We chose to begin from the last link in the supply chain – retail – in an effort to help reshaping the entire supply chain. We consider our physical shop as an educational tool, designed to help customers rethink their purchasing habits, starting with their ability to try on and feel each item”
Rita De Colle
The clothes and accessories shop that Alessandro and Rita opened in March 2018 in Belluno is a treasure chest of stories. A thread, unwinding through the two rooms that make up ethiQ, over a fifty-square-metre space that tells the tale of today’s ethical fashion, consisting of organic materials, upcycling, innovative plant fabrics, small- and medium-sized processing and clothes-making workshops. “In a large city, a shop like this would probably be considered trendy, but the real bet was to open it here, at the foot of the Dolomiti, in the historic heart of Belluno, a town of twenty-five thousand people and the capital of an alpine province that includes a total of two hundred thousand people – explains Rita De Colle. Here, no one had ever even heard of fabrics made from eucalyptus or nettle fibre or beech wood, or that recycled fishing lines could be used to make Econyl®, a type of regenerated nylon that can be employed to make rain capes”.
Econyl® is a regenerated nylon fibre and is an example of circular economy. It is made entirely of nylon that is no longer being used, recovered from landfill and ocean waste. It has the same characteristics of virgin nylon. The difference is that it can be reused and remodelled indefinitely.
Econyl® is made and marketed by Aquafil under its own name, a company based in Arco, in the province of Trento, and one of the main players in the production of synthetic fibres in Italy and worldwide.
According to company data, for every 10,000 tons of Econyl® 70,000 barrels of crude oil are saved, allowing to reduce CO2-equivalent emissions by 57,100 tons overall.
Rita was born in 1985, like her partner, in business and in life, Alessandro Bertoldin. They have three children and they are passionate about fabrics. The research work that led to opening ethiQ started at home, from a few simple questions:“What do we put on our skin? How can we avoid allergies and dermatological problems? Answering was not easy – says Rita – Four or five years ago, it was still difficult in Italy to find spaces entirely dedicated to sustainable fashion”.
Having earned a degree in Environment and Workplace Prevention Techniques at the University of Padua, Rita began working for a company in the eyewear sector, in which she was responsible for risk assessment, the management of environmental aspects, safety training, occupational accidents and illnesses, first aid and emergencies. “The eyewear industry is very much connected to the fashion industry, with everything revolving around collections, trade shows and sample collections. I was involved in production” she explains. Alessandro, instead, worked in the telephone industry, which is where he acquired his strong sense of customer care.
Environment and Workplace Prevention Techniques
Following the Covid-19 emergency, Rita De Colle was able to go back to working as a workplace quality consultant. Her education (the Environment and Workplace Prevention Techniques course is part of the School of Medicine and Surgery) proved key also when it came to choosing the partners ethiQ works with: “Our visits are not fully-fledged audits. But I have competencies that enable me to understand whether a company, regardless of its certifications, operates in compliance with environmental requirements and provisions relating to workers’ rights and health”.