Previous Key winners from the H&M Foundation’s Global Change Award

London – Winning any type of grant can have a profound effect on any
innovative startup. But being the winner of the H&M’s annual Global Change
Award, an initiative specially developed to support early-stage innovations
that focus on sustainability can bring help accelerate the startup to the
next level. For example, Vegea, a company which take the leftover grape
residue from wine production and uses it to produce fine vegetal leather,
has gone on to have its dress prototype displayed at the prestigious since being awarded a 300,000
euro grant during the second cycle of the global change Award.

As the
third cycle of the Global Change Award prepares to open its online voting
period and share its five winning innovations, FashionUnited takes a look
at some of the progress made by some of the previous winners.

Vegea – Grape Leather

Vegea was founded in 2016 in Milan by
Gianpiero Tessitore, Valentina Longobardo and Franceso Merlino, who shared
the desire to find eco-sustainable alternatives to potentially harmful
materials used in the fashion industry. After researching and investing in
innovative technology which could be used to produce bio-based technical
fabrics, they identified grape skins and stems, by-products from the
winemaking industry as an ideal raw material to use to make eco, synthetic
leather with.

Since winning a grant of 300,000
euros from the Global Change Award in 2017, the team has created several
prototypes for dresses, handbags, and shoes made of Vegea material. The
European Parliament also recognized Vegea as one of the best European
start-ups of the new millennium, and Vegea was awarded the PETA Innovation
Award in 2017. “Thanks to the Global Change Award, we are experiencing a
great momentum and getting attention from media and potential clients
within the fashion, furniture and automotive industries,” said Valentina
Longobardo, co-founder and CMO of Vegea. The team also won the Horizon
2020, which is the biggest European Union research and innovation program
to date, which is seen as one of the most prestigious validations of their
work that will undoubtedly help them grow their research team.

EON – Content Thread

Content Thread, owned by EON was created by
Anura Rathnayake, Natasha Franck, Peter Cockitt, Trevor O’Brein and Anna
Kimmelman, who are looking to create the first global system for textile
recycling, powered by the internet of things. Content Thread is a tiny RFID
thread which features a digitalized ‘ingredient list’ that can be sewn into
any garment at the manufacturing stage. This innovation makes the recycling
process of the garment much more efficient, as even if labels are cut out,
the RFID thread features vital information concerning the fabrication of
the garment. After winning a grant of 150,000 euros from the Global Change
Awards in 2017, the team behind Content Thread has managed to take their
concept into commercialized technology. The team has gone on to built
partnerships with large global brands that are purchasing and introducing
EON-ID RFID Thread technology, moving from having five sample threads to
producing millions of tags in 2018.

“The Global Change Award introduced and validated our vision to the
industry – that fashion connected through the internet of things can power
circularity,” said Natasha Franck from EON. “The Global Change Award gave
us a platform to share the potential of our RFID technology to align
business operations and sustainability. By accelerating the industry’s
adoption and understanding of connected and circular fashion, the Global
Change Award’s contribution has not only been paramount to the success of
our company but also paramount in powering the industry-wide transition to
a circular economy.” EON has also developed an industry-wide initiative,
the Global lifecycle identification initiative to inform and introduce a
global framework for the utilization of the internet of things.

Mestic – Manure Couture

Perhaps one of the most unusual innovation
concepts from the Global Change Awards, Manure Couture aims to extract and
use the cellulose found in cow manure to create new, biodegradable textiles
for the fashion industry. Based in the Netherlands and developed by Jalila
Essaidi, George Johannes van Tier and Virendya Batja from Mestic, the
initiative offers a clever solution to reusing manure. In addition, the
significantly reduced release of methane gas and substances that pollute
soil, water, and air is also an additional benefit. Since winning a 150,000
euro grant during the Global Change Award in 2017, Mestic has turned its
focus to upscaling the pulping-method to process manure on an industrial
scale and ensure consistent quality of dissolving grade cellulose pulp.

