Seattle startup Komposite is setting out to change the way we make clothes and has raised $500,000 to get off the ground. The new venture is led by Pablos Holman, an inventor and futurist who believes that modern technology can greatly reduce clothing’s environmental impact.
The fashion industry produces 20 percent of global wastewater and eight percent of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the UN. And the U.S. is the largest consumer, importing $121 billion worth of textiles each year.
“When we look at the apparel industry, what we see is a lot of opportunities to do things better,” said Holman. “It turns out that by changing the way that the business works, you can solve a lot of the problems that exist.”
Holman was an early employee at Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin aerospace venture and worked with former Microsoft executive Nathan Myhrvold to help establish the Intellectual Ventures Lab. As a public speaker, Holman has given TED talks ranging from printing food to automation.
Komposite wants to radically rethink how clothing is produced and distributed. The classic model involves creating a garment overseas, shipping it to a warehouse in the U.S., selling online and in stores, and throwing out whatever doesn’t move.
Holman said this kind of “speculative manufacturing” will always have waste because it assumes what people want before orders have been placed. With Komposite, “we literally never make a product until it’s already sold,” he said.
Part of what makes that possible is the fact that Komposite won’t be dying anything. Colors and patterns will be digitally printed onto the clothing, avoiding the time, waste and expense that goes into dying clothes.
This isn’t Holman’s first crack at clothing. He also co-founded Bombsheller, which makes graphic leggings for women. Holman described Bombsheller, which is being shut down, as a “proof of concept” for Komposite.
“We’re going to take some of the lessons learned working on Bombsheller and use that same on-demand manufacturing model,” Holman said. Komposite will borrow Bombsheller’s approach to clothing production, but the brand, marketing and strategy will be different.
Komposite will make streetwear and activewear, such as tank tops, t-shirts, hoodies and leggings. The startup plans to use the internet’s wealth of semi-famous influencers to do brand collaborations with people who are looking to build their own brands.
The company is based in Seattle and will produce clothing in Los Angeles. While Seattle is far from a fashion hub, the city has given rise to many sustainability-focused companies. Another startup in the city focused on clothing is Evrnu, which last week raised $9.1 million for technology that takes discarded clothing and converts it into renewable fiber.
Komposite employs four people and plans to raise more money in the next year. “Our plan is to be the world’s biggest apparel company. But we’re currently the world’s smallest.” Holman joked.