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Unspun custom built jeans
March 14, 2023

Background and Context

Founded in 2017, the San Francisco- and Hong Kong-based unspun aims to reduce global carbon emissions by one percent through automated, localized and intentional manufacturing. Its made-to-order business model helps eliminate standing inventory and returns, opens up the opportunity for a circular economy in fashion, and better aligns profitability with sustainability. 

Q&A With co-founder Beth Esponnette

Unspun founders: Kevin, Beth, Walden in 2022

Why did you start unspun?

We founded unspun because we saw that the fashion industry’s practice of mass manufacturing was directly contributing to its overwhelming problems with waste, carbon emissions, pollution, and exploitation. Mass manufacturing requires that products be produced before they are sold and given how trend-driven the fashion industry is, a large fraction of what’s made never gets sold and is either sent to landfill or incinerated.

We saw an opportunity to build a new manufacturing method and new technologies that can make fashion a force for good. Like any founder will tell you, once we saw it we couldn’t unsee it and we had to make it a reality.

How did the HAX program advance your startup?

HAX was pivotal for unspun for so many reasons. How else would we have gotten access to the depths of Shenzhen China and its wealth of hardware and manufacturing? HAX is the only program I know of that basically joins your hardware startup and helps prototype, build, and iterate directly through its own team and through its connections. They have done and see it all in hardware startups and can help teams avoid big pitfalls but also take notice of opportunity areas. With the sheer size and big success of HAX, teams have access to nearly any investor or partner they would want to approach.

Plus, HAX and SOSV have continued to support us from day 1.

How else would we have gotten access to the depths of Shenzhen China and its wealth of hardware and manufacturing?

How did your recent Series A come together? What were other investors excited about? 

Our round came together through shared values for big change and the need to combat climate change. Investors know the negative impacts of the fashion industry but haven’t yet found a company like ours that was taking a systems approach to making change, not just replacing a step in the process for incremental change, and also inherently being a change for the better for other brands so that their moral compass is not the only reason to utilize our technology.

How are you thinking about your climate and fashion impact? 

We’ve viewed our impact in phases, since no plan can be executed successfully all at once. We initially built software that automates a tailoring process so that customers can get custom-fit jeans made for them from a body scan. This allowed us to start as a zero-inventory brand. We have never held inventory and instead only make on-demand, which allows us and our partners to avoid 30% excess inventory waste. With our new manufacturing method we can additionally eliminate waste typically generated during the production process, since we build garments straight from yarn. And lastly, since we build garments straight from yarn we can turn clothing back into its original materials by reversing our manufacturing process. Together, these supply chain and manufacturing changes allow our technology to reduce emissions from clothing production by 50%.

What is the future of unspun? 

Our goal is to reduce global carbon emissions by 1%. We are helping to bring other apparel brands into an on-demand and circular world, one where we make only what we need and everything we make holds the same value whether brand new or end of life. We are decentralizing production so that products can be created after they are purchased and supply chains can become more localized and self-sustaining. We are so grateful to be able to change the way clothing is produced and by extension the way clothing is recycled anew.