WWD Digital Daily

Queen of Raw Gives Life to Fashion’s Deadstock


Queen of Raw works with everyone from independen­t designers to fast-fashion brands and luxury maisons helping to

“map, measure and trace” their deadstock textiles — resulting in up to 15 percent off their bottom line in cost savings.

Today’s “business as usual” approach relegates 73 percent of the world’s clothing to landfills, according to the Pulse of the Fashion Industry report completed by the Global Fashion Agenda and Boston Consulting Group in 2017. Putting a number to it, an estimated $120 billion worth of unused textiles are sitting idle.

That staggering amount of waste coaxed native New Yorker Stephanie Benedetto and Phil Derasmo from jobs on Wall Street to cofound and formally launch Queen of Raw in 2018.

When not playing “matchmaker” between inventory (which would otherwise be burned, landfilled or wasted) and buyers in its online managed marketplac­e, Queen of Raw is capturing the “dark data” behind the world’s deadstock using technology such as its blockchain-enabled software platform, machine learning and tools such as the Higg Index.

Joining the company in its waste reduction mission are partners and clients such as Launch.org (including NASA, Nike, Ikea and Dell); WeWork

(the company won the top prize at the Nashville WeWork Creator Awards last September); Techstars; MIT-Solve (the company was recently a winner of the global circular economy challenge), and Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network (a nonprofit in partnershi­p with Aveda, Kering and Stella McCartney).

As far as what she sees in the future, activated by a tumultuous geopolitic­al climate including increasing costs of raw material, energy and labor and the impact of tariffs, Benedetto said, “I believe deadstock is the answer in the future.”

Here, Benedetto talks about her history with textiles, why they started Queen of Raw — and how you might one day be able to “feel” a fabric through your phone.

WWD: With a 100-year-old family history in the textile industry, what are you doing differentl­y? Stephanie Benedetto: In many ways what we’re doing with Queen of Raw is powered by their business model.

My great-grandfathe­r came over on a ship from Austria, landed at Ellis Island, and he settled into the Lower East Side, which was the original Garment District. He was an immigrant chasing the American dream.

He would find materials and supplies nearby: old furs, and fabrics from clothes that people weren’t using anymore, repurpose it by hand into beautiful fashion garments with minimal waste and minimal toxins because his bottom dollar depended on it, and he sold to local customers. It was an incredibly profitable, successful business. It made sense for people, It made sense for the planet and it absolutely made sense for profit.

Today’s supply chains are much more complicate­d across the globe. I loved the industry but I disliked all the waste it produced. I figured there had to be a better way and could we use technology like global marketplac­es, software, blockchain, and machine learning to get back to the way my great-grandfathe­r did business.

WWD: That’s interestin­g that you use technology to go back to the “old way” of doing things but making it better.

S.B.: Yes, I’m always surprised when we go to our customers — which are some of the biggest brands and retailers in the world — to see a lot of times they’re managing their inventory, whether it’s pre-raw materials or finished goods, with Excel spreadshee­ts and department­s that have hand-written notes and inevitably there are going to be errors in that.

Now there are better ways and tools to deliver real returns that can help save them money and make them money. There’s no reason to have to still use those Excel spreadshee­ts.

WWD: Can you tell me more about those tools and how the technology works? S.B.: We built the marketplac­e as a managed marketplac­e, a platform for businesses small to large to buy and sell their unused textiles. It’s global. As we were building it was important that this was not just a Shopify web site — this would not work for this industry.

One of the biggest challenges we had when we first started working with these enterprise customers was we didn’t know what they had in pre- and post-consumer waste. We realized very quickly we had to build some tools to help them identify waste in real-time in their supply chain and we can do that in a variety of ways.

We can take those Excel spreadshee­ts that have errors in them and upload them into our cloud-based software and start to identify and catch where are the errors and discrepanc­ies in waste. We can also integrate with any of their existing inventory management systems, PLM systems and do a data push-pull to start, to categorize and identify the data.

WWD: What are some of those standardiz­ations and data points that you really look to?

S.B.: We have the business-to-consumer marketplac­e that you see on Queenofraw. com but we also serve business to business. And when you’re dealing with that you need to know what is this fabric, where does it come from, what is it made of, are there any testing or sustainabi­lity certificat­ions ascribed to it, where does it go to? These are touchpoint­s in data that were previously dark data in the old school ways of just a jobber or traditiona­l middleman.

WWD: So you help to identify the waste, monetize that waste?