In addition, Mestic is set to launch a
pulping scale-up pilot in 2018, after obtaining permits, moving to a new
facility, adding new teams members as well as a government grant following
the Global Change Award. “Mestic has the potential to make a range of
cellulose products such as paper, cardboard, plastic, and textile. Through
the Global Change Award we understood we needed focus,” said Jalila
Essaidi, designer and founder of Mestic. “We received insight into the
textile market and industry and helped us confirm and identify there is a
true need for a sustainable source of regenerated-cellulose fiber. More
important, their network gave us insight in preferred technologies and the
willingness of existing industry when it comes to incorporating potentially
disruptive innovation. All these insights helped shape top-level decisions
and made our future roadmap more concrete.”

Orange Fiber –
Citrus peel fiber

One of the most innovative ideas from the Global
Change Awards first cycle stemmed from Orange Fiber. Created by Enrica
Arena, Moreno Petrulli. Adriana Santanocito and Franceso Virlinzi, the
initiative uses by-products from citrus juice production to create a
silk-like, cellulose and biodegradable yarn. The yarn can used alone to to
make a light-weight, soft and silky textile or blended with other
materials. Since winning a 150,000 grant from the Global Change Awards in
2016, Orange Fiber has established a partnership with a producer in Sicily
to supply itself with more raw materials such as citrus peels and is
currently exploring alternative partnerships for spinning its fibre to
scale up its production.

Orange Fiber also
caught the attention of luxury fashion house Salvatore Ferragamo, who
became the first company to use Orange Fiber fabrics in its collection for
Spring/Summer 2017. Salvatore Ferragamo used 10,000 thousand meters of
Orange Fiber fabric in the first ever public collection made from citrus
peel. “Thanks to the support received by the Global Change Award network,
we significantly moved forward with our R&D, laying a solid foundation for
the future of our company,” said Enrica Arena, co-founder of Orange Fiber.
“We have been exposed to opportunities of visibility and networking within
the fashion industry, that helped us develop our business model and product
better. The collaboration with the members of the H&M Foundation and with
other winners is still strong, supporting us throughout any phase of our
growth.”

AlgaeFabrics – growing textile fibre underwater

Another innovative winner of the 2016 Global Change Award was
AlgaeFabrics. Developed by entrepreneur Tjeerd Veenhoven, he sought out a
way to create an alternative raw material for textile out of algae, which
he noticed growing in abundance in oceans, lakes and canals around the
world. Algae does not require land or water which could be used for growing
food and can be taken from coastal regions around the world, making it a
global resource that also reduces the need for massive transportation.
Since winning a 150,000 euro grant in 2016, AlgaeFabrics has focused on
determining the quality and type of cellulose present in different types of
algae with partners in the Netherlands and Germany. Although the search for
the right type of filament to spin into a yarn is long, the team has
initiated the design of its first product, a knitted beanie, made algae and
other land-based cellulose via a 3D knitting machine.

Veenhoven also secured a grant to study the cultivation and harvest of
algae from the Dutch Government, and will launch an algae reactor which can
rapidly grow a specific algae strain to test the optimal conditions to grow
algae in April. Then once a purer version of the algae yarn is produced,
the company aims to reach out to potential partners in downstream
processes. “When I applied to the Global Change Award, my idea was still
really just a vision,” said Tjeerd Veenhoven, founder of AlgaeFabrics. “We
had done some desk research before, but after winning the award it has been
all about finding out if my idea could work out. I don’t think the
extensive research had been possible without the award.”*

Homepage photo: The winners of the 2017 Global Change Award, courtesy of
H&M Foundation.

Photo 1: Courtesy of Vegea

Photo 2: Courtesy of Content Thread

Photo 3: Courtesy of Mestic, by Mike Roelofs

Photo 4: Courtesy of Orange Fiber

Photo 5: Courtesy of AlgaeFabrics

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