There are some people who tend to assume that sustainability and eco-friendly business practices are things that only new companies adopt, due to the current consumer climate that has begun to favor those things. But while it is true that the sustainability trend has gained prominence relatively recently, it hasn’t left behind companies with an older pedigree either.
One case in point is DILLING, a Danish apparel company that’s been family-owned and run by four generations since 1916. Specializing in organic merino wool and organic cotton clothing, DILLING takes social responsibility very seriously, from its material sourcing to its dyeing and employee hiring practices. I recently reached out to DILLING CEO Morten Dilling to learn more about his views on sustainability, his emphasis on customer care, and what it’s like to lead a family business.
In the photo: DILLING underwear shoot Credit: DILLING
Q: What are the origins of DILLING?
MD: DILLING comes from Denmark originally. We dye our products in there and sew them in Lithuania. Our wool comes from Patagonia in Argentina, and our cotton comes from various countries, like India for example. Using clean and comfortable underwear is definitely a necessity. It’s an unwritten rule, so to say. In fact, a lot of people are even tuning to giving underwear as a present such as this couples underwear which can spice up the romance of that couple.
Q: What inspirations do you draw from when designing your products?
MD: We draw inspiration from many sources, like landscapes, cities, other clothing brands, trend studies, etc.
In the photo: Family photo shoot for DILLING Credit: DILLING
Q: What does sustainability mean to you and DILLING?
MD: To produce things as environmentally friendly as possible is not something we do because we can make a good marketing story out of it. We do it because it means something. We made the decision to keep our dye house in Denmark and not to place it in the Far East or in Eastern Europe, for example. The dyeing process is the most important one for both the environment and for our customers that wear our products. By having it in Denmark, we know exactly which colors and chemicals are being used. Clean production means everything for us because of nature and because of the skin of our customers.
Q: What challenges has DILLING encountered as it’s grown?
MD: There are quite a lot of challenges, like finding and keeping the best employees in order to develop our concept. We also believe that our customers expect us to do things right. The infrastructure (especially IT) in our company is big, but it’s also exciting and a positive challenge. In addition, we are also a family business, one that I have taken over from my father, and that has posed its own challenges as well. My father, Villy H. Bertelsen, has owned this company for 48 years ever since he took over from his farther in 1968 (we were founded in 1916 by my great-grandfather). Owning a company for so many years makes it difficult to give the responsibility to next generation, but we’ve made use of my father’s experience and have executed the change of ownership well.
In the photo: DILLING family photo shoot Credit: DILLING
Q: What does the future of DILLING look like in your eyes?
MD: We have to work hard to sharpen our concept. We want to build three product lines; one for kids, one for everyday luxury organic products, and one for outdoor activities. We will meet more competition because organic is currently “in” in many communities, but we think we have a strong concept where we only sell to consumers with no expensive middlemen (e.g. stores, distributors, etc.). That also means we have to ensure the right capacity for the growth we are working hard to ensure.
Editors note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com