H&M Foundation’s Global Change Award 2019 gives grants to five innovative fashion start-ups

On April 3, the H&M Foundation celebrated innovation in the fashion world at the Stockholm city hall. It did so by putting the accent unambiguously on eco-sustainability, one of the key themes in the group’s communication initiatives.


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From blockchain solutions to artificial intelligence, 3D printing, new sustainable materials, the internet of things and more, the world of fashion is on the threshold of a profound change, as research and new technology extend the range of opportunities available. Many start-ups are making fresh inroads into these spheres, creating new materials and even spawning new business models.

In the last four years, the fast-fashion giant’s H&M Foundation, chaired by Diana Amini, has organised the Global Change Award to recognise innovative start-ups whose new solutions can make the fashion world more sustainable. On April 3, the award’s 2019 edition celebrated its five winners, selected among some 6,000 projects, which shared the €1 million grant endowed by the H&M group.

The Loop Scoop project by German company circular.fashion earned a €300,000 grant. Loop Scoop provides information to designers on materials, cuts and production processes to optimise their work, also in terms of the products’ end-of-life management and recycling. “We currently are a passionate team of 10. The prize money will enable us to create a collection using our software,” said Ina Budde. “The other great challenge for us is that ours is an independent design tool. We need to interface with labels in order to become integrated into their systems,” added Budde.

Swiss company Dimpora was awarded a €250,000 grant for its water-proof, biodegradable membrane made of minerals. It is designed to replace other type of membranes used for outdoor products, and Dimpora’s challenge is to attract the main industry names. “The prize will enable us to develop further tests and to add to our team. We offer a superior material, but we must be able to convince [the industry] of our ability to meet their expectations,” said Mario Stucki.

The nettle farm project set up by Kenya’s Green Nettle Textile was awarded a grant of €150,000. Nettles are adaptable and able to thrive in harsh terrain, and can be used to produce a sustainable material similar to linen. Green Nettle Textile emphasised that the waste from the production process can be used to make paper or dye ingredients. “In Africa, we need to preserve land to cultivate foodstuffs, so the thinking was to use other parts of the territory. Thanks to the prize, we will be able to buy machinery and invest in the personnel to operate it,” said Jonah Mwangi.

The fourth Global Change Award winner also earned a €150,000 grant for its original approach to childrenswear. British company Petit Pli works to reduce the number of garments needed to dress infants and young children up to three years old. “Our challenge is to change people’s attitudes and encourage them not to buy too many clothes for babies. We are developing new techniques,” said Ryan Mario Yasin. Their patented idea is to create clothes that adapt to the children's body size, thanks to an ingenious pleating system.

Finally, Peru-based company Le Gara was awarded a €150,000 grant for developing an alternative to leather. In this case, it is a question of biotechnology. Le Gara relies on the physical properties of fruits and flowers to create a material whose look and feel is akin to leather, by processing micro-organisms in its laboratory. It has developed various formats based on industry requirements. “With the grant we will be able to create samples. We have completed a prototype, but we need to scale up and grow out of a lab model in order to establish collaborations with labels,” said Le Gara.

Besides the grants, the Global Change Award introduced a new crowdfunding initiative this year, to further support the projects. The five winners will benefit from a one-year mentorship, allowing them to interact with H&M staff and travel to New York and Hong Kong to learn about the expectations of the US and Chinese markets. They will also meet corporate experts, like those from Accenture, a partner of the award. A major opportunity for these innovative start-ups to foster their growth.

 

Translated by Nicola Mira

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