The textile industry is the second most polluting in the world, contributing 10 per cent of the emissions leading to the climate crisis.
However, it is also the one aiming to become circular and sustainable.
It’s a gargantuan effort to turn the fashion industry into a circular business, but there are a number of startups racing to make it possible.
With the Netherlands leading the charge on creating a sustainable and circular economy, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that some of the startups making a dent in the fashion industry are Dutch.
One such startup is Amsterdam-based tex.tracer, which is creating a transparent fashion ecosystem.
On Tuesday, the Dutch startup announced that it has raised €1.5M in growth capital from ROM InWest, HearstLab Europe, Joanna Invests, and other angel investors.
Bringing transparency is a challenge regardless of the industry, but tex.tracer wants to increase innovations to industrial size to transform the textile and fashion industry.
A SaaS platform for transparency
In order to create a transparent fashion ecosystem, the startup has built a SaaS transparency platform.
The tex.tracer platform enables retailers, fashion, and textile brands to take action based on the true data to meet the EU Net Zero goals by 2050.
At the root of the textile industry being polluting is the fact that over 60 per cent of garments are made of synthetic fibres, which causes GHG emissions during production and while in use.
An estimated 20 per cent of clean water is used and polluted during dyeing and finishing of fashion products, making the challenge even bigger.
While one can tackle the manufacturing process itself, tex.tracer aims to bring transparency to the supply side of the business.
We are now increasingly seeing the likes of Apple, Samsung, and other OEMs focusing on making their suppliers adhere to their own ESG goals.
The tex.tracer platform is bringing real transparency in the supply chain. It also helps companies become compliant with new rules and legislations such as the EPR, CSRD, and Digital Product Passport.
As supply chain transparency becomes a requirement in Europe, tex.tracer helps retailers, fashion, and textile brands become compliant.
Increase innovations to industrial size
As a textile engineer, Kooi has over 20 years experience in fashion development and production. Having seen the industry across its entire value chain, she started tex.tracer with Bart Westerman as an impact startup and to be the changemaker in the fashion industry.
She does not hold back when it comes to the fashion industry. “There are interesting options to reduce emissions, but most are small-scale solutions,” she says before driving attention towards the need to increase innovations to industrial size.
In other words, she is calling for more investment in solutions from alternative materials to alternative revenue models for retailers.
In 2021, Lieke Pijpers, co-founder of The Next Closet, said there is a need for consumers to reuse their clothes to keep clothings items in circulation for longer.
Kooi wants to drive attention towards improving the R-strategy by “reducing and refusing more and creating more high-end options for reuse and recycling.”
As an industry, she sees a need to enable consumers to make better decisions. “That’s why we focus on creating insight for the industry as well as the consumer,” she adds.
Data is the new oil
While ‘data is the new oil’ metaphor gets thrown around a lot, the tex.tracer platform truly turns data into a resource as valuable as oil.
At the heart of this platform is reliable insights that allows the fashion industry to collaborate and make educated decisions. It also connects brands with suppliers and other stakeholders.
Kooi says, “From raw material to warehousing, suppliers submit product journey data directly into the platform.”
Once they submit the data, tex.tracer uses time and geolocation stamps, peer-to-peer reviews, and blockchain technology to verify data at different levels.
In essence, tex.tracer makes it easier for brands and retailers to act based on facts that will allow them to meet net zero goals.
Most brands and retailers probably never had access to this verified data that takes both environmental and social factors into account.
Kooi says when they first trialled the platform four years ago, the initial response was positive. However, it took the industry some time to see the real value of verified data.
She adds that companies initially believed they had “sufficient information” without taking into account the supply chain spanning from raw material and dyeing to sewing.
“Nowadays, companies more-and-more understand that verified data from the primary supplier is a must-have to enable them to act based on facts and create real change,” she adds.
A changed investment landscape
In an environment where investors are focusing on profitability over impact, the funding announcement from tex.tracer shows the need for its platform.
Kooi says they began conversation regarding this funding round well ahead of the end of their runway. “This allowed us to have in-depth conversations with potential investors,” she says.
The result is not only an investment from ROM InWest and others but also an opportunity for tex.tracer to expand its business internationally.
“The investment landscape has changed since we first started,” she says, adding, “this resulted in a longer time to close this round.”
The whole process, according to Kooi, has helped them to strengthen its proposition and now aims to use the funding to automate its business and prepare for international growth.
If there is one thing common between tex.tracer and many other startups is the challenge of attracting the right talent.
“Attracting the right team with the right mindset,” says Kooi when asked about the biggest challenge.
Despite the challenge, Kooi and Westerman have built a diverse and majority female startup.
“The right team is a diverse team, both in knowledge, character as well as gender,” Kooi explains.
“Women need to dare to think big,” she adds. “And bluntly create ‘old girls networks’ to connect with and inspire each other.”
With a task as big as climbing Mount Everest, Kooi already has big plans for tex.tracer.
The startup is looking to go for Series A funding sometime next year and it also wants to expand its platform data from production to use-phase.
“The goal is to extend product lifetime and increase value throughout a product’s lifetime,” teases Kooi without sharing additional details.
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