Commercialising AirRobe’s ‘Circular Wardrobe’ to help save the world, one fashionable garment at a time.
Everyone aspires to own the latest style. But with fashion ranking as one of the world’s most polluting industries, the ‘buy-wear-discard’ cycle that follows is catastrophic for the environment.
A key barrier to implementing a truly circular fashion economy has been creating a viable second-use market that incentivises shoppers to tackle the complex task of on-selling high-quality unwanted garments.
This led Australian fashion startup AirRobe to create a world-first process that makes it stunningly simple for shoppers to on-sell pre-loved clothes and motivating them to do so with opportunities to make a profit and reduce their environmental footprint.
Armed with their unique “Circular Wardrobe” proposition to reshape the fashion retail landscape, AirRobe sought assistance from the Australian Government’s Entrepreneurs’ Programme that led to an Accelerating Commercialisation grant of $489,830 and expert support from delivery partner, i4 Connect.
i4 Connect, working in partnership with the Australian Government to deliver the Entrepreneurs’ Programme, empowers entrepreneurs to rapidly build the businesses of tomorrow, offering up to $1 million of matched, non-dilutionary funding along with opportunities to receive invaluable mentorship from i4 Connect facilitators with real-world experience in fast-paced start-up culture.
AirRobe founder and CEO, Hannon Comazzetto, says access to i4 Connect and the Accelerating Commercialisation service helped AirRobe rapidly scale its product and team. “Our Circular Wardrobe initiative is the first product of its kind globally, so we are running fast to keep pace with the demand from customers and bring our product to new markets,” she says.
Fashion comes full circle
Any garment sold by one of AirRobe’s growing network of retail partners offers its new owner the opportunity to pre-destine a second life, simply by ticking a checkbox at the point of sale. Once the owner is ready to let the item go, a few quick taps on the AirRobe app activates a purchase or rental listing that’s already populated with details and images of the garment.
The addition of this simple step, whether during in-store or online purchases, places power in the hands of shoppers to dictate the impact of their fashion decisions, Comazzetto says.
“With a garbage truck’s worth of clothing being thrown away every second, by sharing a fashion piece, we give it a longer life and reduce its carbon footprint. We’re definitely waking up as a society to the harmful effects of a linear fashion industry, and the urgency needed to reverse this,” she says.
The benefits are two-fold – the item is saved from landfill, but also each pre-owned fashion piece purchased by an appreciative new owner can offset the impact of a brand-new garment being made. That saves up to 19 kilograms of C02 emissions, 95 litres of water and 2kg of textile waste per item.
By disrupting the linear fashion habits that see many of us discarding unwanted garments on a whim, AirRobe’s innovative plan offers shoppers the opportunity to help save the world, one fashionable garment at a time.
“Research shows that a huge percentage of people will buy something with the intention of reselling it, but most of the time, they don’t,” Comazzetto says. “We created AirRobe to provide an accessible, convenient, easy-to-use and fun system to help those people follow through with their intention and give their items a longer life.”
The innovative model acknowledges that not every pre-loved garment can be on-sold. AirRobe has also established partnerships with recycling companies and donation outlet stores. From denim to linen and synthetics, AirRobe works with recycling specialists to ensure any items unable to be on-sold or donated will be repurposed efficiently, rather than going to landfill.
“We believe that creating access to a circular economic model for the everyday shopper can bring about massive changes that will help to save the planet,” Comazzetto says.
A green glow for brands
Benefits also accrue to the fashion brands who incorporate AirRobe’s simple e-commerce plug-in into their point-of-sale interface, leading a number of high-fashion brands to partner with AirRobe including The Iconic, Oroton, P.E Nation and Viktoria & Woods.
For them, the system provides a low-touch sustainability solution that can drive sales conversions and attract new customers keen to embrace more sustainable shopping practices.
“New-age customers want to spend money on brands that are actively cutting down on excessive waste,” Comazzetto says. “AirRobe can be a game-changer for major fashion retailers by meeting their business needs in a manner that optimises them for the future.”
i4 Connect facilitators offered ‘instrumental’ support
As a small start-up with big plans to fundamentally change the way the world shops, AirRobe needed assistance from the Accelerating Commercialisation service to accelerate its business goals on a faster timeframe than would have otherwise been possible.
“We have had a fantastic relationship with i4 Connect facilitators,” Comazzetto says. “They were instrumental in shepherding us through the application process and also provided valuable feedback on our business. This helped us to think deeply about important business items, such as AirRobe’s business model and competitive advantages.”
The support of i4 Connect and the program allowed AirRobe to:
- Establish processes for first sales and onboarding activities;
- Execute an IP protection strategy;
- Complete new integrations with ecommerce platforms;
- Develop enterprise features for the Circular Wardrobe; and
- Successfully run pilots with enterprise customers.
Comazzetto says the practical and financial support has been a vital cog in rapidly bringing the Circular Wardrobe concept to reality in a way that capitalises on AirRobe’s first-mover advantage.
“Our advice to other businesses would be to consider government grant programs such as the Accelerating Commercialisation Grant under the Entrepreneurs’ Programme. It’s an attractive source of non-dilutive capital that can help accelerate product commercialisation, and generate great relationships with people that can help your business.”