Today FashNerd popped into Fashion for Good HQ in Amsterdam for a one on one meeting with next-generation innovators who have been selected to be part of Fashion for Good-Plug and Play Accelerator. Over a cappuccino, we got to hear from startups that have been following a robust curriculum for 12-weeks. It was a programme that included mentorship from the Accelerator’s partners adidas, C&A, Galeries Lafayette, Kering, Target and Zalando.
Fashion for Good, A Platform For Innovation
Fashion for Good is a global initiative designed to transform the fashion industry for good. At the core of the company is their Fashion for Good-Plug and Play Accelerator programme that offers startup innovators the expertise and access to funding they need to grow. Anne-Ro Klevant Groen, communication manager at Fashion For Good said, “Next to the Accelerator we also have a Scaling programme, that has been created to support innovations that have passed the proof-of-concept phase, and are ready to take advantage of the bespoke support and access to expertise, customers and capital”. Today we spoke to several startups from the Accelerator programme.
Of the many startups we came across, we had a great chat with Orange Fiber co-founder Enrica Arena. She is one of the women behind the Italian startup which manufactures natural fabrics from citrus by-products. Orange Fiber does this by extracting the cellulose from the fibres that are discarded from the industrial pressing and processing of oranges. Through nanotechnology techniques, the fibre is enriched with citrus fruit essential oils, creating a unique and sustainable fabric.
Sitting down with Enrica the first thing I noticed was that she was not shy about eloquently schooling us on how the fashion industry needs to rethink materials. “It is quite a long run if you want to innovate materials. It can take time to scale. It usually takes you 5-10 years from lab to implementation,” explained Enrica. Confident and knowledgeable she added, “This is why designers who want technology innovation in their product need to be patient.”
“Designers who want technology innovation in their product need to be patient.”
– Enrica Arena
Getting more into depth about the role that sustainability plays in fashion, Enrica shared that she wants to make people rethink the way they approach materials because she believes that we need to find a way of not wasting things. “People need to know where materials come from and the impact they have. People also need to know how to take care of clothes.”
On her outlook on sustainability, she admitted that to be completely sustainable is difficult, and to try and explain precisely how you are sustainable is even more so. “I do not think that it is easy to explain to consumers about how sustainable you are. If I was to go into detail, you probably wouldn’t get it. Sometimes I don’t even get it”. Laughing, I understood what she was saying. It makes sense that some consumers do not need to know everything because they just want to know that what they are buying is sustainable, and as for those who require more information, it is vital that brands are able to be more transparent.
Next, we spoke to FLOCUS. Founded by Jeroen Muijsers the startup produces natural yarns, fillings and fabrics made from kapok fibres. The kapok tree can be naturally grown without the use of pesticides and insecticides in arid soil not suitable for agricultural farming, offering a sustainable alternative to high water consumption natural fibre crops such as cotton. We first met the textile engineer at Munich Fabric Start where he showcased his vegan solution. Driven by the impact he saw firsthand when he worked in garment production, Jeroen was encouraged to try and improve the process by offering a versatile fibre that is even better than tencel and cotton.
“When it comes to the word sustainability, it has lost its credibility because it has been so overused”
– Jeroen Muijsers
Encouraged to dig deeper, I asked him about what sustainable fashion means to him, “When it comes to the word sustainability, it has lost its credibility because it has been so overused”. I understood his point. The word has been thrown around quite a bit, which has led to it no longer have the power of change that it once had. Maybe we need to rebuild the word and what it now means.
Working mainly with B2B, Jeroen has come to realise that sustainable fashion comes at a price. “The thing is authentic sustainability comes about through knowledge. This is why consumers need to be educated, and then we will be able to change their buying behaviour”. Nodding in agreement, he looked at me and then said, “The media, like you, are going much faster than sustainability can keep up”. Smiling, I thought it is probably because it is easy to forget that change doesn’t happen overnight. So that is why we think that it is great that companies like FLOCUS are patiently making the kind of difference that has been long overdue.