Queen of Raw – Transforming the Fashion Industry to Protect People and the Planet
The fashion industry is deeply unsustainable. Every year, it creates almost 100 million tons of textile waste, which ends up in landfill or incinerated – emitting even more CO2, as well as toxic gases. It also consumes around 93 billion cubic metres of water, producing almost one fifth of the entire planet’s wastewater.
For the next instalment of our podcast on the Circular Economy, we spoke to Stephanie Benedetto, founder of Queen of Raw, a marketplace for clothing manufacturers to buy and sell sustainable and deadstock fabrics and textiles. Stephanie sees vast potential in transforming the fashion industry: “If we can flip the way it does stuff,” she says, “we could solve some of these real-world problems.”
According to Stephanie, $120 billion worth of unused inventory is wasted each year. “I knew it didn’t make sense for people and planet, but these figures show that it doesn’t make sense in terms of profit, either,” she explains. “This can eat up up to 15 percent of a business's bottom line in a year.”
Queen of Raw uses blockchain and machine learning technology to connect unused inventory to prospective buyers around the world. One one side, the company helps businesses understand their unused inventory. “This stuff is sitting in warehouses or it's on some Excel spreadsheet on somebody's desktop and nobody knows why there's all this waste,” says Stephanie. With Queen of Raw, businesses can put their stock into one digital repository, where they can see everything in real time. On the other side, the stock is market matched and sold to the platform’s global network. “Based on buying and selling across Queen of Raw, we can start to create really valuable information and intelligent analyses,” explains Stephanie. Interestingly, with recent supply chain disruptions caused by global events, they’ve also seen major enterprise customers buying unused deadstock as well as selling it.
To deal with the sheer volume of stock, Queen of Raw automates part of the process of onboarding, which is what they call new textiles and fabrics added to the marketplace. This digitisation allows them to provide businesses with valuable data and analytics about their stock. “Through partnerships with SAP and other inventory management systems, we can actually automate the process of finding out what they have in inventory and unused waste, and send that information to our marketplace quickly, easily and digitally. And then over time, we start to help them minimize those waste streams,” explains Stephanie.
Stephanie and her co-founder first started mapping out the idea for Queen of Raw in 2014. Before launching the company in 2018, they spent a lot of time learning about their potential customers and the problems they face. They started quickly and simply with a website and marketplace featuring a small selection of products for sale. From there, they were able to start capturing and learning from the demand, which informed the push to build up supply – using tech tools to automate the process of onboarding. She assumed that Queen of Raw would be used to sell scraps from the cutting room floor. Instead, they’ve seen over 100,000 SKUs (stock keeping units), some of which comprise up to a million yards of unused inventory.
For Stephanie, circularity is not just about connecting buyers and sellers of materials that would otherwise go to waste – it’s about empowering businesses to understand their production processes and inventory, so that they can make decisions that have a positive impact on their bottom line – as well as on people and the environment.
Her ultimate goal, however, is that the marketplace she’s working so hard to build eventually becomes obsolete. Her vision for the future is that “everyone's got the software and tools and they've minimized their waste streams, and we solve the world's water crisis. And then I'll go tackle the next problem.”