Pepper Vally® was founded in 2011 by Aliki Goritsa and Spyros Fragos, two young textile engineers who had studied both in Greece and abroad.
The company produces textile products with vertically integrated production, natural raw materials, their own design and use of new technologies.
‘Whatever I do, I want it to combine the roles of designer and manufacturer,’ says Aliki, who thoroughly checks the quality and origin of the yarns, that the company buys from leading suppliers.
After purchasing the yarn, they proceed to the manufacture of the fabric and together with their partners in the production process, control the quality of the material, the functionality of the garment or other final product, the optimum technique of garment assembly/sewing method to ensure less to zero waste.
‘Philosophically and practically, we want to be co-creators. We want partners with an opinion and direct involvement in the design and production process’, explains Spyros.
‘Design in creative industries is essential,’ says Aliki showcasing the new items of the summer collection. ‘But when you propose an innovation, it must primarily serve the intended use. A beach towel should absorb moisture, dry quickly, be lightweight, have less bulk so as to fit comfortably in a beach bag or even be wrapped around the body as a garment. All of these are possible due to the shape adjustable characteristics of this developed by Pepper Vally® innovative knitted fabric.’
With the advisory guidance of the executives of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Enterprise Europe Network, the founders of Pepper Vally started working on smart fabrics and technologically® advanced clothing.
‘Smart clothing, smart fabric, is what, in addition to covering the body, also provides an added service, and value’, they explain and proudly present the prototype they created through their participation in the WORTH project.
Their first prototype for a ‘fashionable-wellbeing’ wearable with sensors, serving a heart rate recording for the psychological and physiological assessment of dangerous deviations, is followed by their third prototype which combines blood pressure measurements (using PPG technology) and a three-point electrocardiogram (3-Leads ECG), with an accuracy corresponding to that of a medical examination.
Made from certified Merino Wool, a 100% natural-elastic raw material, the developed fabric achieves the desired elasticity in the places where it is needed, with less to zero seams, using advanced knitting technology. It is up-scalable and can be customized to the needs of the person who wears it or to the special needs of the intended sector industry.
‘In 2018, we recommended to Pepper Vally® to apply for the WORTH project,’ says Zeta Sfyraki, executive of the ACCI and Enterprise Europe Network. ‘We had been informed by the Network for Creative Industries about this project which supported international collaborations between fashion designers, manufacturers and tech-companies aiming to develop innovative products.’
‘The Enterprise Europe Network consultant understood our needs very well and the work she proposed paved the way for us. It was a great opportunity to connect with new tech startups and jointly design a smart textile product,’ says Aliki Goritsa.
Greek cotton, German technology
During a visit to the company's headquarters in Acharnes, it is obvious that this is more than just an ethical craft: here is the modern potential of the Greek textile industry.
Spyros grew up among knitting machines, in the small knitting factory that his parents had. At University he met Aliki and they have been together since then. They were united by the vision of a fabric and garment of top quality and with functional value that respects the person who wears it.
Aliki did a master's degree in Germany on the subject. She laughs when she remembers the passion with which she experimented on textiles as an intern in a German company.
Their knitting machine is of German manufacturer, one of the most reliable. They double-check that the raw materials they use are of top quality. They use exclusively Greek cotton of excellent quality.
‘The Greek textile professionals, those who have remained, are very honest. They have managed to stay alive in the market by working hard with minor profit because they love their job and are associated with their products. They sustain the connection with the generation of their grandmothers and grandparents’, Aliki thinks.
‘We exclusively use Greek cotton which actually is of excellent quality. In general, the tradition of our country in the textile industry is related to the top quality of Greek cotton’, she adds.
Sustainability, a matter for small and medium-sized enterprises
‘We immediately realised the potential Pepper Vally® had in the field of innovation and sustainable development. In harmonious collaboration with the company, we diagnosed its needs for extroversion, financing and creation of synergies for innovative products on the basis of sustainability’, says Zeta Sfyraki.
What is sustainability for you? The founders of the business were asked.
‘First of all, the raw material should be either biodegradable and renewable or recyclable, respecting the environment. Then there is the individuals’ responsibility. Those involved in the production process should get paid and produce something sustainable in the long run. Those who work in the industry should be happy and feel creative. And last but not least, the clothes should respect the health of the skin.’
‘From our experience in the industry, we know that a small business, connected emotionally with this type of business, is more interested in the quality and value of the product than exclusively in profit’, concludes Aliki Goritsa.
With the ongoing support of the Enterprise Europe Network
‘It is very important for us to be in direct contact with companies in order to understand their needs and identify the right cooperation and funding opportunities for them’, says Mina Peleki, executive of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Enterprise Europe Network.
After being provided with all the information about the WORTH project and the application process, the executives of Pepper Vally® in collaboration with the Spanish BLAUTIC submitted the funding proposal ‘FEEL MORE KNITWEAR’.
Their proposal was based on the construction of ‘smart’ wearable solutions, i.e. clothes with fabric sensors that have the ability to detect critical changes in the cardiovascular system. The ‘FEEL MORE KNITWEAR’ proposal was one of the 25 approved for funding Europe-wide.
In 2021, as part of its scale-up services to the company, the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry, informed the company about the ELIIT Partnership Project funding programme which would enable it to further develop the smart product under the WORTH / FEEL MORE KNITWEAR project.
The ELIIT Partnership Project is a funding initiative for companies in the fashion industry to work with providers of innovative technological solutions to create new products and services in textiles, clothing, leather and footwear. Pepper Vally® was among the 15 selected partners.
In 2020, the enterprise successfully completed the IMP³ROVE Digital Innovation Quotient with the assistance of Achilleas Barlas, consultant at PRAXI Network and coordinator of the Enterprise Europe Network Hellas consortium. The Digital Innovation Quotient is a tool for assessing the digital and innovation capacity of businesses.
The tool helps companies understand its digital competence through its anonymous comparison with other similar enterprises. This results in a report which assesses the company in relation to competition and identifies points that need improvement in the area of digital innovation management.
In July 2021, with the support of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Pepper Vally® participated in training seminars for creative SMEs in Athens- the INNOMED-UP ‘Promoting the circular economy in creative SMEs for the revitalisation of Mediterranean cities’- organised by the NTUA.
The next stop in the journey so far for Pepper Vally® is its inclusion in the project implemented by the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry, EcoFashionEU - Promoting the sustainability of small and medium textile and fashion manufacturers-in the context of the call Sustainability Partnerships of SMEsadopting more sustainable practices, SMP-COSME-2021-SPP-01.
The project started in November 2022 and has a duration of 18 months with 90% funding.
For the coming period, the founders of the company are focusing on promoting their products in the market.
The Greek summer is a source of inspiration and the company’s summer line proposes innovative clothes designed to accompany 'Greek summer' lovers and their needs during the summer holidays with clothes, beach towels bags & innovative natural swimwear.
Smart clothes and their distribution in the market will be the main concern in the coming period, with immediate priority for the respective B2B synergies in order to customise the application of the technology developed and the joint promotion of related products in the market.
The Enterprise Europe Network advisers are proud of the company’s course to date. The Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Enterprise Europe Network Hellas consortium will be by their side throughout the journey for the resilience and growth of the company and its ecosystem.