Fashion For Good Introduces 5 Game-changing Startups On The Verge Of Mainstreaming

Get to know the 5 forward-thinking innovators selected by Fashion For Good to reimagine how fashion is designed, made, worn and reused.

Today, Fashion for Good announced that they have added five companies to its Scaling Programme. The selected companies all offer innovative and game-changing solutions, which range from using mycelium material and fibre welding to rethinking waste water treatment and recommerce. Working on concrete implementation projects, they are demonstrating that good fashion is not only possible but within reach.

Katrin Ley, Managing Director Fashion for Good: “It’s exciting to have such a compelling portfolio of innovators in our Scaling Programme! We now have fourteen diverse and forward-thinking innovators on the verge of mainstreaming. Together, they reimagine how fashion is designed, made, worn and reused.”

Championing The Future of Good Fashion

The latest innovators to join the Scaling Programme, which provides support for 18 months, will be Ecovative, Natural Fiber Welding, The Renewal Workshop, SeaChange Technologies, Inc. and Yerdle Recommerce who have shared the ins and outs of their technologies with us.

Ecovative

What is the problem you are trying to fix, what is the impact of the problem, and what is Ecovative’s solution?

10% of all non-renewable resources are used in the production of plastics. The material is typically used for a short period, from days to a couple of years, at which point they’re discarded. Unfortunately, plastics are not compatible with our planet and often end up in landfills, affecting the environment. At Ecovative, we grow better materials for the planet. We use nature’s recycling system, fungi, to turn agricultural waste into high-performance, biological foams that can serve as alternatives to traditional plastics. At the end of our materials’ useful life, they can be composted and returned to the earth.

Pendant lamp Ecovative [Image Credit: via The Verge]
What makes Ecovative unique?

Unlike other biobased plastics, Ecovative uses solid-state fermentation to grow, not manufacture, natural polymers. These materials do not require food grade recourses, such as sugar, and self- assemble the final structure of the foam. This reduces the total embodied energy of the product and permits it to be competitive with traditional plastics. Ecovative has a network of willing partners around the globe growing mycelium materials, and we’ve come to the Scaling Programme to demonstrate new applications for mycelium materials while extending the reach of these products.

How does Ecovative define sustainability?

We define sustainability as being compatible with the planet. It’s not sufficient to break down into smaller pieces that are not visible to the naked eye. Our materials can join the ever-flowing nutrient cycle of our environments, passively composting at their end of life.
How do you see Ecovative shaping the future more sustainably?
Biological materials from wood to leather have been used for centuries but are confined to the geometry of a tree or cow. At Ecovative we use the unique structure of mycelium to grow shapes and products that are not native to nature but inherently natural in the process.

What is the motivation behind Ecovative?

Our mission is to make mycelium biofabrication easily accessible for everyone, to be used everywhere, from bespoke local producers to industrial-scale facilities, we help people around the world grow better materials for everyday products.

“Our mission is to make mycelium biofabrication easily accessible for everyone, to be used everywhere.”

What have you learned so far?

We believe that it’s essential to get prototype materials and products into the hands of partners; also end-users get feedback to assist with the design and iteration process. Understanding how the material or product is used in the real world is more important than meeting the performance requirements listed on a specifications sheet.

What is the biggest challenge you are facing?

The biggest challenge we face is supporting the growing demand and international network of collaborators that are growing mycelium materials in their own product offerings around the world. We are a small team that is learning quickly about the importance of sharing technology to ensure there are consistent and beautiful mycelium materials produced everywhere.

What do you hope to get out of the Fashion for Good Scaling Programme?

We are excited to partner with Fashion for Good and their brand partners to transition MycoFlexTM foam from a pilot scale to an international footprint, where we can displace a meaningful amount of plastic from the apparel supply chain while having a positive impact on our planet.

Natural Fiber Welding Inc.

What is the problem you are trying to fix, what is the impact of the problem, and what is Natural Fiber Welding’s solution?

The textile industry is over-reliant on nonbiodegradable oil-based synthetics. Besides, there is a gap in the industry for scalable, high-performance options for recycling natural fibres. Our patented welding processes reformat cotton and other natural fibres, giving these materials unprecedented performance and utility. We are producing sustainable yarns and fabrics using a closed-loop system that upcycles abundant materials that are today considered ‘waste’.

What makes Natural Fiber Welding unique?

Natural Fiber Welding is a fabrication platform that solves multiple performance and sustainability issues simultaneously. Our technologies are scalable to billions of pounds of annual production and capable of enabling plant-based fibres to exceed conventional performance envelopes while retaining their natural essence.

Natural materials that can do and be more [Image Credit: Natural Fiber Welding Inc.]
How does Natural Fiber Welding define sustainability?

