Fit 4 Start is propelling 16 tech startups into the next steps of their development. For Vestis Labs, the programme prompted the creation of a circular economy fashion brand spin off. Silicon Luxembourg talked to Fonny Bunjamin of graduating company Vestis Labs.
Fast fashion and its carbon intensive supply chain are the fourth-biggest polluter after food and construction. After a 15-year career of working with designers on planning and merchandising for brands like Burberry, Karen Millen and Stella McCartney, entrepreneur Fonny Bunjamin knows first hand how wasteful fast fashion is.
When establishing her business, Vestis Labs, in 2021, she chose to focus on one part of the fast fashion machine: the sampling process.
“To produce one garment, on average brands create five physical samples and sometimes there are color variations and fabric variations. The amount of waste created by this process is immense, it is also very costly and consuming,” Bunjamin explains, adding: “Especially as most of the manufacturers or the samplers are in Asia, while you’re in Europe, and it goes back and forth.”
Bunjamin set out to streamline this process by creating a 3D, cloud-based platform for small and medium-sized fashion brands to digitise their product development process. “Imagine if you’re a designer, all you need to do is upload the design on the platform and we will create digital prototypes and we will conduct virtual fitting until you get the accurate measurement, as well as digital samples that you can use for many purposes for production for sales and marketing and also for web3 application,” says Bunjamin.
“You can order online and then our partner will create the product for you and ship it directly to the customers […]”Fonny Bunjamin, Founder & CEO of Vestis Labs
To demonstrate the effectiveness of the technology to brands, Vestis Labs created Uthentic, a pilot circular economy brand which they hope to launch in September. Items are manufactured on demand, to avoid overproduction (overproduction of clothing being a significant contributor to pollution).
The brand uses the digital development process created by Vestis Labs to reduce sampling and so far it has created a single sample for each item in the first drop: a top and bottom made from virgin wool manufactured on a hand loom in Italy.
“It’s circular because we have a repair programme,” explains Bunjamin, adding: “The virgin wool can be recycled, the elastic in the joggers is biodegradable and the packaging is all biodegradable.”
Furthermore, consumers can view the complete list of suppliers by scanning a QR code on the label. The items will be manufactured in a family-run small workshop in Italy, in line with the brand’s values to support design and craftsmanship of the fashion industry.
“You can order online and then our partner will create the product for you and ship it directly to the customers so that we reduce the shipping back and forth,” says Bunjamin.
Eventually, Bunjamin says she will launch Uthentic as an official spin-off. In the meantime, Vestis Labs is seeking angel funding to get it off the ground. Bunjamin reckons that the fashion industry is improving, when it comes to its environmental impact but progress is slow, “because it is complex and costly. That’s why we are here to make these changes, slowly but surely.”