Established in 1985, Calvelex is a family-run business, led by brothers César and Marco Araújo, with a razor-sharp focus on manufacturing sustainably alongside delivering the highest quality couture clothing.
César Araújo is also one of the founding Board Directors of the PCIAW®.
Can you tell us what you have been working on over the last few months and during the current pandemic?
The strong demand from online sales kept the company working, although at a much lower level. At the same time, Calvelex, like the Portuguese textile and clothing industry, has reinvented itself to produce personal protective equipment (PPE). Calvelex created several masks following European recommendations and, like other Portuguese companies, is now prepared to serve the whole of Europe with this equipment.
How have you supported your customers and the PPE industry during COVID-19?
The fact that Calvelex kept working without any breaks has enabled us to continue to supply our customers and respond to their needs. If we had closed, this would not have been possible. At the same time, we produce PPE to help and protect people, mostly, health professionals, who are at the forefront in this difficult period.
How have you managed as a company during the pandemic and what challenges have you faced?
The challenges were tremendous, not least because we are experiencing an unprecedented situation. Our main concern was for the health of all employees. Therefore, we have introduced additional security measures in the company. It was undoubtedly a great challenge for Calvelex and its employees.
What are your thoughts on predominately ‘going online’ during this current time?
We have a long and strong relationship with most of our clients. We have deep understanding, trust and knowledge of their needs which enabled our continued contact. Calvelex’s digital platforms – Fabrics4Fashion and Calvelex.net – where we have the digitisation of materials, also helped to avoid a major break. Webinars and online contacts, despite being our main communication channels during this exceptional time, don’t replace personal contact and the direct feedback that you have from it. Hopefully it will be a matter of time – when there is a vaccine or the virus dissipates – to get back to doing business personally.
What lessons have you learned during this time?
This challenge has not yet ended – on the contrary, it is just beginning. The big lesson, for now and for the future, is that we have to be united. This pandemic showed that Europe wasn’t working together and therefore, wasn’t prepared. It is necessary to invest more and more in the industry so that, when situations like this happen, the European continent won’t be dependent on Asia. It makes more and more sense for European countries, including the United Kingdom, to be articulated. This virus has showed the fragility of the market economy – we are experiencing a falling-out in the market economy, which requires
governments to make a strong injection of financial resources to protect jobs and avoid a collapse of social stability. But in addition to these capital injections, a Marshall Plan is needed: we have to buy European products because that alone will allow factories to continue to work, the economy to start growing and, above all, to avoid a more serious economic crisis.
How can we prepare and do better should this happen again?
It is difficult to be prepared for something that we know little about, which is the case with this virus. We don’t know how to deal with it, because we don’t have an understanding of how it spreads and attacks. If we have to deal with other pandemics of this kind and humanity is not prepared, it will create challenges that goes beyond the countries themselves. In terms of European industry, the important thing, as I said, will be to be united.
The current pandemic has brought a lot of issues to light such as the lack of support our industry gets from the government and the challenges manufacturing in the UK and Europe faces. How important is it to you to manufacture closer to home?
The United Kingdom, like the rest of the European countries, must have an industry of proximity and Portugal, with competent, flexible companies and know-how, is an alternative to the creation of its own industry.
The European Union and the United Kingdom can’t continue to be intrinsically dependent on Asia. And it is also unacceptable that 80% of the clothing transacted in Europe comes from Asia.
We must bring factories to Europe and require cooperation with other countries outside the EU and the United Kingdom. We can buy products from them, but these countries must also buy our products under the same conditions.
Globalisation has been difficult to manage for Europe, which was dependent on Asia, for example, in terms of PPE and masks. Today, Portugal is able to produce reusable and sustainable PPE, with higher quality and added value, which protect not only people but also the environment.
Products made in Europe create jobs, boost the economy and enable social well-being.
Finally, what are your thoughts on being members of the PCIAW®?
I feel that I have an important role in supporting the development of the workwear industry. I believe that the association, in the future, has the enormous challenge of supporting and developing the industry in the European Union and the United Kingdom.