On average, 90 million tonnes of fashion textiles are landfilled each year – that’s the equivalent of one garbage truck every second. But retail-tech startup AirRobe is working to change the way we recycle and re-sell clothing, with the goal of making both a positive environmental AND economic impact.
Investible joined other leading investors including retail-tech guru and Afterpay investor/advisor Paul Greenberg and San Francisco consumer business investor Brian Sugar in backing AirRobe in its fashion-forward mission.
We spoke with AirRobe’s solo founder and CEO Hannon Comazzetto about how her startup is helping connect style with sustainability.
AirRobe says it wants to help fashion brands enter the ‘recommerce economy’. What do you mean by that?
“Recommerce simply means extending the lifespan of an item by connecting it to a re-use opportunity such as resale, repair, donating or recycling. Recommerce can solve many of the environmental problems caused by the fashion industry’s current practices. Recommerce is a huge growth market, set to be worth $76 billion by 2023. But, at the moment, there aren’t many feasible ways for fashion brands and retailers to embrace recommerce on a global scale. And on the consumer side, while we’re all familiar with second-hand clothing platforms like eBay and Facebook Marketplace, none of them offers a particularly good shopping experience.
“AirRobe is architecting a framework for fashion brands to be part of the recommerce ecosystem in a way that is seamless and actually helps their bottom line.”
Fast fashion is a big problem that’s drawn a lot of attention in recent years. What makes it such a difficult problem to solve?
“The fast-fashion movement is a vicious and unsustainable cycle and it’s not what a lot of today’s consumers actually want. Most people want to do the right thing. We’re seeing a growing preference for clothing made from recycled materials, and donating or recycling clothing but the reality is that four out of five donated items still end up in landfills.
“To solve this problem, we need solutions that incentivise both fashion brands and customers to be sustainable by making it easy and financially beneficial. We’re building a business case for recommerce that benefits everyone and ultimately, promotes the manufacture of sustainable, quality clothes.”
AirRobe enables shoppers to share their wardrobe and rent or buy items on demand. How do you see brands and retailers getting involved?
“There is huge upside for fashion brands entering the recommerce space. Our goal is to work with these brands, providing them with a simple way to enter the circular economy and the business case to make it worth their while. Brands are already looking for new ways to drive customer loyalty, increase sales and align with their customers’ interests – we are here to help deliver on those metrics.
“The post-sale life of clothing is currently a blind spot for a lot of fashion brands. AirRobe is gives fashion brands the ability to understand, participate in and get value out of that post-sale life. In doing so, we create a far superior shopping experience for the second-hand shoppers. It’s a win, win for the whole industry.
Do you feel like consumer sentiment is on your side?
“Consumer sentiment is at the heart of what AirRobe is building. When we first started researching the space and conducting customer interviews, we quickly realised just how much consumers want sustainable solutions in fashion. There is a seismic shift towards sustainability happening in fashion, and it is consumer-led. But it is also starting to be enforced by governments around the world. For instance, new laws in France that come into effect in 2023 will ban the destruction of unsold fashion goods, and require manufacturers and retailers to donate, reuse or recycle. The brands that recognise this trend early and innovate to offer their customers proper sustainability solutions will thrive on customer loyalty.”
What’s next for AirRobe?
“Right now, AirRobe is focused on onboarding a great team, building out our product and bringing our founding merchants on board.”
Investor perspective on AirRobe
“AirRobe was a unique investment for Investible. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, our investment team was unable to meet Hannon in person and the entire due diligence and investment process was conducted remotely. Investment Director Daniel Veytsblit says, however, Hannon’s strength as a solo founder was evident from the beginning.
“Hannon’s strong entrepreneurial background and expertise across retail, e-commerce and finance, and technology give her a unique ability to solve the fashion waste problem with a product that brings value to fashion brands, as well as consumers.
“We see a global opportunity to support brands in being part of the solution and helping them align to changing consumer attitudes around sustainability.”
For more information, visit AirRobe’s website.