Italian shirting fabric specialist Albini Group is betting strongly on innovating and diversifying its product. At the eve of the July 2019 edition of Milano Unica it inaugurated Albini_Next, a new R&D lab that is not based at its headquarters but rather in the fast-forward innovation pole Kilometro Rosso near Bergamo, a vast innovation center that hosts different companies and R&D centers.
Albini_Next aims to set new steps in textile evolution by pursuing new paths of sustainable innovation and new synergies.
Stefano Albini, president, Albini Group, explained the aims of this new R&D center and those of the whole group.
Why did you create Albini_Next?
We wanted to create a think tank through which we can overcome barriers, break frontiers, while starting new industrial and academic partnerships. By opening this 230-sq.-meter office we aim to hosts a total of 40 young researchers including creatives, engineers, artists from most important schools and universities from all over the world. Our primary objective is to discover the themes that will change the textile industry of natural fibers for the next five years. If until last century our clothes were only made with cotton, linen, hemp, wool and silk, today there are alternative fibers like Lyocell and materials obtained from fruit that are natural and sustainable. Through Albini_Next we want to discover the fabrics of the future and new productive processes. We want to discover new raw materials that either come from nature or can be recycled in order to bring natural fibers at performance levels we cannot even imagine today.
Can you offer any example?
For this last edition of Milano Unica we presented our first development, Hemotion, our “zero” project dedicated to wool. Although we are specialists in cotton manufacturing it’s time we also start experimenting in other directions. For this we have also changed our “Cotonificio Albini” logo–which also was hard to be pronounced outside of Italy–and decided to simply use “Albini.”
With this Hemotion project we are using a very precious mulesing-free Australian wool and used a manufacturing process that is similar to the one of cotton for producing a high-performance, lightweight, wrinkle-free, 100% natural, thermoregulating, naturally-stretch, machine-washable and pilling-resistant fabric.
Though we also want to focus more on innovative fibers like, for instance, linen whose production is very strong in Europe, and hemp, which we want to bring back to Europe as no longer produced here. Though we are also studying new alternative material and fiber uses.
What are the projects you will focus on for Albiate 1830, your more informal-minded company?
We have started our “Circular System” project based upon a series of recycled materials. We have developed three new patents for the use of materials: one is made by recycling vegetal leftovers from hemp and corn; we are also reusing production leftovers and fabric cuts’ leftovers. So far Albiate already offers fabrics made with a part of recycled fibers though our aim is to increase the present percentages.
We have also enlarged our offer in terms of new strong-impact prints, jacquard patterns and color variants to be more appealing to this market. We have also started offering a selection of fabrics made with a most precious and rare cotton crop worldwide, Sea Island. By using it we offer a very lucid, lightweight and top quality selection of fabrics including denims.
How is Albini Group performing?
We closed 2018 registering €152 million sales, 2% more than in 2017, and expect to remain stable in 2019. Thanks to our large selection of products we aim to further increase our revenues. Thirty percent of our sales are from Italy, while 70% comes from the US, France, Spain, Germany and the UK (in order of importance). We have also established our own filials in Honk Kong were we sell three million cuts of fabrics to tailors and in New York with our own local filial.