Humanity is over-dependent on oil-based synthetics. Natural Fiber Welding, Inc. believes that to be sustainable, we must responsibly leverage the circularity and scale already abundant in nature. To do this, we are building a tunable platform that unlocks nature’s potential to create innovative performance materials that were not possible until now.

How do you see Natural Fiber Welding shaping the future more sustainably?

Natural Fiber Welding is more than a product; we are a disruptive platform leveraging the abundance of natural materials through a closed-loop, zero waste process. We utilise waste streams like denim and cotton recycling as source material, providing a scalable, sustainable, cost-competitive alternative to virgin synthetic materials. By utilising existing abundant natural resources, Natural Fiber Welding can allow more people to live better while reducing demand over finite renewable resources.

What is the motivation behind Natural Fiber Welding?

More people can live better lives and in greater harmony when there is less conflict over finite resources. The Natural Fiber Welding team is leveraging abundant, renewable, natural fibre to create new products that can be sustainably produced for everyone today and for generations to come. We are engineers, designers, and solution-driven entrepreneurs providing unparalleled perspectives to enable the circular economy.

“Natural Fiber Welding is more than a product; we are a disruptive platform leveraging the abundance of natural materials through a closed-loop, zero waste process.”

What have you learned so far?

Being the change, one wishes to see takes perseverance. One can always be uplifted by remembering to be grateful to those who are willing to be helpful along the way. Never be too proud to ask for help.

What is the biggest challenge you are facing?

The global fashion industry has a deeply entrenched status quo of technological and economical supply chain problems that resist change. To change the system, we need to develop platforms that are simultaneously high performing and cost-effective to enable sustainable production as scalable alternatives to the status quo.

What do you hope to get out of the Fashion for Good Scaling Programme?

Natural Fiber Welding, Inc. is poised to enter the supply chain at large scale, and the Fashion for Good Scaling Programme will allow us to begin to achieve that global reach. By collaborating with other innovators in the Scaling Programme, we are excited to see the first of our product categories enter the supply chain through the Fashion for Good network.

The Renewal Workshop

What is the problem you are trying to fix, what is the impact of the problem, and what is The Renewal Workshop’s solution?

In a linear system, brands are stuck managing a significant amount of clothing that is returned, damaged, or post-consumer. TRW partners with top brands, including The North Face/VF Corp and Prana. In its facility, TRW cleans, sorts, and repairs this apparel to extend the lifetime of the product. All of this renewed apparel is either available on TRW’s website, at third-party retail, or sold via a TRW-managed recommerce site that looks and feels like the brand partner’s own e-commerce experience. RW enables a brand to transition to a zero-waste profitable circular economy business model.

[Image Credit: The Renewal Workshop]
How does The Renewal Workshop define sustainability?

TRW’s system calculates the positive environmental impact of renewing garments. TRW partnered with Brown & Wilmanns Environmental to conduct a lifecycle analysis (LCA) for the significant textile fibres to quantify the impact of the renewal process, by focusing on energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption and toxic impact.

How do you see The Renewal Workshop shaping the future more sustainably?

With TRW, brands have an opportunity to take advantage of a comprehensive take-back system and collect valuable product and sustainability data, all while unlocking a new sales channel of renewed products. Also, intangible benefits such as emphasising a commitment to sustainable practices, as well as highlighting the long-lasting quality and performance of the brand’s products will resonate with a more engaged, more concerned customer base.

What is the motivation behind The Renewal Workshop?

TRW offers a solution to the question of what to do with all the excess apparel in the hands of both brands and consumers. Our solution has both substantial financial profits and quantifiable environmental and social benefits for brands and customers. We believe that transitioning traditional linear business models to circular ones will help mitigate the environmental impact of the apparel industry while simultaneously growing revenues.

What have you learned so far?

We have spent almost three years developing a physical circular ERP system which manages the facility operations, data, and its integration into a selling platform. We have learned the value of data and the need for the industry to begin integrating technologies that are capable of tracking the provenance of a garment from its point of manufacture so that we can renew and re-commerce that garment effectively in a circular economy.

What is the biggest challenge you are facing?

A mix of small, medium and large brand partners is required to maintain a steady flow of production through one of our renewal facilities. In 2019 we will pilot a facility in Europe to begin servicing brands and producing renewed product for commercial tests.

What do you hope to get out of the Fashion for Good Scaling Programme?

We look forward to pilots with brand partners, as well as connecting with investors. We are currently raising our Series A capital round, and we would like to have international investors involved. With pilots set to begin in 2019, we look forward to establishing a pilot facility in the EU by Q2 2019 with an eye to developing a full-service renewal facility in 2020.

SeaChange Technologies Inc.

What is the problem you are trying to fix, what is the impact of the problem, and what is SeaChange’s solution?

