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The Rise Of Sustainable Fashion Startups

It does not only matter where clothes go after they are worn out but also how and where they come from. Producing clothes is responsible for up to 10% of greenhouse gases, more than international air travel and shipping combined. The United Nations Environment Program says it takes around 2,000 gallons of water to make a single pair of jeans. Textile dyeing is the second biggest polluter of water globally. Further, dye manufacturing and application consumes around 93 billion cubic metres of water annually despite the fact that 60% of people in the world do not have access to fresh water. Around15-20% of the excess dye is usually washed off, which goes on to pollute water bodies. The fashion industry produces more than 100 billion garments annually but only a fraction of that is ever recycled.

Sustainable fashion startups are the disruptors in this space. The spike in the number of sustainable fashion startups is driven by several factors. First, consumers are gradually becoming more environmentally aware. Sustainable fashion, while still catering to a niche consumer segment, is beginning to appeal to the masses. The rise in demand is starting to make sustainable fashion more affordable. There is greater capital flow into sustainable fashion. There are grants and funds. Further, the rise of ESG investing is putting pressure on businesses to procure cleanly, thereby compelling them to opt for sustainable clothing in the B2B fashion business.

Here are some top trends that we see in the sustainable fashion industry: 

  • The use of alternative materials is on the rise. From algae, hemp, fungus, eucalyptus, and bamboo, startups are looking towards low carbon and even carbon absorbing materials. Large global retailers like H&M are picking on disruptive technologies offered by startups working on alternative materials such that H&M wants to make all its products from recycled or sustainably sourced materials by 2030.
  • The secondhand clothing market is now growing faster globally than the overall apparel market. Thrift shops are in vogue. While still small and niche, the growth rate is striking.
  • Dyeing clothes, paper, and other material using natural sources is an old practice. Startups are moving back to the practice and sourcing their dyes ethically from plants and other innovative non-toxic choices.
  • Startups are looking at making sustainable fashion not just ethical but also desirable. They are positioning to make people want the more sustainable clothing, even if it is for appeal, cut, and texture. 
  • Technologies for sustainable fashion — much like any other innovative technology — is expensive until it reaches scale. According to data gathered by the Round Up, the sustainable fashion industry is currently worth over $6.5 billion and is expected to grow to $10.1 billion by 2025. By 2030 it is expected to reach $15 billion.