Start-up fashion is always ready to bet

Stella McCartney’s latest launch isn’t a mushroom leather handbag or a recyclable sneaker, it’s a $200 million venture capital fund focused on climate solutions.

The designer works with investment firm Collaborative Fund to support early-stage start-ups that are reinventing materials, ingredients, energy and supply chains. Fashion-focused investments include producers of leather alternatives Bolt Threads and Natural Fiber Welding and kelp yarn maker AlgiKnit.

“It’s about lasting solutions,” McCartney said in a video posted to his Instagram over the weekend. The goal is to “replace conventional big industries with these new, sustainable, problem-solving businesses.”

She’s not the only one who sees the opportunity. Indeed, even as an uncertain economic outlook pushes companies to rethink their investment strategies, sustainable fashion start-ups still seem to be in vogue.

Inditex, owner of Zara, made its first “clean technology” investment in July, joining a $30 million funding round for textile-to-textile recycler Circ; French luxury giant Kering took a stake in laboratory leather start-up VitroLabs in May, building on investments in resale site Vestiaire Collective and handbag subscription service Cocoon. last year. Investment in next-generation materials more than doubled in 2021 to nearly $1 billion, according to the nonprofit Material Innovation Initiative.

Fashion’s appetite for sustainable technologies reflects broader cultural and political shifts. Regulators are focusing on the industry, increasing pressure on brands to meet wide-ranging commitments to reduce their environmental impact. Consumers are also demanding change, fueling interest in companies that promise marketable solutions.

“It’s arguable that there has never been so much need for investment in this space,” H&M Group head of venture capital investment arm Nanna Andersen said in an email. . The division was established in 2015 to support the fast fashion group’s long-term growth, investing in areas such as retail and supply chain technology as well as sustainability solutions. Investments this year have included agricultural technology company Materra, bio-based dyes company Colorifix and AlgiKnit.

The amount of capital invested in sustainable fashion start-ups is still small compared to the size of the challenge, but interest from venture capital funds, impact investors and corporate investors is growing, says the director. Fashion for Good sustainable fashion accelerator general manager Katrin Ley in an email.

There are also growing tailwinds encouraging more interest in space, from the maturing and commercialization of recycling technologies and alternatives to leather to the sudden resuscitation of legislative support for climate action in the United States. United in recent weeks. Increasingly, supporting such businesses is seen as a way to make businesses sustainable.

But flashy innovations alone cannot solve fashion’s sustainability challenges. We also need to focus on less glamorous and non-tradable areas, like decarbonizing the industry’s supply chain, improving efficiency, and simply slowing fashion’s growth engine, based on the consumption.

For more BoF durability coverage, Register now for our new weekly sustainability briefing by Sarah Kent.

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