The Green Alley Award finalist 2022 we present you today is Atelier Riforma, also from Italy, which aims to sustainably disrupt the textile industry. They developed a digital platform – Re4Circular – based on AI technology which helps to optimize, reuse and resale textile waste. Elena Ferrero and Sara Secondo founded Atelier Riforma in 2020 and the startup thus counts into the high share of 39,5% of female-founded startups among the applicants for the Green Alley Award 2022. However, female entrepreneurs are still underrepresented in the startup world, but there has been an increase by 10% between 2009 and 2019. We need more female-founded startups for several reasons, but probably one of the most important ones highlighted by the German initiative #startupdiversity, is that when founding a business, women focus more often on social and sustainable innovations than men, which are especially relevant regarding future and societal development.
So, let’s hear what our experts in this field say:
In your experience, how is being a female leadership tandem? Do you see certain benefits, and would you agree on the statement that the world needs more female entrepreneurs?
We are quite proud to be two female founders: becoming a woman entrepreneur from scratch is satisfying, because it often means having overcome limits that the male counterpart never has to face. However, we are convinced that the goodness of a project depends little on the gender of the founders, but on the values they bring with them.
We still see few women in the startup world, but we are happy that the situation is changing and we hope that our example can encourage other young women. Sometimes being a woman is also an advantage: for example, when you are in the middle of an audience where most of the participants are men, you get more attention (even if “attention” does not always mean “credibility”).
We do not know if the world needs more women entrepreneurs, simply women should have the same opportunities as men, in any profession. We just hope that one day we will no longer be surprised to see a woman in a leadership position, because it will be the norm.
Lately, even the textile industry is trying to become more sustainable. Change is happening, since many big players are working on tackling their waste problem and partner up with second-hand markets or higher-end industries. Why do we still need your solution?
It is certainly positive that many fashion brands are trying to implement initiatives to reduce their environmental impact. A lot is being done, compared to 10 years ago, and this makes us very happy. But that’s not enough! Often these are small initiatives, disconnected from the whole context – when they are not sheer greenwashing strategies.
We need a systemic solution, which could massively direct post-consumer clothes – which are the most difficult to recover, compared to pre-consumer waste – towards circular destinations, such as reuse, recycling, refashioning or other upcycling strategies.
At the same time, it is necessary to push and facilitate as much as possible fashion brands to produce their clothes starting from the already existing material and stop extracting new virgin resources. And these are precisely the goals that we have set ourselves with our solution Re4Circular.
What has been your last greatest success (apart from making it to the Green Alley Award finals)?
Our latest great success was being selected among more than 1300 startups from around the world for the Startupbootcamp FashionTech acceleration program, one of the most important accelerators in Europe for fashion tech.
You’re still in an early stage, where do you see your startup in 5 years from now?
Actually, we look like an early-stage startup, but we’re not! Our project was born in 2019, with a different business model. We initially threw ourselves headlong into the problem, doing a very hands-on activity: collecting used clothes and creating a network of tailors so that the garments could be repaired and have a second life. However, we saw that this model was difficult to scale and could have a limited positive impact.
So, we took advantage of this experience and tried to improve it. And so the idea of Re4Circular was born in 2021. This technology and this new business model have been carefully studied in order to have a greater positive impact.
In five years, we see Re4Circular as an industrial machine, used throughout Europe by all the companies that collect used clothing, in order to direct them to circular destinations rather than to landfills.
Complete the following sentence: Our solution helps to save the world because…?”
… it reduces the amount of textile waste that is dispersed into the environment; we help instead to use waste as a secondary raw material for circular products.
Take your chance and watch Atelier Riforma pitch their idea live on stage in Berlin on 28th April. Register here and meet our finalist in person.
Source Green Alley Award