SeaChange Technologies is developing equipment and services for apparel brands to eliminate wastewater from their supply chain cost-effectively. We are excited about working with Fashion for Good to work towards Good Water for all.

Turbine in waste water treatment plant. SeaChange Technologies wants to release O&G wastewater into the atmosphere.

What makes SeaChange unique?

SeaChange Technologies is an early stage startup team with a vision to create sustainable solutions for water, energy, and manufacturing. We hope that our solutions and approach to design can be helpful to Partners and other Innovators in the Scaling Programme.

How does SeaChange define sustainability?

Sustainability means doing things in a way that does not limit the capability or potential of future generations. We believe that it is possible to provide the products people want and create value while sustaining our environment. Fashion for Good provides a framework to work towards a more sustainable planet, and we are looking forward to working with partners that can realise this vision.

How do you see SeaChange shaping the future more sustainably?

By addressing the problem of wastewater from apparel manufacturing, we hope to inspire entrepreneurs and innovators to challenge the status quo in Fashion for Goods “Five Goods”: Materials, Economy, Energy, Water, and Lives.

What is the motivation behind SeaChange?

Our vision is to create a sustainable source of fresh water for humanity. Cleaning up waste from energy production and apparel manufacturing Is a big challenge, but this Is just the start. We hope to find partners that can implement our solutions in production.

What have you learned so far?

It is challenging for companies to change old ways and adopt new sustainable technologies. The Fashion for Good Scaling Programme is tailored to the unique needs of each innovator, working globally with industry partners to overcome barriers to integrating novel solutions. SeaChange Technologies is looking forward to introducing our unique solution for wastewater elimination to the fashion industry.

What is the biggest challenge you are facing?

As a startup, we face new challenges every day. Having support from advisors and community, especially Fashion for Good, gives us the guidance, connections, energy, and validation to keep going.

What do you hope to get out of the Fashion for Good Scaling Programme?

By working collaboratively across a dedicated network of like-minded partners, the Fashion for Good Scaling Programme provides the guidance and connections innovators need to introduce and rapidly scale game-changing products and services globally. SeaChange Technologies is honoured to join this program to accelerate the commercial launch of our unique solution to eliminate textile wastewater.

Yerdle Recommerce

What is the problem you are trying to fix, what is the impact of the problem, and what is Yerdle Recommerce’s solution?

It takes 2,700 litres of water to make one cotton shirt, the amount of water the average person drinks In 2.5 years (WRI). The Average customer bought 60% more clothing in 2014 than in 2000. We need a better, more circular model to get more use out of the items we have already made. Yerdle makes it easy for leading brands and retailers such as Patagonia, EILEEN FISHER and REI to buy back and resell their items in a far more circular model.

Image Credit: Yerdle Recommerce

What makes Yerdle Recommerce unique?

We are a 100% white label where all branding, customer data and relationships belong to the brand. We do the backend work in logistics, reverse logistics and web development to put the brand out in front.

How does Yerdle Recommerce define sustainability?

We think about sustainability as a set of better decisions considering the long-term consequences of our actions. We focus on providing profitable and scalable solutions for brands to truly innovate around supply chain and consumption.

How do you see Yerdle Recommerce shaping the future in a more sustainable way?

We see a future with fewer, higher quality items with far longer lives—whether by leasing, subscription or reselling, it will be as easy to get a used item as it is to buy with 1 click on Amazon. Brands, customers and shareholders all win in this more circular model.

What is the motivation behind Yerdle Recommerce?

Our mission is to reduce the need for new production by 25%. At Yerdle, we believe in a future where 1 in 4 items will come from previous owners rather than a virgin supply chain.

“Our mission is to reduce the need for new production by 25%.”

What have you learned so far?

Customers need trust. As an example, in just one-year Patagonia sales of their used
items has matched all other secondary market players such as ThredUP and eBay
combined. Brands can simply do it better, and as they do they will gain a competitive advantage in the market.

What is the biggest challenge you are facing?

The recommerce space is still new, as well as brands being slow to adopt new innovative models. This is changing as leading brands pioneer programs and see the benefits.

What do you hope to get out of the Fashion for Good Scaling Programme?

We are excited to be a part of the Scaling Program to work with like-minded brands who see the need for new ways of working that benefit customer, brand and dramatically reduce the ecologic footprint of today’s fashion industry. We see big opportunities in the European market, fashion and luxury and we look forward to working with new brands who are part of Fashion for Good.

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Founding editor-in-chief & WearableTechStylist of FashNerd.com, Muchaneta has worked in the fashion industry for over 14 years. She is currently one of the leading influencers speaking and writing about the merger of fashion with technology and wearable technology and a regular contributor to digital news sites like Wareable.