Extended interview with Thomas Huriez; Romans-sur-Isere, France; 21 September 2017
I met the 1083.fr team for the first time at the Made in France Salon in Paris, in November 2016. I had the chance to talk to Aurelia De Infanti, Customer Service Manager, and Thomas Huriez, Co-Founder and General Manager, about their company, their challenge of building a value chain localized in France, within a maximum distance of 1083 km (673 mi) from their factory in Romans-sur-Isere. I was pleasantly surprised that Thomas is not only knowledgeable in circular economy and open source product design and manufacturing, but has integrated the principles and practices of open source circular economy in 1083.fr business model and operations.
1083 is one of the brands of Modetic company, co-founded by Thomas and his brother, Gregoire, in 2007. Modetic, a textile retailer and manufacturer, is dedicated to ethical fashion and invites us all “to wear our values”.
As our community Open Source Circular Economy Days (OSCEdays) is always in search of mentors and success stories, commercial success stories, in particular, I asked for an interview with Thomas. He and Aurelia were very kind in inviting me to visit their factory in Romans. I took advantage of their invitation that allowed me to ask Thomas a few questions of great interest to OSCEdays community, to spend a few hours with their talented, passionate team and get a glimpse of Romans with its beautiful landscape.
When you founded the company, did you include explicitly social goals such as local job creation, community support and benefits? Have you considered a social charter for your company, e.g. B-Corporation, social enterprise, cooperative?
I am an entrepreneur, but also a citizen of Romans, my business decisions always take into consideration the impact on my community. Choosing a downtown location for our factory was intentional, as was the decision to start and maintain our company as a local enterprise. I also believe that if you have local employees in Romans and elsewhere throughout France, employees who are engaged, fairly paid, happy about their work, they will be loyal customers for a long time.
Our localization strategy expands to the whole mainland France, as we intentionally and with great determination source all the materials and components for the 1083 brand from France (with one exception). We proudly display our value chain in our factory and in all our marketing documentation.
There is a range of business structures that we could consider, in order to achieve both good economic performance, as well as social one, from cooperatives to highly hierarchical. Our view is that it is important to make industrial decisions for the common good, while maintaining decision-making authority in the leadership hands. We engage our employees, customers, suppliers and all the other stakeholders in a clear common project defined by the leaders. I hope that a new business charter will be adopted soon, in which a foundation manages the business, a foundation to which I and the other shareholders will transfer their ownership and decision-making power.
How do you practice the circular economy? What are the major obstacles for it to become mainstream?
Since the beginning, at Modetic, my brother and I, as co-founders, have been dedicated to an ecological business and sustainability ethos. As we expanded into manufacturing with the 1083 brand, the circular economy model became our framework of reference, because it is attached to progress towards a sustainable economy and society. We view production localization as fundamental to our business success, but also essential to the successful performance, therefore adoption, of the circular economy framework at scale.
We are delighted to have been awarded the first prize at “The First Night of the Sharing and Circular Economy” in April 2017. It shows us that we are on the right path to implement a circular economy model in our business, our region and throughout France.
I am aware every day that no economic or business model can succeed if one does not offer a convincing product, in our case, well-tailored, well-made, affordable, lasting jeans and denim-based clothes, shoes and related products.
The major obstacles for a circular economy to become mainstream are similar to those confronting the organic market. 90% of French people do not want pesticides in their products, however only 10% buy organic products. There is a perception about organic as being either elitist (status-seeking, affordable only to rich people) or traditionalist (regressive, nativist). As I already mentioned, the quality and affordability of our products together with our business practices and financial performance will remove these obstacles.
Another objection to circular economy is that it is complex, very difficult to understand and/or practice. For example, while recycling is the lowest priority, the last loop in product/material circulation and waste avoidance, as long as we practice it, it should be simple and easy to label: pullover to pullover, jeans to jeans, etc.
My advice to your organization and others interested in the circular economy is to simplify the concept and stay loyal to it.
How do you practice open source? Is it a risk to commercial success?
First, on the design side, we share on our blog all our jeans patterns and the design of all our accessories. By sharing the latter, we are able to find French suppliers, who currently can make them or who used to make them and have the right equipment, but are using it for other application, as demand for the intended product has collapsed through off-shoring.
Second, on the stakeholders interaction side, we view the collaborative aspect of open source as very advantageous. We share our thinking and our supply needs constantly on social media. The feedback we receive allows us to adapt better and faster to customer demand and to find French suppliers of raw materials and components. For example, due to our sharing on social media of our plan to start making recycled plastic flip-flops we were contacted by a cable manufacturer, that would have never been on our radar, but who used to process recycled plastic for the same products we want to introduce, but had to find other industries to supply to, as show manufacturing left France.
Speaking of shoes and shoe manufacturing, we are proud to have restored shoe manufacturing at the Jourdan factory in our city, which is highly symbolic and emotional, as Romans used to be the capital of show manufacturing in France until late 1980s.
Did you choose a made-to-order model as a way to control waste, inventory and better control/influence customer demand?
We chose an all-season and made-to-order model primarily for good cash flow control and to allow for ramping-up production according to actual demand.
Will you add a rent-your-clothes offer in the future?
Yes, we are launching our rent-your-jeans program at the upcoming MIF (Made in France) Expo in Paris. Come and see us there November 10 – 12. We plan to recycle jeans into building insulation and also rent jeans for babies and toddlers, as these jeans have the shortest use cycles for obvious reasons, our very young customers grow very fast.
Would you like to host an OSCEdays at your factory in Romans?
We would be delighted to. We already engage high-school students in Romans by inviting them to visit our factory and know our business principles. We hope to attract them towards our trade and our values. An OSCEdays event would be an exciting opportunity to engage local people and then share our outcome with the OSCEdays global community. Let’s work on it.
Conducted by Silvia Leahu-Aluas
Member of the Board of Stewards at OSCEdays