The pandemic has forced people to pause and reflect on lifestyle choices that would previously have been considered the norm, whether that’s around their working life – rushing for a packed tube seems like a distant memory – or those closer to home. Many started looking around their homes for what they could improve, and lots also looked towards their closets, and in turn online sustainable fashion solutions. Whether that’s an app that allows you to rent out clothing (who doesn’t like a passive income!), a solution to help you gain a better understanding of what’s actually in your wardrobe or virtual tools to help ease the online shopping experience, there’s never been more virtual tools at our fingertips. A number of the sustainability-focused fashion apps currently on the market saw considerable growth last year; this impressive growth further highlights the subsector as one for investors to watch.
We’ve selected a few of the exciting businesses operating in this space, all of which you can hear more from via the DCMS ‘Invest in Creative’ toolkit. Hasna Kourda, Co-Founder of Save Your Wardrobe (SYW), is one such founder that took part in the toolkit. SYW is on a mission to streamline sustainable lifestyle choices through a digital wardrobe platform. Hasna says of the driving force behind her concept: SYW ‘answers to the problem of overconsumption and the throwaway culture by giving our users and consumer access to the circular economy’. The app is committed to keeping user’s clothes in tip-top shape by sourcing dry cleaning and repair services; helping you care for your clothes, making them last that bit longer. Hasna says of the lockdown: it ‘played somehow well to the business because people were at home and were taking the opportunity to look into their wardrobe and use a digital tool like ours to reflect on their consumption’. Reflecting on the business’s investment journey, as part of her interview for the ‘Invest in Creative’ Fashion module, she shared: ‘there was a switch in the conversation around sustainability… in 2019 there was a high interest in sustainability and circularity where second-hand market was on the rise and the conversation around aftercare was really happening, so that helped a lot in positioning ourselves as the only digital wardrobe that helps achieve that circularity’. A range of factors combined giving way to their substantial growth; last summer they raised a round with the Future Fund, as one of the very first startups to benefit from it, which helped them to double the amount of funds they were able to collect from initial investors.
“there was a switch in the conversation around sustainability in 2019”
Priya Downes, Co-Founder at Nudea, is another of the impressive founders that took part in the toolkit. Nudea is a contemporary underwear brand, powered by the data of over 6,000 bra-wearers, they offer a unique custom diagnostic fitting process through their tried and tested Fit Tools. They offer a 60 second Online Quiz, personalised Virtual Fit Consultations with bra experts and a custom designed tape measure that can be used at home. Priya shares the background on Nudea’s growth trajectory as part of the Fashion module, citing that when we first went into lockdown people realised: ‘you can’t go get fitted anymore, so you know you do want to find ways that you can do that at home… we were right at the threshold of that, as well as offering bras and knickers that are all about fit and comfort’. Like SYW, they’re a fashion tech business that’s experienced accelerated growth on account of the lockdown. Nudea also allows for a more sustainable approach to shopping: transitioning a type of shopping that historically has always needed to be in-person to online, lessening unnecessary footfall in shops and therefore the overall carbon footprint. Additionally, in developing the business Priya found that 80% of the women surveyed were wearing the wrong bra size, mitigating wasteful shopping. Nudea have ambitions to be a multimillion revenue turning business in the next four to five years.
‘I don’t think you’ll be able to build fashion businesses in the future that are super wasteful, and that’s a really good thing’
What the investors say
The Fashion module also covers the investor’s perspective on the growth of the sector. We spoke with Karen McCormick, Chief Investment Officer at Beringea who was able to further offer insight on customer’s increased appetite for sustainability, including reference to some of their portfolio businesses operating in the sector: ‘there’s definitely a push from consumers for companies with a conscience. And whether that means things like reducing your carbon footprint and focusing on ESG. Like our company, “Monica Vinader”, which now uses only recycled silver, and is becoming quickly a carbon neutral company, or businesses like “Watchfinder”, and “Luxury Promise” where you can take advantage of readily available inventory that’s in the market already’. Equally, this was mirrored by veteran fashion investor Gary Clarke, who were fortunate to have also had involved in the toolkit, who echoed these sentiments: ‘sustainability in fashion is really, really important. And, you know, it’s morally important, but it’s also economically important. I mean, I don’t think you’ll be able to build fashion businesses in the future that are super wasteful, and that’s a really good thing’.