Six start-ups recently presented their ideas promoting circular fashion in the second edition of the Circular Changemakers which started in 2019. Presented by Intellecap’s Circular Apparel Innovation Factory (CAIF) in partnership with Circular Design Challenge, an initiative of R|Elan, United Nations Environment Programme and Lakmé Fashion Week, the programme took place on Day 2 of Sustainable Fashion Day at LFW 2020. Infinichains, BigThinx, Phabio, Twirl Store, Desi Hangover and Paiwand Studio were chosen to present their business models to an esteemed panel after having gone through a rigorous online enterprise bootcamp to fine tune their business models, financial models and presentations.
The investor & strategic partner panel comprised industry experts namely, Disha Gandhi, Associate Director, Aavishkaar Capital, Marieke Lenders, Head – Reweave Program, Enviu, Vineet Gautam, CEO, Bestseller India and Pinar Ademoglu, Investment Director, Sagana Capital. The changemakers undertook a rigorous bootcamp by CAIF which focused on three modules, Capital Raising, Business & Financial Modelling and Investor Pitch Preparation, delivered by industry experts.
Darshana Gajare, Lead Sustainable Fashion at IMG Reliance, said, “This year, we have a very promising cohort of enterprises doing some incredible work across the value chain. Our vision is to enable strategic partnerships, through the online bootcamp curated by CAIF, we could already see great synergies for these start-ups to work together,” while Vikas Bali, CEO, Intellecap, chimed in, “Circular Changemakers Program is a great example of a platform that can provide both investment support and facilitate strategic collaborations for innovators with circular solutions to help them scale.”
Each of these enterprises works at different segments of the value chain aiming to make fashion truly circular. A talk with the Circular Changemakers sheds light on their prospective business models, their utility in different avenues of the fashion space along with their aspirations of leveraging this platform to propagate their business in the industry.
Launched in 2018 as an upcycling textile studio by Ashita Singhal, Paiwand believes in adding value by repurposing waste garments. With willingness to help designers who lacked time and resources to repurpose waste materials, Ashita explored weaving with textile waste to produce upcycled yardages for apparel, which later led to her winning an International Business Grant of US $ 25,000 by Laureate International Universities Network, USA to support her social enterprise, Paiwand Studio.
“Following a B2B model, we collaborate with design houses and fashion brands and help them upcycle their textile waste through various handcrafted techniques like handloom weaving, patchwork, knitting, embroidery and felting,” says Ashita, continuing, “We then sell the fabric back to the fashion houses at a higher price so that they can create an exclusive upcycled sustainable product range for their respective clientele, opening up a revenue channel for brands collaborating with them.” In their B2C model, Paiwand designs upcycled range of products including apparel, home textiles and accessories retailed through multi-designer stores and online platforms.
Twirl store works to solve the endless issues of excess and unwanted clothing. Sujata Chatterjee, Founder of the start-up, avers, “At Twirl.store, customers are urged to send their unwanted clothes, and in return are rewarded with points which they can redeem to buy new things from our online portal www.twirl.store. All the unwanted clothes that Twirl receives are either donated or upcycled to form fabrics for new collection.”
Adding to this, the start-up employs rural women to upcycle the fabric, thus giving them a source of livelihood. Their offerings include bags, accessories, gift items etc. retailed through omnichannel portals. “We also hope that after being a Lakmé Fashion Week’s Circular Changemaker, more people will join the Twirl Circle and actively send unwanted clothing as well as embrace our handcrafted, upcycled products,” says Sujata.
BigThinx was Chandralika Hazarika and Shivang Desai’s idea to aid customers who face issues during online shopping due to incorrect sizing, leading to returns and further losses incurred by businesses. Chandralika says, “Realising the problem, we started working on our AI-based products in 2017,” while Shivang elucidates, “The business model is a Software as a Service (SaaS) B2B model working with products that include 3D body scanning to help one find the perfect size in any clothing from any fashion brand, and personalised digital avatars to try on any clothing virtually and see how it looks, fits and drapes before purchasing.”
These products are API based and can easily integrate into any existing website or app, or even in-store via interactive displays. Consumers can carry out body scans or create avatars to instantly find their size and browse inventory of thousands of items with just a click of a button. Retailers benefit from an average 20 per cent increase in order values, 40 per cent decrease in product returns and up to 250 per cent greater conversion rates. “Our suite of products – mobile body scanning, digital twins, virtual showrooms, and virtual fashion shows – significantly contribute towards reducing emissions and apparel waste and saving freshwater,” says Chandralika.
Inspired by the craftsmanship of the artisan communities across small villages of India, Hitesh Kenjale along with Abha Agrawal and Lakshya Arora launched this start-up in 2014, to share each of their expertise globally. “Our business model is extremely simple, and glocal as we say – Handcrafted in India for the world,” expresses Hitesh, while Abha adds, “We attempt to tell the story of our shoemakers, based in a small village in Karnataka. We deliver conscious fashion for your feet.”
The start-up upcycles leather in the production village, treated using natural ingredients like turmeric and the barks of the Sal tree, and later used to handcraft ‘Desis’. Their mission was to develop rural craft clusters through social innovation, ensuring secure and sustainable livelihood for artisans in India.
Omkar maintains, “Through LFW’s platform, we wish to send across a global uniform message to fellow brands, customers, and anyone else concerned – that fashion can be healthy, harmless, and yet beautiful.”
After working closely with Shreyaskar Choudhary from Pratibha Syntex about challenges in the textile industry around traceability and sustainability reporting to brands, Parth Patil, Ravi Agrawal and Jitesh Shetty launched the blockchain start-up InfiniChains®. “We provide a traceability dashboard to the brands that allows them to visualise the supply chain for sourced products, check claims associated with them and inspect the origin of the raw materials,” explains Parth, while Jitesh says, “We charge the brand an annual licensing fee for the use of our platform that is proportional with the volume of products they are tracking on our system.”
For the suppliers and vendors of the brands, there’s no cost to use the system and they get their own dashboards and login from where they can submit data for the supply chain stages they are responsible for and also get visibility into their upstream supply chain. Through LFW, the start-up wants to work with prospective partners to understand the challenges that stand in the way of rapid adoption of sustainability practices and engage brands by sharing their expertise and technology to become 100 per cent sustainable.
Sukanya Dikshit started Phabio with the zeal to curb the environmental impacts posed by single use plastics by working on a cutting-edge technology for low cost production of an exact replacement of plastic. This material is a biopolymer known as PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoates) and is made from microorganisms using waste organic byproducts from various food and beverage industries. It is 100 per cent naturally biodegradable under home and marine composting conditions. Their business model involves direct sales of bioplastic resins to product manufacturers and also, licensing of the technology to third parties interested in taking up production.
“We want to help the world reimagine and redefine plastics with us. Not everything that is plastic needs to remain in the nature forever and the Circular Changemaker programme is a hopeful start,” Sukanya says.