Clotho London

Clotho London: Sustainable Fashion

United KingdomUnited Kingdom
Year Founded:
2014
Organization type: 
hybrid
Project Stage:
Start-Up
Budget: 
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

An online clothes recycling service. Send us your old clothes by post and receive a discount to spend on other second-hand clothes in our online shop.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if everyone bought clothes in a sustainable way?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

350,000 tonnes of used clothing goes to landfill in the UK every year. The annual footprint of a household’s clothes is equivalent to the carbon emissions from driving a car for 6,000 miles. Over 5% of the UK’s total annual carbon footprint results from clothing consumption. Our addiction to fast fashion is terrible for the planet, yet our demand for new clothes is ferocious - accounting for around 5% of the UK’s total annual retail expenditure.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Clotho is a clothing recycling service that solves this problem. We prevent clothes from going to landfill, and dissuade young women (16-30) from buying cheap new clothes, by providing them with a way to recycle their unwanted items of clothing and buy other clothes in a sustainable way. Customers can send us items of clothing that they no longer want by post, free of charge. They then receive a discount voucher to spend in our shop, where we sell second-hand, vintage and upcycled items of clothing. We are making sustainable fashion fun and enjoyable for our customers so that environmentally friendly fashion becomes the norm.

Awards

Mayor of London Low Carbon Award
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

We aim to dramatically reduce the number of clothes sent to landfill in the UK. Drawing on the principles of the circular economy, we want to prevent clothes going to landfill by re-using and re-purposing them. By encouraging the re-wear and re-purposing of textiles the demand for new textiles will be reduced. This will limit textile manufacturing processes, which require vast quantities of water, fuel, and a variety of environmentally damaging chemicals. We are using social media to build a brand that makes environmentally friendly fun and accessible for young women, so that recycling clothes is as easy and enjoyable as possible for our consumers.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

So far we have: Saved >5000 items from landfill Sent almost 1000 items to new owners Donated >4000 items to charity / textiles recycling on behalf of our customers Up-cycled ~30 items into new outfits at our clothes hackathon event Allowed 150 young women to take part in the exchange In the future we hope to make clothes recycling even easier for our customers, so that is becomes a natural habit. We also want to promote other sustainable lifestyle habits to our consumers. Over the coming years we would like to think about further ways we can contribute to make the fashion industry more environmentally friendly by "closing the loop". This could involve exploring the use of new materials (eg. making clothes from renewable materials), business model innovations (such as incorporating renting clothes) or changing consumer behaviour (owning fewer items and wearing for longer).

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

As we move forward our strategies are. 1. Build partnerships in the UK that help us to scale our clothes collection & recycling service... 2. ...and then work out how to expand our service across Europe. 3. Build a brand through a strong and engaging company mission that resonates with our customers. We understand that not everyone is as passionate about environmental issues as we are and so we want to spread our message in a way that will capture the attention of many people. We plan to do this by building a service that makes our customers' lives easier, better, and more fun.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

We have received £50K of investment to date from a start-up accelerator, and also some grant money. This has allowed us to get the business off the ground and experiment with our business model. We are now looking to become financially sustainable by selling enough clothes to cover our business costs. Once we have achieved this goal we believe that we will then be in a strong position to accept further investment to grow the company.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Clothes recycling can already be done through charity shops, eBay, or a limited number of clothes swapping websites. However these solutions are not being used by enough people and so Clotho aims to offer a better alternative that will persuade more people to adopt this behaviour. We think that the barrier to people using these existing services is that it requires more time and effort. Clotho aims to make the second hand purchasing experience convenient and enjoyable, comparable to buying things from a traditional retail store.
Team

Founding Story

We are university friends from Imperial College where we worked together as chemistry lab partners. When we graduated last summer we decided to turn down our corporate and academic job offers to start a sustainable business together. We hit upon the idea for Clotho as it was a solution to our own problem. We noticed that we both had piles of clothes in our wardrobes that we didn't wear and that our shopping habits were neither ethical or environmentally friendly. We thought there must be a better way to enjoy fashion and so have spent the past 12 months building Clotho into the solution to this problem.

Team

Caroline has been an advocate of social & environmental issues since she was a teenager. Whilst at university she founded and established the student focal point for social & environmental action, Imperial Hub. She also founded and organised the London Climate Forum, the biggest conference of its kind in the UK. The extent of her extra-curricular work was recognised upon being awarded the outstanding achievement award for contribution to student life. Caroline uses her sustainability knowledge and business skills to look after business strategy, partnerships & supply. Vivien comes from an entrepreneurial family and learnt first-hand what it takes to start and run a business whilst she was growing up. This allowed her to understand what is required for a business to succeed from a young age. She uses her creative talents to market Clotho with a unique voice, in a way that is engaging for our customers. She looks after marketing & operations.
Background
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

Participated in the Ben & Jerry's Join Our Core competition in 2014

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:

Co-founder

Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

Responsible Consumption and Production, Climate Action.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

Caroline was one of the founders of Imperial Hub, the focal point of social and environmental action at Imperial College. She also founded and ran the first London Climate Forum - the biggest students led conference on climate change in the UK. Furthermore, both Caroline & Vivien are participants of the Climate-KIC greenhouse programme for climate focused entrepreneurs. Caroline also attended Climate KIC's 5-week summer school on entrepreneurship where she worked on a platform for crowdfunding renewable energy. She worked on this project with her team for 1 year following the summer school programme.

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

Nicola Millson - Climate KIC coach. Expert on sustainable business model innovation.
Alex Theophanous - Advisor and founder of e-commerce site Alex & Alexa.

randomness