in the composition of the uppers. As you can imagine, especially with post-consumption, compositions vary a lot. This made it difficult to standardize processes.
Waste management has also been a challenge, as they are often not separated and we are faced with a mix of materials. However, with collaboration and experimentation, we have been able to overcome these obstacles and create viable solutions.
Another major obstacle was the management of composite materials, such as uppers that contain different compositions such as polyurethane and leatherette.
There was a significant challenge in eliminating all metal and plastic parts from the product. Initially, we were also wary of the type of material, fearing that there might be more waste than usable material. There was also uncertainty about the yield because of the different characteristics of the materials used.
What were the results that the project carried out with Sfridoo received?
The most significant feedback was that, despite initial concerns, the project performed very well.
Many people appreciated the aesthetics of the products made and the quality of the material obtained.
There were also several tests performed, such as those on fiber shredding and separation of metal parts, which provided valuable information to improve the process.
How do you think initiatives like the one implemented with Sfridoo can influence industry and sustainability in the long run?
These initiatives can have a profound impact on the industry, pushing companies to think about how they view waste as a resource.
In addition, there is a growing consumer focus on sustainability issues.
However, one of the obstacles is getting companies to understand the need to change their mindset, accepting that the transformation to sustainability may have a higher upfront cost than traditional disposal.
Are there any other projects or initiatives you are currently working on or have in mind for the future?
Currently, we are exploring other opportunities in the field of Circular Economy and investigating how we can positively influence the market and people’s daily lives.
We are also focusing on eco-design, thinking about how to design products that are easily disassembled at the end of their useful life.
What was the most important lesson you learned from working on projects related to sustainability and reuse?
The most important lesson was the importance of perseverance.
Despite challenges, such as production difficulties and the slow pace of the system in Italy, it is crucial not to give up.
When you commit to something meaningful and sustainable, the rewards come and they are profound.
It is also essential to take responsibility for the products and services that companies offer in the market, thinking about the long term and the impact they can have on society.
One of the challenges of the Circular Economy sector, is to be able to clearly and effectively communicate the benefits that this economic model can give companies. By investing in it, we can increase awareness and knowledge in people.