Given the alarming numbers reported regarding fashion’s track record in terms of sustainability, even the most style conscious have stopped to think about the industry's negative impacts. Do fashion, technology and sustainability really have to be at odds? Russian entrepreneur and philanthropist Mira Duma’s new venture aims to redress the balance, and fast-forward the fashion industries’ efforts to be more innovative and technologically aware in the field of sustainability.
With a focus on materials science, biotech, nanotechnology, wearable electronics and high–performance fibres and fabrics, Fashion Tech Lab (FTL) is looking to invest in, facilitate and develop solutions to many of the issues surrounding fashion’s impact on the environment.
Having secured an initial $50 million of funding, FTL has already invested in Orange Fiber, a company that has recently announced a collaboration with Salvatore Ferragamo and which creates fabrics from orange peel waste; Diamond Foundry, a producer of man-made gems; and a San Francisco-based start-up that is developing lab-grown leather.
No stranger to the sustainability debate, Mira Duma’s previous investments include ethical fashion brand Reformation; Finery, an online wardrobe operating system designed to make the most of the clothes we already own; and The Tot, an eco-friendly ecommerce site for mothers and children. The co-founder of digital fashion and lifestyle platform Buro 24/7 has also just spoken on investing on sustainable growth at the annual Copenhagen Fashion Summit, and has admitted that her decision to set up FTL was driven in part by a personal quest, having been shocked when she discovered that the fashion industry is the world’s second largest polluter. “It really had a huge impact on me,” she told the Business of Fashion, “ And having two kids at home, I was also looking at what I was doing, and I thought: Am I really helping anyone? Am I really making a change?”
Backed by a range of private and institutional investors and with an advisory board that includes Carmen Busquets, Diane Von Furstenberg and eco-fashion activist and founder of EcoAge Livia Firth, FTL currently employs a team of 15 people across Russia, China, Britain, Italy and the United States. The company aims to harness the talents of specialist scientists and engineers, whose work was previously available exclusively for industries such as defence and space, and apply their technological advances to the fashion chain. “We are convinced that technology does not have to be at odds with sustainability,” Mira Duma explained to BoF. “In fact, quite the opposite – science should be seen as a tool and resource to help transform fashion into a truly 21st century industry”.