Interview with Sônia Regina Hess de Souza, President of Dudalina
How would you evaluate the textile sector and its changes over the last 2 years?
The textile sector in Brazil has not changed a lot, although there has been foreign interests in investing in Brazil.
Today, Dudalina has more than 2,500 employees; we own 6 factories, 97 stores, 95 in Brazil and 2 international stores (one of which is in Milan and another one is in Panama), and until the end of 2014 we will have 3 more international stores (one in Zurich, one in Vienna and one more in Panama).
There is a bigger middle class and consumption has increased, and our sector is part of this new context. Our sector is not the one with the biggest growth, but there are many new foreign products coming mainly from China. That causes a certain balance, because our world is no longer a closed world.
I believe that 2014 will be a very good year for the textile industry in Brazil.
Could you talk a little bit about Dudalina’s history?
Dudalina is going to celebrate 57 years of existence this year. The company was founded by my parents in a little town called Luis Alves in Santa Catarina. My mother was the real business person (my father was a poet, but he supported my mother). They passed the company to their kids a long time ago and were not caught by the power. Their kids worked hard to make Dudalina’s name known. Today, Dudalina has more than 2,500 employees; we own 6 factories, 97 stores, 95 in Brazil and 2 international stores (one of which is in Milan and another one is in Panama), and until the end of 2014 we will have 3 more international stores (one in Zurich, one in Vienna and one more in Panama).
Today Dudalina has more than 2,500 employees; we own 6 factories, 93 stores, 88 in Brazil and 02 international stores (one of which is in Milan and another one in Panama), and until the end of 2014 we will have 3 more international stores (one in Zurich, one in Vienna and one more in Panama).
Dudalina started its business with shirts, but nowadays it has other clothes pieces and 5 brands. Could you present those brands?
Dudalina is the owner of the stores and it started with the production of men’s shirts. We started thinking about producing women’s shirts that would be anatomical, feminine and adapted to most women. We have created a line of trousers that are anatomic and feminine and make women even more beautiful in my opinion. The masculine line is also very comfortable. We always use the best fabrics, the best cut, the best manufacture, the best brand, etc., to create the desire to wear Dudalina and to maintain our clients.
We import the best cotton from a Peruvian partner, and we also import some products. We do not manufacture like for example jackets, scarfs, etc., which are complementary to our trousers and shirts. We manufacture 80% of what we invoice in our 6 factories (5 in Santa Catarina and 1 in Parana).
Could you please mention the other brands?
Yes, of course. I already talked about Dudalina that is masculine and feminine. Dudalina is present in all our stores and in more than 1,200 points of sale in a country that has 5,500 municipalities.
There is the brand Individual that already has 5 stores. This is a masculine brand focused on executives. We say they are every day clothes but they are perfectly tailored and modern. It has a vast range of masculine products.
Base is a masculine and feminine jeanswear brand. We sell jeans, more relaxed shirts, dresses that are more casual, shorts, etc.
We are able to dress people in all their weekly moments. Nowadays we have almost 4,000 clients; we have a huge distribution network. For each of the brands we manufacture 4 collections per year.
Do you think it is possible to diversify even more?
There is always that possibility. Last year on Mother’s Day I was wondering: “what would I like to receive for Mother’s Day this year? Maybe I would like to receive something to stay at home,” and we created a beautiful pajama. The same thing happened on Christmas: we thought about manufacturing a short beautiful pajama that almost looks like normal clothes.
What about Dudalina's growth strategy?
Our plan is to grow around 25% each year. We are going to expand on the multi-brand market, on our own stores, and on the external market.
Our dream is to make 1 billion Reals in 2016. Last year we made 520 million Reals, this year it should be around 650 million Reals, and next year it should reach 850 million Reals.
Which are Dudalina’s social and environmental initiatives?
Our main social project is to transform fabric shreds into patchwork. This patchwork transforms itself in a social bag (last year we distributed more than 20,000 bags) and in many other products that NGOs transform into children’s clothes, curtains, etc., but always having social responsibility in mind. We are giving our patchwork to more than 500 NGOs. In each community there is some of our work.
12% of Dudalina’s profit is distributed between the employees as results participation – that is also social responsibility, because we are distributing profits between the people that helped to create those results.
In terms of environment we have several programs, from picnics we make in degraded regions (it’s a picnic but the main task is to plant trees), we donate tree seeds to every store employee, we accompany the evolution of the plantations. I can say that our soul is very green.
In October we had some artists taking pictures to be sold and we were able to collect 300,000 Reals from them. We donated every cent to institutions which provide prevention or give support to the victims of breast cancer, and to the hospital that takes care of those victims.
On Father’s Day, we donated money to the project “Velho Amigo” (Old Friend), which is a very beautiful project from Cristina Morais, where she takes care of the maintenance of rest homes.
Whenever there is a good cause, we want to be present.
We have to give society something back. If there is a company that thinks otherwise, that company doesn’t deserve to be on the market.
Two North American Funds bought the company, but the situation is the same although there are other partners. I am still the company’s President but now I have another Council that supports me 100%.
I have heard people saying that the interest in Brazil was lost, but I do not think like that. I agree with Luiza Helena Trajano when she says that everybody looks at the half-empty cup and that we have to look at the half-full cup. This country is filled with opportunities and no one will stop looking at us. Of course that people look for companies that are in line with the values of those who want to invest.
Brazil is the most attractive country now. It has a real democracy, it has solid foundations, it’s a secular country. It is definitely the best country to invest now. Russia, for example, has structural problems, India has religious and cultural problems, and China has the most capitalist system I know.
What is your vision for the company in two years from now?
Our dream is to be making 1 billion Reals a year. It’s not 1 billion in money, it’s a billion in achievements: it has to be a built billion.
What would your message be to a possible national or international investor?
Brazil has many interesting companies. It has 200 million inhabitants, and the country is starting to understand what it means to consume.
When looking at the mature economies and at the emerging economies, in my opinion, Brazil has the best economic for investment. Whoever wants to invest in Brazil thinking about the future can come into Brazil.
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