Interview with Artknit Studios

COVID19 pandemic has affected many industries, included the Fashion Industry.
Our consumption habits moved from physical shops to online and digital shopping.
Is digitization a good tool to face such types of challenges? I discussed about it with Alessandro Lovisetto, the CEO and Founder of Artknit Studios, a young company based in Biella, that produces amazing items made of natural fibers and produced on demand.

COVID has impacted fashion industry, and there are people demanding for a transition in fashion. You are already an innovative company for what concerns fashion, and I would like to understand how you’re living this pandemic.

We know that during this difficult time it is impossible to buy in physical shops. The only solution is to buy online. Actually Artknit Studios is 100% digital, so  we were able to manage this moment well. 
Of course on the supply side we had some difficult times, due to the lockdown and the fact that our workshops could not produce. Luckily we had some stock of our bestselling products, that we could ship. Moreover we launched a pre-selling of other products, which results in a win-win solutions: our customers can have our products for a discounted price and we can keep on orders and go on with our activities.
We know that Italy, our main market, has been heavily affected from this pandemic. This led us to expand our advertising campaign to other countries, which were less affected, opening different markets for our business.

Can you describe Artknit Studios, what does your company do, since when?

The goal of Artknit Studios is to connect, through a digital platform, the best in class artisans in Italy with the final customers. Our target customers are the millennials, so people between 30 and 45 years old. The idea is to create a 100% digital model, with no intermediaries: the result is that the customer can buy high quality products which are created directly from the workshops and sold at fair prices. 
Since we rely exclusively on artisanal work, we produce mainly on demand, to create only what is needed and avoid waste.
We initially created a marketplace to connect customers and workshops, turning it later on into a brand, because we understood how important is for people to interact with a brand they can rely on and trust.
We were involved into an acceleration program, and we launched our platform in March 2019.

Ph : Silk Cotton Cardigan Shirt , Knit Turtleneck Top & Knit Trousers, Wool Bomber Jacket.
Source: Artknit Studios website

Which are the drivers that led you to found this company?

Both the team and the company are based in Biella, the capital of wool. Moreover Italy has a long story of excellence and tradition in fashion and plenty of workshops that used to work for luxury brands before the globalization. We spotted the opportunity to connect this pillars and digitize this traditional industry, in the communication, production and selling channels.

How does sustainability apply to your business model?

We based our strategy on different pillars: 

  1. zero waste: we want to create products that have no collection and work with just in time production, so to produce only on demand. This way we are able to avoid inventory, which is a big problem in this industry, because if you are not able to sell all your products, you must stock them in a warehouse and then sell them at discounted price;
  2. use of natural fibres: we work with Italian spinners in Biella, we look for and use certified and natural fibres;
  3. promote Slow Fashion:  we give value to people in our supply chain and we want to sensitise customers to buy consciously and buy good quality products with a timeless design, that they can own for a long time; 
  4. transparency: we tell our customers where we buy the material from and who is producing our products. We give them all the information needed to buy consciously. 

Our model is also a low CO2 emissions model, since we do not have agents, showrooms, long route transports.
We are also planning to launch, by the end of the year, an assistance service for our customers, to repair any of our product that has worn out or got broken. This way we could allow our customers to keep our products longer and, repairing them, is a more sustainable solution than throwing them away.
Of course we can do it because we know how good quality are our products.
We know that this way we lose sales, but we prefer to repair our products and make our customers aware of their value and the value of the brand.

You select workshops from all parts of Italy. Which are the key parameters you look for?

When we need to produce a certain product, we look for the best in class around Italy.
We choose workshops that already worked for luxury brands and know how to deal with these types of products. We also pay attention to the social sustainability of our products: this means we check if the workshops pay correctly their employees and we do periodic audits. 
In the beginning it has not been easy to convince people to believe in our innovative business model, and all the people who did it, basically decided to bet on us. We have now built with them a true relationship, comparing ourselves often with them on the products we order from them and making them part of our family.
We really value the human capital of our company.

Your production is partially “on demand”. How did your partners adapt to this supply way?

At the moment we have these 2 methodologies with the workshops: 

  1. we work with selected small workshops, that work only for us, and that can adjust their production to our needs;
  2. when we deal with big workshops, we leverage on innovative solution, such as the adoption of innovative knitting machines that can reduce the setup time.

