Women-led venture capital firms are driving sustainability in fashion

Sustainable innovations can be the future of fashion and women subtly lead the charge.

Despite their general lack of representation in the realm of venture capital – which according to PitchBook accounts for only 15% of general shareholders – women are raising the stakes in investing in sustainable fashion across the community.

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Alante Capital is one of these women-led venture capital funds and advisory platforms that support innovative technologies that address climate change and enable a resilient and sustainable future for apparel manufacturing and retail. The company was founded in 2016 by financial and supply chain veterans Karla Mora and Leslie Harwell, who met through mutual contact at JP Morgan. Seizing the “big opportunity,” for innovation in Mora’s words, the company covers bases on the East Coast, or Litchfield County, Connecticut, where Harwell is based, and the West Coast, where Mora works from her office in downtown. Santa Barbara. Alante’s team (which also has Eileen Fisher as a partner) is just warming up.

His “Community of Innovation” – which includes Lululemon, Lilly Pulitzer and Chico’s among others – is one such moving project.

“When we started, the main misconception was that you can’t get market rate returns if you focus on impact and sustainability,” co-founder and partner general Karla Mora told WWD. “Leslie and I have built a foundation of evidence, independently and now together, which proves that it doesn’t have to be. Finding scalable solutions to an industry’s existential challenges is an interesting and rewarding job, and an exciting time to be at the forefront of aligning financial returns with impact. “

Alante is helping solve some of fashion’s big problems, whether it’s reducing dependence on virgin materials, fueling the circular fashion economy, or tackling the mammoth challenge of overproduction. This includes investing in commodity upcycling cyclists such as Circ and Novoloop (which boasts a recent $ 10 million capital injection from Alante), financing alternatives to synthetic materials such as Mango Materials, manufacturer of biodegradable polymers and seaweed-fueled Sway (also finalist in the Tom Ford Plastic Innovation Prize), as well as unlocking resale and rental opportunities with brands like Flyp, Treet, Lizee or ZZ Driggs.

Fighting overproduction in supply chains is another explicit goal of companies like Indyx, as is improving supply chain efficiency with the Fit: Match startup.

While a portfolio must represent the actual needs of the market, the founders must not be overlooked. “In terms of what we admire about founders, there are a lot of company or industry specific technical skills, but often soft skills are what really set the founders apart,” Mora explained, saying resilience is the main feature. “We started Alante at a difficult time for start-up success and it was inspiring to see how these resourceful thinkers have repositioned their companies, identified more efficient processes and found new ways to meet customer needs in a retail sale. rapidly changing environment detail. We are also great at talking openly about failures and shortcomings, and frankly it is a green flag for us in the fields. The willingness to be honest and vulnerable from the start is a good sign of self-awareness, which we consider a fundamental component of success. “

Leveraging its expertise to build what it calls its “Innovation Community,” Alante’s invited group includes thought leaders (as well as investors) at various stages of their corporate sustainability journeys. The goal is to come together to define a strategy on “systemic change in their 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 consultants, Kate Dillon Levin, joined the team to lead the Innovation Community. Levin has worked in carbon finance and impact investing for the past decade, having moved down the ranks of the famous fashion models of the 1990s.

“It has 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 observing, listening, researching and analyzing, can also provide a solution to the strategic needs of companies in the ecosystem.”

Impact investors are eager to help scale and evolve their portfolio companies over time, and Alante aims to lead with relationships to generate impact. Invite more supporters – apparel brands, start-ups, investors or otherwise – to participate. Mora added: “We need an ecosystem of actors working together to bring about systemic change.”

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