The fashion industry is the culprit of many crimes, such as the exploitative labour conditions under which many of our clothes are made and the damaging impact that it is having on the environment. It is said to be the most polluting on earth after oil. It’s responsible for 10% of the world’s carbon footprint and nearly 20% of global wastewater, according to the United Nations.
But, it’s not all bad. Over the past decade, the industry has seen an influx of new fashion brands that are trying to decrease their carbon footprint, treat their workforce fairly and reduce waste.
The problem is, due to the oversaturated market, it can be hard for these brands to find a voice and let people know that they are out there. While there have been those that have succeeded—often through innovative and aggressive social media campaigns—others struggle to become established, as being sustainable doesn’t come cheap.
Amsterdam-based Project Cece is trying to make ethical fashion more accessible to conscious consumers. Founded in 2017, Project Cece deploys an online aggregator to collect products from sustainable clothing brands, big and small, to help shoppers make fair choices and choose sustainability easily.
“The market for fair fashion is characterized by small, relatively unknown brands and shoppers that are struggling to find them.” Project Cece co-founder Noor Veenhoven.
The start-up, which is currently active in Germany and the Netherlands, was founded by Noor Veenhoven and sisters Melissa and Marcella Wijngaarden while they were just students. They had been bootstrapping the company up until April 2019, when they raised 50,000 euros in a funding round from ASIF Ventures, a student-run VC that invests in young and student entrepreneurs. With the new funding, Project Cece is now gearing up to launch in the UK.
“This is what student entrepreneurship is all about,” said Saskia Verstege, director of ASIF Ventures. “Starting from nothing but a problem and the motivation to solve it. With no resources and limited know-how, the founders fought each step of the way to get here. We are excited to provide the first funding for Project Cece and help them grow even further.”
Project Cece now features over 300 brands and more than 20,000 items, making them the largest online search engine for fair and sustainable fashion in Europe.
Their expansion comes at an opportune moment, as consumers start to place sustainability at high importance when making decisions on what to buy. Now that people are becoming increasingly aware of the wasteful and environmentally damaging practices of “fast fashion” brands like H&M and Zara, we are likely to see a huge shift towards value-driven consumption.
The UK is guilty of perpetuating fast fashion but is also the breeding ground for a lot of new and innovative fashion brands built on sustainability. A recent study showed that 55% of Brits would rather not buy from an unsustainable brand—this is just one of the reasons why the three founders chose the UK for their next stage of expansion.
As our environmental conscience continues to develop, an easy-to-use platform like Project CeCe could be exactly what consumers need to help take sustainability mainstream.