Take-make-waste — that’s how sustainability solution The Renewal Workshop describes the fashion industry’s past. But the future looks bright with the rise of circularity and “re-commerce,” or brands’ products that are resold on third-party web sites.
The Renewal Workshop — an e-commerce platform that provides circular solutions for apparel and textile brands — today announced a $5.5 million “Series A” financing round for expansion into European markets, in addition to tripling its U.S. operations. The round is led by European venture capital and impact investors Social Impact Ventures, SHIFT Invest and Quadia with participation from existing U.S. investors Closed Loop Ventures, Gratitude Railroad, Portland Seed Fund and High Meadows Investment Group, the firm said.
And the emergence of re-commerce aligns well with The Renewal Workshop’s platform, which offers a complete solution that manages the collection, renewal, and quality of a brand’s damaged or used garments, as well as the back-end of the brand’s own re-commerce site, the firm explained. Its platform is centered on recovering value from unsellable inventory: Through The Renewal System, the firm takes discarded apparel and textiles from brands and converts them into “Renewed Apparel,” upcycled materials or recycling feedstock. Then, data is collected on each piece that moves through the system so its brand partners can help improve production and design for future products. Its process is zero waste, and “recovers the full value out of what has already been created as a way of serving customers, partners and planet,” the company explained, in addition to allowing brands to engage directly with customers in their own branded second-sale channel.
Eske Scavenius, senior investment manager of Social Impact Ventures, said the firm “has proven their circular model for renewal and re-commerce can not only drive sales and customer engagement for brands but also have significant environmental impact. As investors we were drawn to this strong alignment between commerce and impact and are excited to see The Renewal Workshop scale up.”
As players in U.S.-based brand-driven re-commerce, cofounders Nicole Bassett and Jeff Denby, who built the firm’s first renewal facility in Cascade Locks, Ore., in 2016, said their decision to expand to Europe was based on demand. Denby, who will lead European operations from Amsterdam, said, “Production is already under way at our Amsterdam facility, and we are thrilled to serve a strong pipeline of European brands eager to transition to circular business models.” Its operations lead for Europe will be Tamara Zwart, former European director of fashion and for the Cradle-to-Cradle Institute.
Bassett, who will lead U.S. operations, added that “Over the past three years, The Renewal Workshop has helped some of the biggest brands in apparel launch renewed collections. 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.”
Under Bassett’s direction, the company will continue to expand in Cascade Locks, Ore., to serve its U.S.-based brand partners such as The North Face, Mara Hoffman, Prana and Coyuchi, the company said.
“Today, over 70 percent of all clothes produced are landfilled or incinerated after use,” said investor Florentine Fockema Andreae, partner at Shift Invest. “If we want to contribute to a more circular and regenerative textile sector, we need to not only close the loop but also extend the average number of times a garment is worn. The Renewal Workshop brings an inclusive, efficient solution to help large fashion brands achieve this goal.”
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