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This Oregon Startup Raised $5.5M to Take its Circularity Mission to Amsterdam

European brands looking to salvage unsellable inventory now have a new partner in the movement toward true circularity.

The Renewal Workshop, an Oregon-based company that helps apparel and textile brands recover value from garments that can’t be sold due to defect, damage or other reasons, has expanded its operations with a new infusion of capital.

In a Series A funding round led by European venture capital and impact investors Social Impact Ventures, Shift Invest and Quadia, the company raised $5.5 million to plant its flag overseas.

With participation from the group’s existing U.S. investors, including Closed Loop Ventures, Gratitude Railroad, Portland Seed Fund, and High Meadows Investment Group, The Renewal Workshop has garnered the backing to open up shop in Amsterdam.

For many apparel brands, the urge to become more sustainable has given way to a full on obsession with circularity. The growing popularity of resale, while a force for good in the war against landfilling product, has instilled in brands a desire to take control of their own inventory.

The Renewal Workshop helps brands manage the collection and restoration of their own damaged or used garments, and also helps build out and manage the back-end of their own recommerce sites. Through a partnership with the organization, brands can engage directly with their consumers, instead of watching passively as their goods are sold on third-party resale channels.

According to a statement from the company, its proprietary, zero-waste circular system helps brands recover the full value of the products they’ve already manufactured. Impact data on water savings, reduced carbon emissions and chemical reduction are also provided to brand partners. The Renewal Workshop claims that over 200,000 pounds of apparel have been diverted from landfills using its system, serving brand partners like The North Face, Mara Hoffman, Prana, and Coyuchi.

Nicole Bassett and Jeff Denby, co-founders of The Renewal Workshop, built their first facility in 2016 in Cascade Locks, Ore. Seeing strong demand for a solution across the pond, the partners decided it was time to expand.

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“Over the past three years, The Renewal Workshop has helped some of the biggest brands in apparel launch renewed collections,” Bassett said. “We exist to serve brands as they transition to fully circular, zero-waste businesses, and our partnership with our existing and new values-aligned impact investors is perfectly timed to scale our operations for that mission.”

The company’s first European renewal facility in Amsterdam offers its full roster of services to the region’s apparel brands, from strategic guidance around circularity to garment and textile renewal services and management of resale channels.

“Production is already underway at our Amsterdam facility, and we are thrilled to serve a strong pipeline of European brands eager to transition to circular business models,” said Denby, who will now lead European operations and be based in Amsterdam.

Tamara Zwart, former European director of fashion for the Cradle-to-Cradle Institute, will also join the team as operations lead for Europe.

“The Renewal Workshop has proven their circular model for renewal and recommerce can not only drive sales and customer engagement for brands but also have significant environmental impact,” Eske Scavenius, senior investment manager at Social Impact Ventures, said.

“As investors, we were drawn to this strong alignment between commerce and impact and are excited to see The Renewal Workshop scale up,” he added.

The Renewal Workshop’s growth joins a burgeoning business at Yerdle, the recommerce platform that helps brands like Patagonia and Taylor Stitch return pre-owned garments into the value chain and refurbish them for resale. There’s an inherent upside to brands owning their resale programs, founder and CEO Andy Ruben etold Sourcing Journal earlier this month.

“They know the items better, there’s an implicit trust, and shoppers are already there shopping,” he said.