With its manufacturing of daily wear items such as T-shirts, Simplifyber aims to replace wovens and knits, which together represent a $25B market globally.
We may probably see an increasing focus on the development of 3D printers especially designed for the fashion industry, but one think we should keep in mind is that materials are probably the key item that will help this sector move forward while embracing a sustainability approach. This is in any case one of the lessons I kept from Andreina Martinez Tancredi’s thought leadership article and one company that makes me think she is probably right is Simplifyber, a fashion tech startup that creates fully-molded garment and shoe uppers made directly from a cellulose-based liquid. Led by fashion designer Maria Intscher-Owrang, the company relies on additive manufacturing to save costs while delivering competitive biodegradable garments to market, an approach – as you may guess – that removes traditional spinning, weaving, cutting, and sewing.
Maria Intscher-Owrang brings to the table a 20+ year career as a fashion designer and director at leading fashion houses, including Vera Wang, Calvin Klein, Alexander McQueen, Dirk Bikkembergs, and Edun. The less resource-intensive process she has developed at Simplifyber relies on a fully biodegradable solution – which cuts out 60% of the steps and reduces the 35% of materials in the fashion supply chain that ends up as waste.
The material process utilized to create the fabrics reveals that the latter are molded, not woven and stitched together. They are molded from a mix of plant matter and other biodegradable materials. “We discovered a way to create clothing using soft plant fibers,” she explained. “We start with a liquid cellulose – made in a lab, not in a mill – which is then poured on specially-designed molds and dried, eliminating fabric waste altogether and allowing on-demand, stock-free service.”
Simplifyber’s cellulose formula is 100% natural, derived from a combination of wood pulp and other plant-based material and non-toxic additives, so the result is a fully biodegradable product that can be easily returned to nature, recyclable as paper and as clothing, one learns.
The company has recently secured a $3.5M round of seed funding, led by At One Ventures, with participation from Techstars, Heritage Group Ventures, The Helm, W Fund, Jetstream Ventures, Plug & Play Ventures, REFASHIOND Ventures, CapitalX Ventures, Keeler Investments Group and others.
“With its single-step process for clothing making, Simplifyber has the potential to beat the unit economics of polyester, becoming an economically and environmentally viable solution against plastic waste,” concludes Laurie Menoud, Partner, At One Ventures. “We’re looking forward to partnering with the team to bring this solution to scale. We believe Simplifyber could be the apparel of the future: They are not only beautifully designed but have a low carbon footprint and are price-accessible, which is a significant differentiation from other sustainable clothing brands.”
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