    In the beginning, it has been not easy to convince the workshops of our business model, but we could leverage on a feature that makes us attractive for them: we order small batches of products continuously during the year.
    Normally, in fashion, the workshops do not produce in certain weeks of the year (because the brands are focused on the distribution of new collection’s products to shops). 
    With our business model we provide continuous orders and production all over the year. Moreover, rather than having 10 different collections per year, each with different models, we have only two collections per year with few models, that we keep from season to season, so it is easier for the workshops to produce for us. 

How much is the lead time between order on website and finish product? How much should a customer wait? 

We need 10 days to produce the garment, but even if we manage to finish it earlier, we do not ship it: we want to fight the “get it and get it now” habit of nowadays, and rather push for a shopping experience in which you wait for your product, and therefore value it more and don’t get tired of it after few weeks.
We keep the customer updated on each of the production phases, creating an experience and allowing the customer to feel that there are real people and artisans who are producing the garments, and how much time is needed to get a high quality product.

What is Eco-Cashmere? How does an Eco-Cashmere product look like?

We call it Eco-Cashmere, because is an eco-friendly cashmere. It is not regenerated cashmere (taken from old garments), but is made of excess fibres from the standard cashmere spinning phase. We collect these fibres and divide them by colour, and create with this excess new products. The final product is super soft and looks amazing. 

Our workshops made some evaluations and found that it has a lower strength and it is more delicate than virgin cashmere: this means that the life of an Eco-Cashmere sweater might be lower, compared to the one of a 100% virgin cashmere one. 
Normally a cashmere sweater should last 15-20 years, so we are talking about a long time. We are producing Eco-Cashmere products since only 1,5 years, so we are not sure they will effectively last less, but we specify it to be transparent and honest.

Customers love it anyway, because it is a super soft, amazing and conscious product. Actually it has been our best seller last year!
Eco-Cashmere is also a limited fibre, because we need to wait for normal cashmere production and collect the right amount of fibres to be able to start our own production.

Ph: Eco-Cashmere Sweaters and Crop Polo.
Source: Artknit Studios website

How much is the saving in natural resources, when choosing Eco-Cashmere?

The impact of Eco-Cashmere is 92% lower compared to the standard process, because there is no need to shave the sheep nor produce anything new.

You use silk for your Spring-Summer collection. It is a natural fibre, but to maintain it you should only dry-clean it, which is extremely polluting. Are there any alternatives?

Actually, we mix silk fibres with organic cotton: this makes our products easy to wash by hand or with the washing machine, so there is no need to dry clean it. 
Since we want our customers to be aware of how to wash properly the products to make them last, we add to every box we ship the instructions on how to wash and take care properly of the garment, so the maintenance becomes easy.

Ph: Instructions to take care of your Artknit Studios products.
Source: Artknit Studios.

How do you choose the design of your products?  

The design of our products is part of our strategy, because we do not design them based on trends, but we rather want them to have a timeless design.  At the same time they need to be special and not too simple or boring, to make people consider them small treasures. This means that we have to carefully select the design, and make different trials until we find the one that we would still wear after 5 or 10 years. We also are the first customers of ourselves, so we produce items we like and we would wear!

What is your mission?

Our first mission was to create a sustainable model of long lasting and good quality products. We now want also to educate customers to switch to a Slow Fashion approach, and inspire people through a more conscious purchasing behaviour.
In fact, our motto is “Buy less, Buy better”. 
We leverage also on the artisans of our country, Italy, and give value to both people and products.

What is PETA? 

PETA is the acronym for People for Ethical Treatment of Animals. This association promotes the fair treatment of animals and has recently bought shares from the major fashion brands and groups (Prada, Ralph Lauren, Burberry to name few), to push them to abandon animal-origin fibres. The fact is that there are a lot of producers who treat animals in a fair way, and have got certifications.
It is absolutely right to check whether farmers are obtaining the cashmere or wool in a way that does not make the animal suffer. But it is not right to destroy all the value chain and the work of people who behave fairly, and substitute all these natural fibres with synthetic ones. It is important that people start asking for certifications from brands and for brands to be transparent on this topic.

There has been a special agreement between The Green Runway and Artknit Studios, a discount code of 15% that can be used on Artknit Studios website.
Visit and use the code Greenrunway15.
Enjoy your shopping experience and, above all, promote Slow Fashion!

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