A Brooklyn, N.Y.-based company focused on eliminating single-use packaging is participating as one of 12 finalists in a sustainable textile and circular fashion innovation accelerator program based in Amsterdam.
Returnity Innovations began its journey in Batch 6 of the Fashion for Good-Plug and Play Accelerator program on September 5. Founded in 2014, Returnity creates custom-designed, reusable and recyclable shipping packaging for individuals and businesses, providing a sustainable packaging solution for a better customer experience and engagement.
“The program is helping to transform the fashion industry from a linear to a circular model,” says Mike Newman, CEO of Returnity Innovations.
The accelerator program is run by Fashion for Good in collaboration with Plug and Play, an early-stage investor, and corporate partners adidas, C&A, Galeries Lafayette, Kering, PVH Corp., Target and Zalando. According to its website, Fashion for Good was launched in 2017 by the C&A Foundation. It’s a global platform for innovation, made possible through collaboration and community that convenes brands, producers, retailers, suppliers, nonprofit organizations, innovators and funders united in their shared ambition.
“Two years since its founding, the Fashion for Good-Plug and Play Accelerator Program continues to support promising startups developing innovations set to disrupt and drive the transformation of the fashion value chain toward a more circular and regenerative system,” according to a statement from Fashion for Good.
As part of the program, Returnity, along with the other finalists, will participate in a 12-week curriculum in Amsterdam, including mentorship and business development opportunities with corporate partners and culminating in “Demo Day” on December 10, where finalists will pitch in front of a broad audience of industry leaders and investors.
“Though we can't reveal everything we have been working on, our presentation will focus on our rapid advances in product design—and the next generation systems we are building with partners to see reusables become a standard experience for consumers around the world,” says Newman.
“Each year, more than $60 billion is spent on packaging in the U.S. alone—and used once,” he adds. “The solution is reusable packaging and the larger shift from linear business models to sustainable circular models, a move we empower through the development of easy-to-implement systems.”
Newman says Returnity will replace the use of more than 6 million cardboard boxes and poly mailer bags with reusable packaging in 2019 and 10 million-plus in 2020.
Returnity became involved in the program after meeting with its managing director at a conference this year.
“Packaging is a big focus for the apparel industry right now, and that led to a dialogue and ultimately our participation in the accelerator,” says Newman. “Product innovation enabled us to secure our first group of customers like Rent the Runway, Happy Returns and Nuuly. Our next wave of growth is coming from building the systems necessary for reusables to be a cost-effective alternative to traditional single-use packaging, and Fashion for Good enables us to work directly with the companies necessary to realize that future.”
This sixth batch of the program is focused on fitting solutions, reworking and intelligent machinery, in addition to reusable packaging and recycling.
With Returnity, the other selected innovators of the sixth batch include: Cadel Deinking, Cocoon Biotech, The Fabricant, Frankie Collective, PreSize, RE-NT, Resortecs, Smartex, Sozie, Spintex and Unspun.
- Cadel Deinking: Cadel Deinking removes printed ink and labels from plastics and through mechanical recycling can produce high-quality, high recycled-content pellets. The de-inking technology produces pellets of similar quality to that of new plastics and can be used in the same applications as new material.
- Cocoon Biotech: Cocoon Biotech has developed a bio-technology platform designed to produce a bio-compatible silk protein. Its platform dissolves raw cocoon silk, post-consumer silk waste and supply chain waste into a liquid protein solution, from which fiber, liquids and gel materials can be produced.
- The Fabricant: The Fabricant is a digital fashion house leading the fashion industry toward a new sector of digital-only clothing—wasting nothing but data and exploiting nothing but imagination. The Fabricant specializes in photo-real 3D fashion design and animation, which can be used in digital fashion editorials, digital clothing and occasional collections.
- Frankie Collective: Frankie Collective is dedicated to reworking excess products into high-demand streetwear styles. Vintage garments and overstock that would otherwise end up in landfill are salvaged and reworked into contemporary items.
- PreSize: PreSize is a 3D body scanning technology that uses any smartphone’s camera input to find the best fit to the users’ individual body. PreSize is completely web based and uses a video of the consumer to estimate key points of the body, ensuring a higher level of accuracy in measurements.
- RE-NT: Based in Germany, RE-NT offers a circular, white label rental service and online platform. Consumers have access to the latest fashion, which they can rent, and brands can still engage with their audience without having to deal with operations and logistics.
- Resortecs: Resortecs produces a dissolvable stitching thread for easy repair and recycling of garments. Used in attaching trimmings, such as zippers, buttons and fasteners, the threads are aimed at garment repair, recycling and reusing materials from unsold stock and dissolve when exposed to heat.
- Smartex: Smartex uses a combination of Internet of Things sensors and artificial intelligence/machine learning software for the real-time inspection and detection of defects in fabric production. The technology helps textile manufactures improve production yields, reducing defective production down to 0.1 percent.
- Sozie: Sozie’s approach to sizing is to use real-life consumers to produce fit and style feedback for garments that match the potential buyer’s size and body type. “Sozies” are given 24 hours to find garments in retail stores and report back with photos, style comments and experience in fit. In time, a library is produced, and shoppers can instantly browse content from consumers that match their body type.
- Spintex: Spintex, a spin out from the University of Oxford, manufactures pure and strong silk fibers. Fibers are spun from water-based silk solution, partly sourced from pre-consumer waste streams, amongst others. The technology platform can create bespoke, next-generation fibers and materials.
- Unspun: Unspun is an on-demand apparel company that uses 3D scanning and fit algorithms to generate digital consumer sizing. Using the 3D information, it creates a pair of customized jeans that fit perfectly through 3D weaving. The technique eliminates back-end inventory, reduces wasteful processes and ultimately increases the lifespan and wearability of garments.