Vaute's Leanne Mai-lay Hilgart and Nicora’s Stephanie Nicora, meeting with venture capitalists for their respective Series A funding is a new routine. Susi's Bianca Moran is initiating research and development in Piñatex, a leather made of pineapple, to supplement the recycled plastic she uses in her shoes. Until Piñatex is available in a grade appropriate for apparel, Delikate Rayne prefers mushroom leather as a water-repellant and biodegradable alternative to suede.
Innovative technology is elevating not only the materials supporting their designs but also their appeal to a mainstream audience, in particular investors.
“You lead with the beautiful product but you lean on the high tech if you want money,” said Nicora, who sources recycled textiles for her Los Angeles-made footwear from the same Massachusetts-based factory that sells to Mercedes-Benz and BMW. “The regular fashion industry is like your grandma’s Buick. But this is Tesla.”
Hilgart, who opened an early round of funding to her customers, aims to attract institutional investors who can fund a factory dedicated to manufacturing her clothes in the Midwest. The New York designer has channeled the potential of vegan fashion, offering swimwear made of fibers from recycled carpets and exploring bridal gowns in satin spun from recycled plastic bottles. “Luxury is innovation,” she said.
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