S.B.: Yes, and we haven’t gotten to the third piece. So now we’ve identified the waste, we’ve given them an active platform where we monetize the waste, and it isn’t just about posting product on a web site. You need tools to be matchmakin­g [deadstock inventory] to potential buyers.

The ultimate goal with Queen of Raw is you can find everything you need, when you need it, at the right price, located where your manufactur­ing is. No more shipping all over the world.

WWD: What other partners help map, measure and trace the world’s deadstock? S.B.: Integral to this process is understand­ing the key players who are sitting on this inventory.

It’s about connecting the dots between all these players who were never connected in the digital space. Some of the fast-fashion players have thousands of suppliers. Of course, not every factory may be key and need to participat­e, but if they see value in it, which we believe they do, then they can opt-in.

WWD: You’re taking the opaqueness out of the textile industry.

S.B.: And there’s so much you can do with this informatio­n now. When we see certain behaviors within a brand or retailer’s own supply chain, we can then start to help them make intelligen­t prediction­s about how to minimize their waste streams going forward.

For example, you see in our database every time [a brand] sends a certain [contractor] fabric. [If the contractor] only ends up using half, then [the brand] has half to sell. OK, next time only sell [that contractor] half.

Or this particular fabric always ends up with extra waste, then maybe that particular fabric isn’t what your customer wants.

These kinds of things that you may not have seen in your supply chain before.

WWD: How do you define

“deadstock” versus “sustainabl­e” versus “recycled” textiles?

S.B.: We take a very broad view of sustainabi­lity in our marketplac­e. For us, anything that is readily available that exists pursuant to an order that was made but goes unused — is deadstock.

This was already made, it’s sitting in a warehouse collecting dust or is going to be burned or sent to landfill. This includes all categories of fabrics and fibers. We do sell leathers and exotic skins on our platform, so we take a broad view.

For sustainabl­e fibers, by that I mean something that has an additional sustainabl­e property to it. It is recycled, repurposed; it uses a new manufactur­ing process; it minimizes water, toxins or energy; is made in a fair trade factory; is a new innovative fiber — we do have a category for that in our marketplac­e called “sustainabl­e,” but it’s still deadstock.

WWD: What other metrics do you look at?

S.B.: We are measuring the amount of tonnage of textile waste that we are diverting from the landfill, looking at the fiber compositio­n of what’s in the marketplac­e using the Higg Index and other tools of our own to see how the water impact and toxin levels compare to what’s created new as opposed to what already exists.

One of the criteria that we add on top of that is the shipping logistics because if we have a customer in New York that’s sourcing in New York instead of China, then we have those reduced carbon emissions.

WWD: Is there ever a point that you want to take this physical?

S.B.: We get that question a lot: “Will you warehouse and drop ship?” As a managed marketplac­e, we don’t physically store the goods but we do everything short of that.

The factories already have the inventory sitting there, I want to match it with one location instead of shipping it to another.

WWD: What is the value of textile trade shows today?

S.B.: We do partner with trade shows like Texworld, big fans — they have been wonderful supporters of ours and sustainabi­lity in general.

Of course, trade shows can be in the digital world now, but there is a value in bringing everyone together in one room for people to have active conversati­ons.

And they bring samples there, now what do they do with those samples? Well, we give them a platform for any deadstock that they have or any samples that they have so they don’t have to fly it all back around the world.

Another thing with a digital marketplac­e is you have trend rooms. Now imagine being able to shop the trends in real-time, sustainabl­y out of deadstock, and we can integrate with trade shows and do that as well. There are a lot of opportunit­ies for cross-synergies.

WWD: You’re working in a digital marketplac­e, how do people physically touch the goods?

S.B.: There are a lot of opportunit­ies there that we are exploring around how you can actually touch and feel fabric through the phone with a hardware piece that can actually mimic the hand and feel of a fabric by blowing air through the phone. There are also visualizat­ion tools with augmented reality and virtual reality. The technology is not quite there at the fiber level yet.

Unlike traditiona­l samples and swatches, the beauty of our platform is you actually get to test from the exact lot that your production run will come from.

To me, swatching is not only a very inefficien­t and costly process, but an unsustaina­ble process, and it doesn’t make business sense. This little square tells you nothing, and it doesn’t match what your production run is.

Green People is an ongoing series of articles spotlighti­ng individual­s who are leading the way in sustainabi­lity in the fashion, retail and beauty worlds.

 ??  ?? Queen of Raw’s Stephanie Benedetto at the WeWork Creator Awards.
Queen of Raw’s Stephanie Benedetto at the WeWork Creator Awards.

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