Over 80 million* people are employed globally in the fashion industry, and yet many of them are at risk of exploitation and unsafe working conditions. Not only that, but the damage created by toxic chemicals, textile waste and water pollution is on an unimaginable scale – yet invisible to consumers. It is estimated that nearly 60%* of all clothing produced ends up being burned or in landfills within one year of being made.
There is a way forward.
Slow and sustainable fashion is gaining momentum, and you no longer have to make a choice between style or ethics – you can have both. So with that in mind, here are 9 innovative ventures to watch that are on a mission to disrupt fast fashion:
Fairnica’s unique approach to fashion combines fair fashion with a capsule wardrobe and the sharing economy. They have just released their second capsule for women, and their first one for men. Founder Nicola Henseler told us that at Impact Hub Ruhr the connections they made were vital, and resulted in the collections being “sold out” only a day after launch.
2. Fashion For Good
When Fashion For Good set out to create a platform for innovation, they collaborated with Impact Hub Amsterdam to set up their space. Aiming to disrupt the ‘take-make-waste’ strategy of fast fashion, their Innovation Platform shines a light on technologies and business models that have the greatest potential to transform the industry by being regenerative by design. They’re aiming to bring together the entire fashion ecosystem and be a catalyst for change.
3. Nata y Limón
The founders of Nata y Limón, based at Impact Hub Munich & Impact Hub Berlin, combined their passions for design and social entrepreneurship, and have partnered with weaving cooperatives in the highlands of Guatemala. They support centuries-old weaving practices and the women who carry on this beautiful tradition: creating these timeless textiles takes extensive knowledge of the history and technique of ancient Mayan weaving and design, and even a single panel for a pillowcase can take up to three weeks. Slow is not an unfamiliar word to these folks!
Klow is an online retailer gathering brands that embody their three core values: Environmental Awareness, Ethical Behaviors, and Transparency. They audit every single brand that wishes to be stocked with them, to prove their ethical credentials and sustainable practices. At Impact Hub Lisbon they’ve grown from an idea to a company full of people that are on a mission to make a change, and present sustainability as standard.
Washington-based Stacey Flynn wasn’t happy with the amount of waste she saw in the textile industry, so invented a method to break down cotton garment waste to a molecular level, and create new fabric with the resource. Her company Evrnu took part in Impact Hub Seattle’s Fledge accelerator back in 2014, and in 2016 partnered with Levi Strauss & Co to create the company’s first eco-friendly jeans, made from recycled cotton T-shirts, showing that even the big players in the fashion world are open to innovation if the right thing comes along.
6. Vienna Textile Lab
Have you ever stopped to think what the dyes in your clothes contain? The brains behind Vienna Textile Lab have, and what they saw was an environmental hazard. Their forward-thinking approach to design takes advantage of technology as well as nature, to create an alternative to synthetic colors – they use bacteria! The bacteria is organically sourced, and the process emits almost no CO2 into the atmosphere. After taking part in Impact Hub’s Investment Ready Program in 2018, they are preparing to launch their product into the market, so perhaps you’ll be wearing bacteria-dyed textiles soon.
7. Good On You
Ok, let’s be real – sometimes an item of clothing catches your eye, and you just want it, you know? Well, in that situation, head to Good On You who have developed a unique system to rate clothing brands for their impact on the environment, labour rights and animal protection, giving each brand an overall score out of five. The Sydney-based company has so far rated more than 2,000 clothing brands, and Co-Founder Sandra Capponi told us that since their six-week incubation period at Impact Hub Berlin , they’ve scaled up and more than doubled their users to 300,000, and even got Emma Watson on board as an ambassador.
Mimycri founders Nora and Vera were volunteering in Greece when they saw the amount of waste and abandoned rubber boats strewn across the beaches. They used their design wits to up-cycle the material into a range of stylish bags that are both meaningful and durable. The initiative creates jobs for refugees too – as they form part of the core of the manufacturing team – turning a bad memory into a resource. Beginning their journey as a company at Impact Hub Vienna, they since moved to Impact Hub Berlin where they now make their high-quality bags and backpacks in collaboration with NGOs in Greece.
9. Tommy Hilfiger Social Innovation Challenge
This is a great example of a large global brand using their clout and resources to support innovation in social entrepreneurship. In collaboration with Impact Hub Amsterdam, the company aims to be one of the leading sustainable designer lifestyle brands, by connecting and nurturing projects that can create real social change – and applications for the 2019 edition will open soon, so keep an eye on the Impact Hub Amsterdam website for more details!
The future of fashion
Fast is no longer in fashion. Slow and sustainable is the new luxury.
These innovators are creating thought-provoking apparel or are exposing the realities of excess and consumption. So, next time you buy an item of clothing, don’t just think about instant gratification but about something made to last, and made with minimal impact on the planet and its people.
‘Eco’ is losing its association with a hippy aesthetic, and with the right environment, new brands will be able to show that sustainability can come as standard.
To learn more about the most promising social entrepreneurs around the world, sign up to Impact Hub’s monthly newsletter.
Written by: Thea Smith
Thea Smith is a London-based writer who is passionate about art and cycling. She writes across a range of disciplines but always with an eye on sustainability, creativity and equality.
*Statistics provided by Good On You 2019 media kit. These ventures contribute to the following SDGs: