Sustainable innovation could be the future of fashion, and women are subtly leading the way.
Despite their general lack of representation in the venture capital field – representing just 15% of general partners, according to PitchBook – women are upping the ante in sustainable fashion investments through the community.
Alante Capital is a women-led venture capital fund and advisory platform that supports innovative technologies that address climate change and enable a resilient and sustainable future for apparel production and retail. The company was founded in 2016 by finance and supply chain veterans Karla Mora and Leslie Harwell, who met through mutual contact at JP Morgan. Taking advantage of the “big opportunity” for innovation in Mora’s words, the investment firm covers bases on the East Coast, or Litchfield County, Connecticut, where Harwell is based, and on the West Coast, where Mora works from her office in downtown Santa Catarina. . Barbara, but is investing globally. The Alante team (which also has Eileen Fisher as a partner) is just warming up.
His “Innovation Community” – featuring Lululemon, Lilly Pulitzer and Chico’s, among others – is one such project on the move.
“When we started, the main misconception was that you can’t get market rate returns if you’re focused on impact and sustainability,” co-founder and general partner Karla Mora told WWD. “Leslie and I have built an evidence base, independently and now together, that shows this need not be the case. Finding scalable solutions to an industry’s existential challenges is exciting and rewarding work – and it’s an exciting time to be at the forefront of aligning financial returns with impact.”
Alante is helping to solve some of fashion’s biggest problems, whether it’s reducing reliance on virgin materials, driving fashion’s circular economy, or tackling the gigantic challenge of overproduction. This includes investing in raw material cyclers like Circ and Novoloop (the latter with a recent infusion of $11 million capital from investors including Alante), funding alternatives to synthetic materials like biodegradable polymer maker Mango Materials and seaweed-powered Sway (also a finalist in the Tom Ford Plastic Innovation Prize), as well as unlocking resale and rental opportunities from brands such as Flyp, Treet, Lizee or ZZ Driggs.
Combating overproduction in supply chains is another explicit goal of companies like Indyx, as is improving supply chain efficiency at startup Fit:Match.
While a portfolio has to represent the real needs of the market, founders should not be overlooked. “In terms of what we admire in founders, there are a lot of technical skills that are company or industry specific – but often soft skills are what really make founders stand out to us,” explained Mora, saying that resilience is key. feature. “We started Alante at a difficult time for startup success and it was inspiring to see how these resourceful thinkers repositioned their companies, discovered more efficient processes and found new ways to meet customer needs in a rapidly evolving retail environment. environment. We also like to talk openly about failures and shortcomings, and frankly, it’s a green flag for us in pitching. The willingness to be honest and vulnerable from the start is a good sign of self-awareness, which we see as a critical component to success.”
Leveraging its expertise to build what it calls an “Innovation Community”, Alante’s invite group includes thought leaders (as well as investors) at various stages of their corporate sustainability journeys. The goal is to come together to strategize about “systemic change in your industry”, in Harwell’s words. Lululemon, Oxford Industries (which includes Lilly Pulitzer, Tommy Bahama, Southern Tide) Chico’s FAS, Eileen Fisher, Mara Hoffman, Bemis Associates and Outerknown are already part of the new community.
One of Alante’s first advisors, Kate Dillon Levin, joined the team to lead the Innovation Community. Levin has worked in carbon finance and impact investing for the past decade, after transitioning through the ranks of famous 90s fashion models.
“It’s always been important for us to remain pragmatic, which means we listen a lot,” said Harwell. “We launched our Innovation Community when we realized that our knowledge base and perspective – after five years of observation, listening, research and analysis – can also provide a solution to the strategic needs of companies in the ecosystem.”
Impact investors want to help scale and evolve their portfolio companies over time, and Alante intends to lead with relationships for impact. Inviting more advocates – apparel brands, start-ups, investors or others – to participate. Mora added: “It takes an ecosystem of actors working together to bring about systemic change.”