Women-led ventures are driving sustainability in fashion | Fashion

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Women-led ventures are driving sustainability in fashion | Fashion f443bb6b10739299ea1a29a0f62a1893

Sustainable innovations may be the future of fashion, and women are subtly leading the charge.

Despite their general lack of representation in the venture capital arena, making up just 15 percent of general partners, according to PitchBook, women are raising the stakes in sustainable fashion investments through the community.

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Alante Capital is one such women-led venture capital fund and advisory platform backing innovative technologies that address climate change and enable a resilient and sustainable future for wear production and retail. The firm was founded in 2016 by financial industry and supply chain veterans Karla Mora and Leslie Harwell, who met through a mutual connection at JP Morgan. Taking advantage of the “great opportunity” for innovation in Mora’s words, the firm covers bases on the East Coast, or Litchfield County, Connecticut, where Harwell is based, and the West Coast, where Mora works from his downtown office. of Santa Barbara. . Alante’s team (which also has Eileen Fisher as a partner) is just warming up.

His “Innovation Community,” which includes Lululemon, Lilly Pulitzer, and Chico’s, among others, is one such ongoing project.

“When we started, the main misconception was that you can’t get market-rate returns if you focus on impact and sustainability”, co-founder and general partner Karla Mora told WWD. “Leslie and I have built an evidence base, independently and now together, that shows that this does not have to be the case. Finding scalable solutions to an industry’s existential challenges is exciting and rewarding work, and it’s an exciting time to be at the forefront of aligning financial returns with impact.”

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Alante is helping to solve some of fashion’s biggest problems, whether it’s reducing reliance on virgin materials, powering fashion’s circular economy, or tackling the gigantic challenge of overproduction. This includes investing in raw material recyclers like Circ and Novoloop (which have a recent $10 million infusion of capital from Alante), financing alternatives to synthetic materials like biodegradable polymer maker Mango Materials, and seaweed-powered Sway (also finalist in the Tom Ford Plastic Innovation Prize), as well as unlocking branded resale and rental opportunities like Flyp, Treet, Lizee or ZZ Driggs.

Fighting overproduction in supply chains is another explicit goal of companies like Indyx, as is improving supply chain efficiency with startup Fit: Match.

While a portfolio should represent the real needs of the market, founders should not be overlooked. “In terms of what we admire in founders, there are a lot of technical skills that are company-specific or industry-specific, but it’s often the soft skills that really make founders stand out to us,” Mora explained, saying that resilience is the main trait. “We started Alante at a difficult time for startup success, and it has been inspiring to see how these ingenious thinkers have repositioned their businesses, discovered more efficient processes and found new ways to meet customer needs in a fast-growing retail business. rapid evolution. ambient. We’re also experts at talking openly about failure and shortcomings, and frankly, it’s a green flag for us on releases. A willingness to be honest and vulnerable from the start is a good sign of self-awareness, which we see as a critical component to success.”

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Leveraging its experience to build what it calls its “Innovation Community,” Alante’s invitation-only group is made up of thought leaders (as well as investors) at various stages of their company. sustainability travel The goal is to come together to strategize about “systemic change in your industry,” in Harwell’s words. Lululemon, Oxford Industries (including Lilly Pulitzer, Tommy Bahama, Southern Tide) Chico’s FAS, Eileen Fisher, Mara Hoffman, Bemis Associates and Outerknown are already part of the new community.

One of Alante’s first advisors, Kate Dillon Levin, joined the team to lead the Innovation Community. Levin has worked on carbon finance and impact investing for the past decade, having transitioned from the ranks of famous 1990s fashion models.

“It was always important to us to be pragmatic, which means we listen a lot,” Harwell said. “We launched our Innovation Community when we realized that our knowledge base and perspective, after five years of watching, listening, researching and analyzing, can also provide a solution to the strategic needs of companies in the ecosystem.”

Impact investors are willing to help scale and evolve their portfolio companies over time, and Alante aims to lead with relationships to create impact. Inviting more advocates — wear brands, startups, investors or others, to participate. Mora added: “An ecosystem of actors working together is needed to achieve systemic change.”

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