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Sustaining Voices Podcast: Funding Sustainability Innovations


The apparel industry is racing to find more sustainable options for both its inputs and processes. But the reality is, no matter how environmentally friendly these innovations may be, developing them requires investment so the question becomes: who’s financing fashion’s sustainable evolution?

This podcast series is a companion to our Sustaining Voices platform, which celebrates the efforts the apparel industry is making toward securing a more environmentally responsible future. This episode features Rogier van Mazijk, investment manager for Fashion for Good, which support sustainable fashion innovation through initiatives like its Plug & Play Accelerator. We’re also joined by Luke Henning, CFO of Tyton BioSciences, which recycles blended textiles using water as a solvent. Together Rogier and Luke provide perspectives on what it takes to launch and scale sustainable innovations.

Below are some excerpts from the conversation.

Rogier on the types of innovation that are important to Fashion for Good:

“There’s always been a focus on efficiency improvement. Manufacturing of the processes that we see in the production of apparel and footwear hasn’t changed over the last century. There’s been no complete overhaul of these processes. At Fashion for Good, we don’t want to focus on ‘less bad’ but instead focus on innovations that change these processes from the very core. Take textile dyeing where you’d normally have lots of water with acid dyes, with low pH and high temperatures. It’s not great. Most of the innovation has been focused on making it more sustainable, so less water, less high temperatures and less energy use but we have some innovators that are focused on [it] from a different way, like no water use using bacteria.”

Luke on investor mindsets and why it’s important for retailers and brands within the industry to step up in order to drive change:

“There’s definitely investment cycles where tech goes through cycles where some things are in fashion to invest in and some things are out of fashion, so it’s about making sure that you fit within people’s mandates. The biggest challenge now is that a lot of the traditional technology ventures just aren’t aware of the issue that’s in fashion or aren’t comfortable with fashion supply chains, and they don’t understand the market demand and the pull from the market for solutions. And they’re looking for the brands to show some leadership to put some real capital at risk to show that they’re invested in the solution. That’s a challenge for a mature industry like apparel because they have a low risk tolerance. They’ve been focused on incremental changes.”

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Listen to the podcast to learn how companies can make their innovations more attractive to investors, why apparel needs a “unicorn” like Uber and why purpose- and mission-driven funds are an ideal fit for this sector.