Textile company Duvaltex pivoted into pandemic mode early on. It not only developed new, reusable materials that are key to the fabrication of medical gowns, it also figured out the channels to distribute them. In less than six months, the company’s medical-textiles division produced and sold enough material to create more than two million medical gowns.
Duvaltex has a history of developing products to address emerging needs. The Quebec City-based company facilitates this agility through front-end innovation — a collaborative product-development process that involves teams from marketing, R&D, commercialization, finance and operations — and edge innovation, which encourages its staff of engineers to develop products with awareness of worldwide trends, like robotization and AI.
“Duvaltex has been able to evolve and adapt constantly through its dedicated focus on its customers,” says Alain Duval, the company’s president and CEO. “Our people are continually learning new skills in order to adapt and create relevant solutions to our customers’ major problems and pains.”
In 2016, Duvaltex became the largest manufacturer of commercial and contract interior fabrics in the United States and Canada — serving offices, institutions and the health-care and hospitality industries — when, in addition to its house brand, Victor, it acquired fabric company True Textiles and its brands, True, Teknit and Guilford of Maine.
What makes it stand apart today is its sheer size. Duvaltex has 550 employees, six textile mills in Canada in the U.S., two Quebec-based plants for Artofix, its soundscape-solution-design subsidiary, and a sales and design office in New York.
Another differentiator is its commitment to sustainability, which began with Duval’s grandfather, William Duval, who founded Victor in 1947.
“[By the 1970s], our company was specializing in the recycling of woollen scraps into high-quality fabrics for outdoor apparel,” says Duval. “We were the largest maker of recycled wool in North America. My grandfather taught our family great lessons about the use of resources, and this was very instructive throughout our evolution. Innovation and resource optimization are central principles of our vision.”
Since 2000, more than 100 million yards of sustainable post-consumer fabric has been produced in Duvaltex mills in Canada and the U.S. In Quebec, 92.8 per cent of the energy used by the company’s mills is from a renewable source (hydroelectricity), and nearly all of its waste from the manufacturing processes is recycled.
In its latest efforts, Duvaltex partnered with Seaqual Initiative, a network of companies working to help clean the oceans, to create a new product: an upholstery called “Intersection,” which it co-developed with office-furniture company Steelcase. The material, made of harvested marine plastic, falls under Duvaltex’s newest brand, Clean Impact Textiles, which is a result of the company’s front-end innovation system.