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H&M, Bestseller, Zalando Back Cycora Material Maker

Sustainable fashion just got another big vote of approval.

On the heels of Renewcell inking new deals that will scale up its textile-recycling capabilities, fellow circular materials science company Ambercycle is on the receiving end of a sizable cash infusion.

The Los-Angeles based innovator raised $21.6 million in Series A financing from H&M’s venture capital arm Co:Lab, investment firms KIRKBI and Temasek, as well as additional European fashion retailers Bestseller and Zalando. To date, Ambercycle has raised $27 million to develop infrastructure and materials for circularity en route to putting the kibosh on fashion waste and creating an ecosystem for infinite textiles.

Like many entrants in the space, the material sciences company was founded on the fact that textile waste continues to be a nagging problem worldwide. The firm’s “Ambercycling” process separates and purifies post-consumer textile waste at the molecular level to produce regenerated materials that brands and designers can craft into new garments. This simultaneously whittles down the materials clogging up landfills while scaling back the need to extract finite resources from the planet.

The company’s first material solution, Cycora, makes use of old garments by regenerating end-of-life textile waste into new fabrics. Cycora directly replaces the billions of pounds of polyester used annually, and is designed to emulate the functional characteristics of conventional fabrics while allowing apparel brands and designers to produce high-quality garments with circularity in mind.

With the new resources, the company plans to scale up Cycora production at the downtown Los Angeles pilot plant it built in 2019.

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“The transition to circularity in fashion is inevitable,” Shay Sethi, Ambercycle co-founding CEO, said in a statement. “We are building an ecosystem in which materials can exist in harmony with humans and the environment. Our breakthrough molecular regeneration process enables a clear vision for circularity, in which fashion can flow in and out of our lives. Not only will this improve the sustainability performance of the items in our closets, but it builds a new way for us to interact with our materials.”

The investment in Ambercycle come as more fiber innovators such as Evrnu and Nextevo have recently raised money to further develop their own sustainable textiles and fabrics. In 2021, Spinnova went public with financial backing from H&M, Adidas and The North Face, while other material science companies such as Natural Fiber Welding (NFW) and Infinited Fiber Company both formed partnerships with Patagonia. NFW and Infinited Fiber also have big name retail investors of their own, with the former securing funding from Allbirds and Ralph Lauren, and the latter gaining backing from two of Ambercycle’s retail investors: H&M and Zalando.

Textile recycling represents a massive market opportunity in categories such as denim, home textiles, activewear, outerwear and hotel linens. A 2020 Accelerating Circularity report estimates that the Western hemisphere alone represents more than $350 billion in potential new sales due to the increasing consumer demand for circular products.

“In KIRKBI, Circular Plastics is a new thematic investment area where KIRKBI wishes to support the movement towards a world where plastics never become waste. Globally, a significant part of plastic waste generated comes from textiles,” said Damir Hamzić, head of circular plastic investments at KIRKBI. “In Ambercycle, we see a promising company within textile-to-textile recycling led by a highly dedicated management team and through this investment we want to support the further development of the company’s ambitious plans.”

The innovative material has already been used in collaborations with Los Angeles streetwear brands like Reebok collaborator Justin Mensinger, select luxury brands and most recently by industry giant H&M for its 2021 Circular Design Story Collection. Ambercycle is a longtime partner of the fast-fashion brand, and was a recipient of the H&M Foundation’s 2016 Global Change Award.

“We are delighted to support Ambercycle with this recent collection and are excited to continue being part of their successful journey,” said Erik Karlsson, acting head of H&M Co:Lab. “The H&M Group has an ambitious goal of making our business fully circular by 2030 and we truly believe in the team behind Ambercycle with their exceptional dedication to their mission. With this new funding round, we look forward to partnering with them as they scale commercially.”

H&M has increasingly embraced innovative raw materials in recent years, with the company most recently upping its stake in Renewcell, the producer of Circulose. The fast-fashion retailer is now the second-largest shareholder in the materials company.

And another one of Ambercycle’s backers, Bestseller, which made the financial contribution through its Invest Fwd arm, also has made a stronger push into material innovation by teaming with PVH, Fashion for Good and New York materials company Ecovative to bring the latter’s petroleum-free and animal-friendly Forager Hides material to the consumer market at scale.