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Ellen MacArthur Foundation Rolls Out Circular Startup Database

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is rolling out a list of textiles and fashion companies on its Circular Startup Index, that puts together Neiman Marcus, Tapestry and Chloé with seamstresses, tailors and resale platforms like Vestiaire Collective.

New names bring the number to 500 and represent the full version of the foundation’s current searchable circular startup database, designed to give businesses leads to pursue in their own transition to a circular economy. Those 500 companies come from a range of sectors, industries and centers around the globe, and is said to be the most comprehensive listing of the world’s existing circular business players.

Textile startups on the database include Sojo, a London-based app that hooks people up with seamstresses and tailors to alter pre-worn or vintage garments, By Rotation, a wardrobe lending platform, and Recurate, a resale-as-a-service platform that struck deals for secondhand sales with 7 For All Mankind, Michael Kors and Mara Hoffman. Resale platforms alone continue to grow in leaps and bounds, and will be worth an estimated $42 billion globally by 2027, according to the 2022 report by thredUp resale platform. The report also said the whole global second hand market would hit $350 billion that year.

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ThredUP, Neiman Marcus, Vestiaire Collective, Chloé, and YKK, the Japanese maker of fasteners, were added to the circular list last year. Most companies in the database were already part of the foundation’s community and were selected for incorporating one or more of the principles of the circular economy into their business models. They include eliminating waste and pollution, circulate products and materials, and regenerate nature.

The index is designed to pair innovation with capital, which is the biggest hurdle for startups aiming to scale circular businesses.

James Repenning, CEO of Denver-based Again & Again which is about to launch a men’s clothing line, has been part of the foundation since 2021. He signed onto a webinar where, he said, he found business-related things he never knew existed despite a career spent in recycling. “We found a very major textiles supplier that had a circularity idea with no one to pilot it,” he said, but wouldn’t give the supplier’s name. “The apparel is going into our first new shop that opens in July.”

That location in Denver will be a barbershop staffed by ex-convicts who will wear the clothing line as they work. The clothes will be made from organic fabric at the outset and sold in the store-cum-barbershop, which will also have a recycling repository. Called R&R Head Labs, two more units will open later this year in Boston and Chicago. Repenning is also CEO of the barbershop startup.

D.S. Smith, a UK-based multinational packaging business, also found a partner on the database, according to Hugh McCann, senior circular growth manager for the company.

“We have already started working with one of the businesses we found on the Index and are inspired by the ongoing opportunity to engage some of the most forward-thinking businesses in the circularity space,” he said.

Thousands of business owners are already innovating for a future without waste and where products and materials are reused. Foundation executives hope more circular startups will become part of the Index and find their ideal collaborators.