Making a difference in sustainable knitwear
As Floreal celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, Amit Khullar, Chief Executive Officer of Floreal Group, shares his drive and passion for making a difference when it comes to sustainable knitwear by taking steps to reduce waste, cut carbon emissions and improve the well-being of its people.
Floreal, as part of CIEL Textile, manufactures and exports woollen yarn and knitwear garments, with its main markets including major brands and retailers across Europe, the USA, the UK, Australia, Africa and Asia. Established in 1972, with a turnover of USD $75 million, 5 million pieces are produced each year across Madagascar and Bangladesh. With the phenomenal technical expertise of over 6,000 staff, they make immaculate quality knitwear accessible to their customers.
Floreal’s journey started with the CIEL Group venturing into textiles from the sugar industry, mainly to create employment opportunities in the villages, where more than 40 factories were set up. Amit Khullar, Chief Executive Officer of Floreal Group took on the challenge of turning around the business in January 2020, which he achieved with the help of close teamwork, which allowed him to focus and revive the brand. Amit gives credit to the CIEL Textile MOE Academy, which helped him develop the leadership and management to help him organise and manage the company. He also ensures a decentralised approach, and he oversees the full Knitwear cluster, encompassing Floreal Madagascar, Floreal Bangladesh and Ferney Spinning Mill.
Floreal, counts 600 people in Mauritius, 4,000 in Madagascar and 1,400 in Bangladesh, out of a total of 20,000 employees at CIEL Textile. Floreal has been efficiently managing the business with a set of processes where each factory has its own speciality, with a quality system and routine. Amit explains, “We brought in new customer profiles and design from the young collections and product offers. We have also onboarded new customers such as Zadig & Voltaire, Lacoste & Tommy Hilfiger.”
With a focus on sustainable knitwear, Amit highlights, “Our specialisation is in wool and cashmere. This is our legacy. We took some of the key features like know-how, vertical integration, experience, positioning in Madagascar and Bangladesh as well. All the products that go out from Madagascar are duty free as well. We keep the strong points of Floreal and blend it with our new requirements, keeping the DNA of Floreal and moving out of our comfort zone which was more on the product side.” Floreal also works with Marks & Spencer’s where it provides total easy-care wool as conscious consumers are seeking eco-friendly purchases.
Sustainability starts with the durability of the garment, in Amit’s view, and he notes the rise of fast fashion. “Fashion is changing every day. Brands now want their garments to survive after 30 washes. This is where Floreal comes in as our positioning is unique with Ferney Spinning Mill (FSM) where we have developed a distinctive and divergent technical advantage. The Total Easy-Care yarns diffuse softness, longevity, and assurance. With product performance our product is sustainable.” He adds that garments can even be thrown into the washing machine in a tumble dry mode without any problem!
In terms of the future outlook, changes in global market sourcing have created new opportunities for Floreal, as customers which have been dependent on China now wish to move away. Floreal is very well positioned based on its vertical integration and sustainable initiatives and ratings, they are Gold WRAP certified, BSCI certified, and have certifications like RWS (Responsible Wool Sourcing) and then GRS (for synthetic fibres) and GOTS (for Cotton).
As a testimony to its commitment to making a difference in the communities where it is operating, to celebrate Madagascar's recent Independence Day, Floreal created blankets from recycled fibres and offered them as gifts to their staff there. “We recycle our garments and would like to distribute more of these blankets in Madagascar and then go further into Africa with this initiative. We are pushing this to CIEL Textile as well. Floreal puts the plan into action, so that we can move forward. It's never important to win the race, we should be in the race! That's Floreal's vision,” concludes Amit with a smile.