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Aude Penouty: "Connecting ideas is what enables projects to be put into action."

Updated: Jul 5, 2022

“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine - it’s lethal!” This Paulo Coelho quote features prominently on Aude Penouty's website. It perfectly sums up and illuminates this fashion expert's journey. She puts her creativity and enthusiasm to work for an industry undergoing a radical transformation, with her clients spread across multiple continents, from Paris to Ho Chi Minh City. They call on the entrepreneur's vast expertise through the consulting agency she founded, Entada Textile.

This expertise is also multicultural, as Aude spent her teenage years in Africa and worked for a long time in Vietnam. An expertise, it should be emphasised, that was also forged at Esmod Paris (where Aude specialised in lingerie in 2005), before taking off internationally. Her career path combines fashion design for several brands, high-energy entrepreneurship (specifically, launching her own brand of eco-designed lingerie seven years ago, all while co-directing an association of sustainable creative professions in the south of Vietnam) and experience on the ground, working in factories in Europe and Asia.

She openly talks about her approach: "I needed to know what was going on behind the scenes, to understand the factories that make the finished product. As a designer, knowing your materials requires understanding how a 2D sketch transforms into a 3D product, through to the prototype and eventually launching production for the client." This boundless curiosity probably comes from the family roots of the 38-year-old entrepreneur, who was born in France’s Var department: "I'm descended from a family who traded on the Silk Road, my ancestors were weavers and my grandparents had a dressmaking shop in France. As a child, I was constantly surrounded by fabric. Living in a country that produces materials and finished products - clothes, furniture, lacquer jewellery - like many countries in Asia, also sparks our creative desire. All the workshops and raw materials are present there, not to mention the very powerful entrepreneurial culture that exists over there."

"Entada Textile was born in 2014. Entada is a plant, like the banana tree. It represents the connection between Africa and Asia, the continents where my family live. Because it's a family business - I work in the textile sector, my parents in agrifood." The consulting agency's specialisation is the environmental transition. It's a major topic that, in recent years, has rightly taken number one position in strategies developed by fashion, lingerie and accessory brands. Aude is convinced that this transition will require cultural expertise to transmit messages between East and West. Entada Textile's consulting services cover sourcing of materials and industrial tools, but also concept and trend development.

This environmental transition requires carefully honed responses based on each company's specificities. Because there is no single magic formula. "There is no such thing as a product with zero impact or a perfect material," insists Aude. Since the beginning of the pandemic, she has taken her methods online, in order to interact as easily as possible with her clients while responding to the need for training courses and sustainable development. This led her to produce a masterclass on the topic of "sustainable sourcing with no go betweens". The 100% online class lasts two and a half hours, and is designed for three different skill levels, from the basics to deeper learning. Each level is broken down into three chapters: what is sustainable sourcing, training in specific subjects like eco-friendly materials, and finally, improving skills through a more in-depth look at the research & development solutions seen during the masterclass.

Clearly, the former Esmod Paris student's approach cannot be boiled down to a fixed formula, but is characterised by one certainty: the best way to be sustainable is to be economical with resources. This certainty has been proven to be relevant both for those who work in product development and purchasers. "Volume strategy must become a value strategy," emphasises the entrepreneur. She shares the key elements that define her vision, between expertise and monitoring, in the remarkable podcast On(Ward) Fashion, published by the magazine The Good Goods, the first French media organisation specialised in ethical fashion. "The key word is 'create'. The first step of creating is research, which requires a significant amount of monitoring, then writing, which allows the concept to be materialised, and finally, transmission, which involves finding the right production tool that meets the client's requirements. This final stage is also when you go from theory to reality."

The expert warns that the systematic sustainable sourcing approach often remains solely theoretical: "organic cotton imported from Asia often has its virtues extolled. But if a brand manufactures in Europe, then sends the finished product to Asia, obviously the carbon footprint has been poorly assessed." Such difficulties haven't put a dint in the enthusiasm and energy pouring out of this self-proclaimed 'Cultural Broker'. "Connecting ideas is what enables projects to be put into action."

The accessible and flexible masterclass developed by Aude shows that decompartmentalising sectors is essential. "I wanted to inject meaning and usefulness into this method. I also wanted to show that decompartmentalising helps us to understand other people, their work and their methods. For example, Kering used this approach by investing in biodiversity, thereby decompartmentalising the science of purchasers. A flexible, systemic approach respects the context." A valuable tool, full of practical exercises. It's worth watching multiple times, alone or with colleagues. It's specifically aimed at companies that wish to efficiently redefine their sourcing specifications.

Listen to the podcast On(Ward)Fashion with Aude Penouty :

Contact Aude Penouty :

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