We talked to Federico Sainz de Robles of Sepiia on how to create clothes that adapt to customers needs while taking care of the planet and this is what he had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Federico Sainz de Robles: We’re all safe and healthy. We don’t see each other as much as we’d want to, but sometimes the best way to care for your loved ones is keeping a safe distance from them.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Sepiia.
Federico Sainz de Robles: I studied industrial engineering, specialized in fashion design, and earned my master’s degree in textile technology. I couldn’t understand why our clothes were still functioning and performing in the same ways they always have over the years when technology is progressing at an exponential rate and present in every product of our everyday lives. This sense of frustration fuelled a spirit of innovation that inspired me to create more functional clothes engineered for performance and a beautiful design and made locally in sustainable ways.
How does Sepiia innovate?
Federico Sainz de Robles: Our garments repel liquids, avoid wrinkles (don’t need ironing), neutralize body odour, sweat marks are not visible, are breathable, elastic, and comfortable, and won’t yellow in time. I wanted to tackle planned obsolescence and designed our fabric and garments to be more durable (and timeless, so you want to wear them over the years to come). They need fewer laundry cycles since it lasts longer clean.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Federico Sainz de Robles: The pandemic affected us like any other company, but since we are a startup, we could pivot fast and changed our strategy in time. We were planning on opening physical stores, but we invested in our e-commerce and online advertising instead of that. We changed the focus on technology and innovation towards our local production and sustainability, two critical values for us that people are now paying more interest.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Federico Sainz de Robles: One lesson we did learn is you cannot plan for everything. One would never have written “pandemic” under “treat” in a swot analysis. There’s no way to prepare for absolutely everything, but if you are agile enough, you can adapt to the challenges that come your way. It would help if you took the time to stop, think, re-think, and adapt.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Sepiia in the future?
Federico Sainz de Robles: One step at a time. Being responsible for a whole team and a company is undoubtedly stressful, but one thing that helps me put things in perspective is knowing they’re all in on this too. They are 100% committed to this project, and we adapt to the storms that come our way collaboratively and intuitively to overcome the difficulties as a team. Sharing the load and tackling the problems together does help me with the anxiety and stress of everyday startup life.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Federico Sainz de Robles: There are quite a few competitors in the smart fashion game, but we welcome the competition: we are creating a new concept in clothing, changing the attitude towards how we dress, looking for a performance angle on our everyday clothes. Besides, smart clothes don’t need so many laundry cycles. They don’t need ironing, saving resources and time, and extending the garment’s life-cycle, which means us and all our smart fashion competitors are making a big difference in the fashion industry saving tons of water and CO2. What makes Sepiia different is we make everything (from the thread to the final garment) in Spain and Portugal, boosting the local industry and making sure we follow all environmental laws. By producing locally we save CO2 from transport, and we have a recycling system for our clothes to close the loop and make them circular.
Your final thoughts?
Federico Sainz de Robles: When dark things like a pandemic happen, you realize how bright people shine. At the beginning of the pandemic, there was a lack of masks, and we wanted to help, but we don’t own our clothing factories (we work with suppliers, and they had to close down). We donated fabric starting a chain of collective solidarity: we found a mill in Barcelona willing to cut the fabric. They coordinated with different people and factories around Spain that were making masks. This collaborative chain allowed us to make and donate 10.000 masks.
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