Melbourne-based retail-tech startup AirRobe has secured over $1 million in seed funding to help fashion brands be more sustainable. Solo-founder and CEO Hannon Comazzetto launched the beta version of the AirRobe marketplace, which she built herself, in 2019. The funding comes from an impressive list of local and international names, led by early-stage investor Investible. Other investors include retail-tech guru and Afterpay investor/advisor Paul Greenberg, and San Francisco consumer business investor Brian Sugar. Sugar has an eye for Aussie talent, as an early backer of Afterpay and, more recently, one-click checkout startup Fast.
“AirRobe ticks the box of a global opportunity in a fast-growing market. Hannon is a tenacious founder with unique insights into how retailers can monetise the Gen Z and Millennial trend to shop sustainably”, explains Sugar.
AirRobe’s re-commerce hand marketplace has been growing in popularity since its release. The injection of capital will be used to launch a new product which provides a way for fashion brands and online retailers to access the re-commerce retail market.
“AirRobe’s approach is exciting as it helps to solve fashion’s environmental predicament in a way that actually helps retailers’ bottom line,” says Paul Greenberg.
“Achieving greater sustainability in fashion requires solutions that work for both consumers and brands. AirRobe is demonstrating how new technology can help fashion brands be part of the solution,” says Daniel Veytsblit, Investment Director at Investible.
“We work with the fashion brands and retailers directly, giving them tools to be more sustainable. We are building a really exciting new product, which for the first time, gives fashion brands a simple way to enter the circular economy and the business case to make it worth their while. The only way to solve this problem is to work with the fashion brands, not against them”, explains Comazzetto.
The problem AirRobe is solving is significant. On average, 90 million tonnes of fashion textiles are landfilled each year. Comazzetto points out the problem is in the infrastructure for recycling and reselling, “At the moment, four out of five clothing items we donate end up in landfill. People are inherently good. We yearn for sustainable solutions. We just haven’t built them yet.”
The legacy infrastructure that exists for trading second-hand clothing – think eBay, Facebook Marketplace – is fraught with problems. Poor photos, authenticity issues and lack of trust all contribute to a crummy user shopper experience. AirRobe’s bet is that the textile waste problem can be solved by transforming the re-commerce shopping experience to rival the experience of buying brand-new. And this is no small bet.
“The re-commerce retail market is expected to hit $76 billion in value by 2023. This growth is caused by a huge movement towards sustainability in fashion being driven by consumers. Retailers face the challenge of finding ways to be a part of that movement, or being left for dead,” says Comazzetto.
Further pressure on retailers comes from increased regulatory attention. New laws in France to be implemented by 2023 will ban the destruction of unsold fashion goods, and require manufacturers and retailers to donate, reuse or recycle. “There’s a strong move towards a more sustainable textile industry and it’s led by consumers,” says Comazzetto. “Our goal is to make it really simple for these brands to enter the circular fashion economy in a way that is good for the environment and good for business.”