Sérgio Neto, CEO, Petratex

Sérgio Neto, CEO, Petratex

From the rich tapestry of Portugal’s textile tradition emerges Petratex, a company that has been redefining the industry with its pioneering spirit and commitment to innovation. In the picturesque heart of Europe’s age-old sartorial craftsmanship, Petratex has woven a narrative of transformation, led by the astute vision of Sérgio Neto. Since taking the reins, Neto has skillfully stitched together a legacy that marries the art of the past with the technology of the future.  

Today, Petratex boasts a proud lineage of textile innovation, championing sustainability and cutting-edge design from its home soil to the global stage. Under Neto’s guidance, the company has transcended its origins as a women’s shirt manufacturer to become an avant-garde leader in high-performance attire, gracing Olympic podiums and fashion runways alike. “We are the weavers of the extraordinary, highly innovative and highly versatile,” Neto proclaims, reflecting on the company’s journey from local gem to international trendsetter. 

At the intersection of fashion, function, and future, Sérgio Neto’s Petratex is not just keeping pace with the rapidly evolving industry—it’s setting the tempo. With sustainability as its compass and innovation as its sail, Petratex is navigating the digital era, crafting garments for today’s demands and tomorrow’s future. Neto, with the mind of an innovator, continues to pilot Petratex towards horizons where every garment tells a story of change. 


Defined by innovation 

In 2000, Petratex revolutionised textile manufacturing by introducing an innovative bonding technique for garments, a game-changing method that fused fabrics without relying on traditional stitching. The bond was stronger than a sewn seam and allowed for the creation of sleek, more aerodynamic garments. This technological leap was a turning point for the company as it ventured into the realm of high-performance activewear.  

This innovation cemented Petratex’s reputation for performance and avant-garde solutions in the textile industry. Sérgio Neto’s vision for the company was clear: “When clients want something different, we are the people to come to.” This mindset propelled Petratex to the forefront of textile innovation, intertwining innovation and sustainability with service. Over the past 25 years, Petratex has not only been synonymous with textile innovation but has also become a paragon of sustainable practice. “Waste separation for recycling was implemented in 1998. Currently, Petratex has a recycling rate of 90 percent,” Neto tells us. Petratex was also one of the pioneers of upcycling, the use of discarded materials, and they have even managed to use this approach to push the boundaries of what’s possible in fabric technology. 

In order to be so forward-thinking, Neto likes to always keep Petratex thinking five years ahead, and he highlights the importance of foresight: “We have a school in Petratex to train our team for what is coming in the next five years… Today, we believe that is digital fashion and 3D. In the next 3-5 years, Metaverse garments will be increasing in demand, and we can be ahead of the curve.” 

He’s right. 3D technology is revolutionizing the fashion industry. 3D technology makes it possible to improve patterns with instant results without the need to make physical prototypes. It thus stands out as a valuable contribution to sustainability, minimizing material waste and optimizing associated costs. And today, Neto says, Petratex is embracing “Industry 4.0” principles, making continuous investments in technology and the digitization of processes. 


Performance no matter what 

 But Neto’s willingness to innovate hasn’t cost Petratex its performance lead. Petratex has remained an innovative force in performance wear, creating garments that epitomize the harmony of function and fashion. They have engineered products like the LZR Racer, the record-setting swimsuit worn by Michael Phelps in his historic eight gold medal wins at the Beijing Olympics, and the VitalJacket, a revolutionary T-shirt that doubles as a heart monitor. Such inventions exemplify how Petratex’s technical prowess extends from the pinnacle of sports competition to critical health applications. 

The intertwining of performance and fashion is not just a trend but a cultural shift, as evidenced by the burgeoning market capitalisation of sportswear companies and the popularity of athleisure wear. The blending of these domains reflects a change in consumer lifestyle and priorities, favouring versatility, comfort, and technology in everyday apparel. 

As the pandemic struck, the resilience of Petratex was tested. Neto candidly describes the period as “disastrous,” with the company experiencing an 80 percent plunge in sales, compounded by the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics, which Petratex had heavily invested in through years of development for competition suits.  

Despite these setbacks, Petratex adapted by leveraging its expertise in high-performance materials within the medical sector. Under the HOSP PROTECT brand, the company produced masks and personal protective equipment, reaffirming its commitment to innovation and societal contribution. Through this strategic pivot, Petratex not only weathered the storm of the pandemic but also positioned itself as a key player with added value for the community. 


The future is sustainable 

 Petratex’s commitment to sustainability reflects a deep-seated belief that the impact on the environment is as significant as financial success. Neto’s future growth plans for Petratex are rooted in an eco-conscious approach, projecting upcycling to comprise a third of the business. “At Petratex, we do not evolve on the planet, but with the planet,” the company states, showcasing a commitment to a green and ecological business policy that is actively carried out by the entire organisation. 

Neto’s leadership has seen Petratex implementing a robust sustainability program, which includes encouraging employees to use public transport, installing charging points for electric/hybrid vehicles, and implementing waste separation for recycling since 1998, achieving a notable recycling rate of 90 percent. The company’s energy initiatives are equally impressive, with a 14 percent reduction in energy consumption per unit of production and a 64 percent reduction in total CO2 emissions from 2015 to 2022. Furthering their commitment, Petratex has installed solar panels and purchases 100 percent renewable energy from the grid, contributing to a significant reduction in CO2 emissions. 

Shepherded by Neto, Petratex is a testament to a company’s ability to innovate while maintaining an unwavering commitment to sustainability and R&D. As Petratex prepares for the next chapter, it stands as a model for the industry, proving that a business can be both successful and a force for good. With a clear vision for the future and a foundation built on responsible practices, Petratex is well-positioned to continue its legacy of excellence, innovation, and care for our world. 

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