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These Five Startups Are Closing the Loop on Apparel

Fashion for Good is achieving new heights.

The Amsterdam-based circular-innovation platform on Thursday announced the addition of five companies to its Scaling Programme, an 18-month incubator designed to “drive the growth and adoption rate” of companies with “innovative and game-changing solutions.”

The new startups—Ecovative, Natural Fiber Welding, The Renewal Workshop, SeaChange Technologies and Yerdle Recommerce—will have the “unique opportunity” to connect with likeminded brands, investors and manufacturers who can help them “fast-track the implementation and adoption of their daring innovations,” according to Katrin Ley, managing director of Fashion for Good, which counts Adidas, C&A, Kering, PVH Corp. and Stella McCartney among its corporate partners.

Current members of the Scaling Programme are Ambercycle, BEXT360, ColorZen, Softwear, Spinnova, Tamicare, The Infinited Fiber Company, Tyton Biosciences and Worn Again.

“It’s exciting to have such a compelling portfolio of innovators in our Scaling Programme,” Ley said in a statement. “We now have 14 diverse and forward-thinking innovators on the verge of mainstreaming. Together, they reimagine how fashion is designed, made, worn and reused.”

Ecovative

Ecovative, a biomaterials firm from Green Island, N.Y., uses the mycelium that forms the roots of mushrooms to grow—rather than manufacture—Mycoflex, a high-performance biological foam with the potential to replace traditional plastics in footwear, accessories, outerwear and lingerie.

Mycoflex stems from agricultural waste streams, doesn’t require harmful chemicals and can be composted at the end of its useful life, according to Gavin McIntyre, founder and CEO of Ecovative.

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“Biological materials from wood to leather have been used for centuries but are confined to the geometry of a tree or cow,” he said. “At Ecovative, we use the unique structure of mycelium to grow shapes and products that are not native to nature but inherently natural, safe and biodegradable in the process.”

Natural Fiber Welding

Illinois-based Natural Fiber Welding uses a patented “fabrication platform” to imbue short-staple—which is to say, breakage-prone—recycled natural fibers with the same performance and utility as their long-staple virgin counterparts.

The process can help ease demand for nonrenewable resources while bridging the gap for “scalable, high-performance options” for recycling natural fibers, said Luke Haverhals, founder and CEO of Natural Fiber Welding.

“Our solution balances performance, sustainability, scalability,” he added. “Using abundant natural and scrap resources, we can tune fibers to outperform traditional textiles, making this process truly environmentally friendly.”

The Renewal Workshop

In a “linear” system, brands and retailers are often inundated with piles of blemished clothing from customer returns or overstock. Instead of letting merchandise with only minor flaws go to waste, Oregon’s The Renewal Workshop (TRW) works with companies such as The North Face and Prana to sort, clean, repair and otherwise extend their life.

“With TRW, apparel brands have an opportunity to design products with a longer life span, use a comprehensive take-back system and collect important product and sustainability data, all while unlocking a new sales channel of renewed products,” said Jeff Denby, its founder and CEO.

These “renewed” items are then sold on TRW’s own website, via a third-party retailer or through a TRW-managed site that looks and feels like the brand partner’s own e-commerce experience.

TRW, Denby added, enables a brand to transition from a traditional linear business model to a circular-economy one that not only mitigates the environmental impact of apparel but also grows revenue at the same time.

SeaChange Technologies

From Raleigh, N.C., SeaChange Technologies is developing equipment and services to cost-effectively eliminate wastewater from apparel manufacturing.

The inventor of one of the world’s first mechanical, non-membrane, zero-liquid-discharge desalination systems, SeaChange wants to eliminate pollution at its source by purifying “the most complex industrial wastes” in a single step and converting waste into value. 

“The SeaChange process allows manufacturers to maintain their existing production capabilities, while saving money and reducing their environmental footprint,” said Dipak Mahato, SeaChange’s founder and CEO. “We are excited to join Fashion for Good to work towards ‘good water’ for all.”

Yerdle Recommerce

Founded in California in 2012, Yerdle Recommerce has been hailed by Fortune as a “sharing economy powerhouse” for its white-label resale platform, which enables brands and retailers to buy back and resell used products.

Yerdle manages all the back-end work in logistics, reverse logistics and web development, putting the brands “out in front” so they can focus on engaging customers and increasing profit through a circular approach.

“It takes 2,700 liters of water to make one cotton shirt, the amount of water the average person drinks in 2.5 years,” said Andy Ruben, founder and CEO of Yerdle. “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 to buy back and resell their items in a far more circular model.”