Who is… Novavo?
Novavo, a family company founded in 1946 by Etienne Noterman and currently run by his grandson Wouter Noterman, has been making men’s fashion for three generations now, both for their own brands and private label (for e5 mode, among others). The company launched a new brand in 2011, Atelier Noterman, focusing on casual men’s trousers with a perfect fit. Authenticity and craftsmanship always take centre stage.
There are many ways in which Novavo invests in sustainability, but sustainable resources form the main focus. In 2016, for instance, Atelier Noterman opted for Detox Denim, an environmentally friendly fabric that owes its weathered look to laser and ozone techniques (and not to harmful chemicals). Compared to traditional denim, this innovative material requires 80% less water, 80% less energy and 80% less chemicals. Moreover, the company responsible for making Atelier Noterman’s Detox Denim is planning on saving even more water in its production plant by reusing the same batch as often as possible and only replacing it with fresh water after a month.
Novavo is thinking big: the company wants to shift to fabrics that are produced as sustainably and as locally as possible – without compromising on quality, obviously. Novavo mainly purchases from European suppliers, like German, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese textile manufacturers, and has been systematically scanning them to assess their sustainability performance. In the meantime, the company made the switch from conventional cotton to its GOTS certified counterpart for e5 mode (with about 50.000 pants a season one of their most important customers). Every season, GOTS cotton will represent a bigger share of the cotton range, allowing Novavo to work towards 100% GOTS certified cotton at an “affordable pace”. Maintaining a competitive edge is obviously the biggest challenge. 99% of today’s consumers considers the sustainable approach a mere ‘nice to have’ for which they are unwilling to pay extra. That’s why making a difference starts
with raising awareness.
Cutting waste remains one of the fashion industry’s major stumbling blocks. Novavo wants, first of all, to keep the amount of collection pieces in proportion to the number of items sold; second, to use its fabrics as efficiently as possible; and third, to turn every meter of fabric purchased into a finished product, reducing leftovers to an absolute minimum. Moreover, the Atelier Noterman collection relies on Archroma dyes, sustainable textile dyes that are synthesised from natural pigments rather than made from harmful chemicals.
The production takes place in Portugal. Novavo wants to stimulate and encourage all of its partners to take the sustainability agenda forward. The company rejects the harsh approach – you catch more bees with honey than vinegar – and believes that everyone should work towards sustainability at their own pace. Every little helps!
In the longer term, the team wants to achieve complete transparency regarding product and supply by listing every supplier and manufacturer on the website. The production sites are open for visits already, though, because secrecy is not in Novavo’s vocabulary.
2019 got off to a good start for Novavo, because the company decided to ban all individual plastic packaging (a bold move that involved some growing pains, though). Moreover, Novavo turned to StonePaper for some of their labels. This high-quality, treeless paper consists mainly of mineral powder, and its production requires no bleach and no water.
In its communication, Novavo wants to put even more emphasis the quality that characterises its items. The idea is to make end consumers aware of where, how and why their clothes were made, and to encourage them to opt for one sustainable piece (and to take really good care of it) rather than buying three non-sustainable items.
Finally, Novavo wants to set up a take-back system and attach a label to every pair of pants detailing the composition and origin of the fabric, to facilitate recycling and reuse.
What challenges are you currently facing?
Noterman: “In our industry, many good solutions exist only on paper and are not feasible in practice. There are plenty of companies who – just like us – have plans to become more sustainable, but some parts of the chain just can’t or don’t want to follow suit yet.”
What does sustainability mean for you?
Wouter Noterman: “Working sustainably starts with being transparent in everything we do. In addition, sustainability goes hand in hand with corporate social responsibility. We’re not after maximum profit, but attach importance to the way a product is made, both in terms of environmental and human effects. After all, what’s the use of an environmentally friendly production process when it depends on vastly underpaid workers?”
Which lesson(s) do you want to share?
Noterman: “To make our organisation more sustainable, I immersed myself in the topic. This was a time-consuming (and pricey) project, but it was definitely worth it.”
This page was created in August 2019. Curious to find out where Novavo stands now? Feel free to get in touch with them via: firstname.lastname@example.org