When José Royo Ballesteros joined his grandfather’s business 20 years ago, innovation was the last he expected to find in a company with 112 years of history…”My first impression was that I was going to a company with an old school mentality”, he said, “And I found a very modern company where everything was about research, development and innovation”.
With a tagline that boasts, “Born in 1903 and we feel younger than ever,” it’s little wonder that Spain’s TEJIDOS ROYO, a textile group with unrivaled denim expertise, manages to keep things fresh both in the business and with the product it puts out.
When Jose Rafael Royo Ballesteros joined his great grandfather’s business 20 years ago, innovation was the last thing he expected to find in a company that had been doing business for four generations.
“My first impression was that I was going to an old-minded company,” he said. “And I found a super modern company. I started in the last century and I already felt like I was in the 21st century because it was all about research and development, and always what is new.”
From buying raw materials to making fabrics for big name brands like Zara, Mango and El Corte Ingles, TEJIDOS ROYO has things covered when it comes to textile manufacturing, and the company has found ways to make goods that aren’t being imitated in lower-cost countries.
To find out how this “little company in a big world,” as Jose puts it, does what it does, Carved in Blue spent some time getting a peek into TEJIDOS ROYO’s denim world.
Carved in Blue: Royo has been in business a long time, how has your expertise helped the business grow?
Jose: We have been in business for 112 years and have always been different from the rest. And we’re a family company, so we’ve always been with the same policy that we had 112 years ago: the company first and the family second.
Normally, a family company always tries to talk about the family first, but if we make $100, we take that money and put it back into the company to help the company grow. At the end, with our expertise, we always have a foundation. It’s like a house—you have four columns and then you build on that. Whenever we make a decision, whenever we do something new, we have the foundation.
Carved in Blue: How has the industry shifted since you joined the family business in 1996?
Jose: It has changed a lot. It’s a brutal change. From 1996 to today, it’s a totally new textile business. In 1996, you had two collections per year and nowadays, every two months you must have a new collection or new kind of articles. It’s a new business. Even though we need machines to make the fabrics, we need to be thinking that every two months maximum, everything is going to change. I think in the next five or 10 years, every month we will have to come up with something new.
We are also coming from the premium brands, or the premium way of doing things, and now everything is low cost, so companies like us need to adjust to this momentum. But it will be no problem. The only way is we need to be in the market more and more as our customers are our first input of what is new. We have one of the best commercial teams in a textile company and we always talk to our main customers a minimum of once a week, if not every day. We keep constant contact with our customers because they are talking to the customers on the street and it’s the people on the street that have the power to make a decision.
Carved in Blue: That said, where do you look for the most inspiring street fashion?
Jose: Tokyo is the number one and then Los Angeles and London. Tokyo is the fashion city of the world for me, for purist denim, for vintage denim. You find the strangest things. If you want something different, you will find it in Tokyo.
Carved in Blue: So is purist, vintage denim your thing?
Jose: I only wear vintage denim. I don’t wear any basic denim and I only buy two or three jeans a year, no more. I normally always buy them in Japan because they are vintage and different. For brands made in Japan, my favorites are Johnbull and Edwin, and for American brands, J Brand and AG.
Carved in Blue: Royo has been using TENCEL® for some time, what made you decide to use it?
Jose: When we started working, we were the first ones to work with TENCEL®. It was a new fiber and we have the know-how because we worked with the fiber from the beginning. Nobody knows TENCEL® better than us. It’s something that everybody is wearing, its super soft, shiny, feels cool when it’s hot. It’s a very new fiber for what’s needed today.
In the beginning it was cotton, and then cotton and LYCRA®, but with TENCEL® we were able to catch the ladieswear market with the softness. It’s been a breakthrough for us and it has always made us a little different because not everybody can work with it.
Carved in Blue: The sustainability tab on your website says “More out of conviction than legal requirements.” What does this mean to Royo?
Jose: If we don’t take care of our world, the world is going to explode. If we the industry, the people that are making things in the world, aren’t sustainable, we will not survive. I work in a family company, if I don’t take care of this environment, we will not be a company that can live another 100 years. That’s why we subscribe to STeP [OEKO-TEX’s certification system for sustainable textile production] for its transparent process so everybody can see where the garments and the yarn and the fabric are coming from. We love to be a transparent company.
What companies want is to get fast product sales and make money. We see that if you don’t do sustainability, people are going to go away.
Carved in Blue: What do today’s consumers want from their denim?
Jose: What they are asking exactly is to be different from the rest. For all the basics, India and Pakistan, they are the cheaper countries. Customers are asking the EU companies to make something different. That’s why we’re using TENCEL® because not everybody works with it, so it makes us a little bit different from the rest. We are mixing cotton with TENCEL® and LYCRA® and we are making blends that are more difficult for the basics to make.
Carved in Blue: What’s on the horizon for denim for Autumn/Winter ’18?
Jose: Stretch is always going to be important. For the last five to six years, it’s always been super stretch but people are getting tired of having the same things in their closet. Normal people want to be able to dress again.
Stretch will always be there because it’s just the comfort fabric, but it won’t be so stretchy. For ladieswear, the super stretch will go to comfort, but for men’s, super stretch will be popular because men’s just discovered it.
Carved in Blue: If Royo was gifted $1 million, where would you invest and what would you improve?
Jose: I will invest half a million into the finishing plant and the other half into research and development because it’s what makes the difference. The market is getting more and more difficult, so in order to be able to change every month or two months, we have to have something different than the basics—that’s research and development.
Carved in Blue: What does Carved in Blue mean to you?
Jose: Lenzing has the power to know what is happening in Asia, Europe and America. They have contact with the textile brands, with the industrial companies, like us. So if it is well followed, it can be a real tool for all of us but it must be kept alive, with news and interviews constantly.