Cruise Ship Interiors Expo exhibitor Fil Doux started out in Chile with a family-owned mill 80 years ago. Today, Fil Doux Textiles controls four fully vertical fabric and vinyl mills in South America, allowing full customization and a superior lead time on its woven fabrics, drapery, sheers, Vinylife, leather, and digital textile prints.

Leo Novik is the CEO and Founder of Fil Doux Textiles. Fil Doux are known for their sustainable focus, having built sustainability into their production from the get go. We sat down with Leo to talk about how technology has helped in the quest to make the least impact on the planet possible, what consumers can do to create a greener future, and how they think about the design process.

Sustainability is one of THE key market drivers across all industries at the moment. But, in practical terms, what does sustainability mean for a supplier and manufacturer?

It’s great to see that sustainability is a key market driver currently, but sustainability has always been at the heart of what we do at Fil Doux Textiles. From the processes at our vertically integrated mills to the finished product, we make the conscious choice to employ the most eco-friendly technology available to craft products that won’t further pollute the environment. As one of the first textiles mills to have its own onsite water reclamation and adopt solar panel technology, we can proudly say that we have led the charge in the textile industry, proving you can produce quality fabrics without excess pollution.

At Fil Doux Textiles, we also created Otratex™—the first-ever degradable vinyl alternative—made with natural enzymes that start the process of decomposition once discarded in an anaerobic environment. These enzymes make it possible for Otratex to decompose in just 30 years, whereas most other non-Otratex vinyl takes over 500 years. Otratex is notably the same price as traditional vinyls. By doing this, we have put the pressure on suppliers to make the conscious choice to outfit their spaces with sustainable materials.

The Otratex line in Moody Blues

How does the design process change when you’re designing with sustainability in mind?

There is no difference for us. Green operations have always been at the forefront of Fil Doux Textiles. Many manufacturers are playing catch up right now and trying to implement environmentally conscious practices. We have always had the greenest mills that technology allowed for.

When we develop new products, like Otratex, we look towards nature for inspiration. We saw that the planet has the natural ability to break down materials and return them to the earth. Through trial and error, we were able to find a natural enzyme that broke down our proprietary vinyl almost twenty times faster than traditional synthetic vinyls. The earth is a powerful place and rather than fighting against the natural processes, we hope to emulate them in our products.

Fil Doux Textiles is a multigenerational company. In your experience, how has technology changed over the years to aid in sustainable design?

Just like in every facet of our lives, technology is changing rapidly. When we first looked into adding solar panels in the early 90s, it was very expensive and required lots of land. When we went to full solar power operations about ten years ago, the panels required a third of the space, generated four times as much electricity, and cost a fifth of the price.

Technology has also made it easier to combine different sustainability practices into our operations with ease. One of the largest polluters in the textile industry has been the dye water used to produce colored yarns. We developed an onsite wastewater reclamation system to eliminate this dye from going back into the waterways. At the site, water is reclaimed, cleansed, and reused. Without the advancements of technology, operating these sustainable practices under one roof would have been very difficult. From solar panels to water reclamation, technology has advanced to a point that implementing these is no longer optional. If you are not making green choices, your business will not survive. What makes Fil Doux Textiles unique is the fact that we made the conscious choice to always have sustainability at the heart of our business.

How can suppliers help designers meet a project’s requirements sustainably, even when sustainability isn’t in the requirements?

We have reached a point where making sustainable choices is a must. At a minimum, new projects should be only sourcing sustainably produced products. Before, eco-conscious products and procedures came at a premium. Today, the cost differences are minuscule. It is our duty as manufacturers and consumers to put pressures on the people making decisions. With your money, you can make a difference. You can choose to only take cruise liners that source sustainably. By showing large companies that eco-friendly practices are important to you as a consumer, changes can be made at a large scale.

Does sustainability always have to be the ‘star’ of the show or is it possible to create products that are sustainable but also affordable, or luxe, or scalable etc?

There is no difference between the process we use to create luxury or mid-tier fabrics. Sustainability is important for all, no matter the price point. We scale our price points for the weight of yarn and the finishes. Our mills never change the process, therefore sustainability is never a cost driver. Everyone should have access to products that are good for our planet because we are all living here together.

Finally, what’s next for Fil Doux Textiles and sustainability?

We are always making strides to better our business, our products, and our environment. At Fil Doux Textiles, we never settle. Every day, we are researching new products and ways to improve our existing lines. We also have a spirit of innovation at the company. Not every idea is going to be successful, but we don’t let this slow us down. We are constantly trying new things to improve our products and processes. When we created Otratex, it seemed like a wild idea, but just because we revolutionized vinyl doesn’t mean we’re stopping. Right now it degrades in 30 years. Hopefully, we will get to a point that it’s only five or ten. We are always committed to DOUX better.

Meet Fil Doux on booth 489 at Cruise Ship Interiors Expo America. Find out more about the insights, exhibitors and attractions at CSI here!