If you've bought any adaptive clothing recently (especially from Christina Stephens) chances are you've seen AirRobe at checkout. Hannon Comazzetto is the Founder and powerhouse behind the circular wardrobe movement, and we had a little chat with her to find out more about this female-founded company making big waves in ecommerce.
What was the inspiration for AirRobe?
The inspiration for AirRobe came together after a few different experiences. But the major one was years ago when I was consulting to a major fashion house on an M&A project and I found out just how devastating the fashion industry is in our world. I became really interested in the huge waste problem facing the fashion industry. And similar to lots of others, since the collapse of the Rana Plaza clothing manufacturing complex in Bangladesh in 2013, which killed over 1,000 workers - the world began to wake up to the dangers of buying cheap clothes.
I saw a huge gap in the market for solutions that simultaneously helps fashion brands to be part of the solution to the waste problem but in a way that takes care of their bottom line. So I set out to build a platform that would make it easy and profitable for fashion brands and their customers to join the circular fashion economy and keep fashion out of landfill.
AirRobe was really born out of the belief that we can fix an industry that is the second most polluting industry in the world behind oil.
Fashion is responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions and 90 million tonnes of landfill waste annually. But the flip side of that is every time you buy one item that’s preloved, rather than new, you help increase that items life and curb carbon emissions.
There is a huge opportunity to transform one of the world’s biggest polluters into a model for sustainability. We believe the solution is simple: a platform where the fashion industry, designers, consumers, charities / donation partners and recycling specialists can work together as a community to create this new circular economy.
Any funny / interesting stories about start up life?
Too many! Startup life is a whirlwind. In the early days it is a job where you wear every hat and are constantly context-switching from tiny little tasks to major decisions that could make or break the company. For the first several months of AirRobe I was on my own. I would take calls from customers who would ask to speak to the Business Development team or the Customer Service team. I would say “hang on I will connect you now”, and then put the phone down for a few seconds before picking it back up and saying “AirRobe customer success team, how can I help?”.
What's been your biggest challenge (in AirRobe or business generally)?
Leaving the corporate world and a steady job to start something ambitious and unproven was a real challenge. But it was a decision that only ages better with time. Today my biggest challenge is focusing on working on what is most important for moving the business forwards while having a million balls in the air.
With so many competing priorities you need to learn to lean into the chaos and stay centred.
What's been your greatest triumph (in AirRobe or business generally)?
We have had some epic wins at AirRobe in the last 12 months. But the highlight of my job is bringing in whip-smart people who believe in our mission of fixing the fashion industry. Seeing these amazing and talented folks come and join the fight and giving it their all is a feeling that remains unrivalled.
AirRobe has an obvious focus on sustainability. How do you practise these sustainability ideals in your personal life?
When AirRobe was up and running I decided I needed to live and breathe preloved fashion - so I made a commitment to only buy second-hand. It’s been really fun and a great way to stay in touch as a customer and user of secondhand marketplaces to only buy from them. I’ve found many a great bargain!
International Women's Day theme this year is #BreakTheBias. Any comments / reflections / experiences you would like to share around this?
The startup ecosystem is heavily male dominated, particularly when it comes to raising capital.
The amount of global venture capital that went to female-only founded companies in 2021 was 2%. AirRobe sits in that bucket, and proudly.
Seeing these stats can be disheartening - but I think about all of the talented females I’m surrounded by, in the ecosystem and even within AirRobe where we have a number of supremely talented female leaders. I know the pool of talented female founders is deep - a lot deeper than the numbers show. For me, breaking the bias is about shattering that barrier to unleash that talent on the world. We are doing it - the numbers are improving - and I know it will only get better as so many talented women fight through and follow their dreams.
What's next for AirRobe?
Bringing together all parts of the fashion ecosystem - shoppers, brands, manufacturers and designers - to build a circular network that rivals the primary fashion market and passes the mantle to ecommerce.