An Interview with Marieke Lenders – Program Lead Reweave
Marieke, can you introduce the Reweave program?
Reweave is a business-intervention program run by Enviu with a goal to create a fair and circular apparel value chain in India. We do this as entrepreneurs, by building disruptive social and sustainable ventures that drive the market towards a new normal. By setting an example, and showing that it’s possible. The apparel sector is currently very polluting – an enormous amount of waste is being created and a lot of value is being destroyed. There’s an urgent need for change from a linear value chain to a circular one. We do see more and more innovations in the circular apparel space arising in the US and Europe because they are recognising the need. However, the weight of innovation is mostly at the consumer end of the chain. We also see that innovation and adoption thereof is lagging behind in the main production countries. That’s why Reweave’s focus is on building new businesses at the heart of apparel production: India, the second-biggest textile production country in the world
When did you start?
Reweave actually began with the first venture Khaloom, which started in 2017. With Khaloom, we hand-weave fabric out of recycled and organic yarns. While working on Khaloom and getting to know the textile production sector from the inside out, we saw the need for and strength of multiple impactful ventures along the supply chain to radically drive circularity. This led to the creation of the Reweave program and our other ventures – UPSET Textiles, Puraloop, DesertSpring and the Future Proof Garment Factory.
What kind of impact has Reweave created in the textile production sector so far?
This is still hard to measure because some of the ventures we built are still in the development stage. Our ventures create a direct, visible impact in the form of jobs with really excellent working conditions and waste reduced. Take for example Khaloom which is located in a weavers colony, they get at least three people who come by the weaving unit every week to ask if they can come work there. Weavers get fixed times meaning fixed income and other benefits such as paid holiday and sick leave. These are normalities unheard of in the production houses surrounding them. By upcycling waste into new materials, we have also saved a great amount of textiles reaching landfills, plus avoided the need for a great amount of CO2 emissions and water usage. The indirect and invisible impact of our ventures is the transformation they contribute to in the market. By pioneering and doing what has not been done before, they are paving the way for others to join. They’re taking the risk by going first, but they’re also setting a new standard. Unlocking innovation and technology, creating awareness amongst consumers and investors, making it easier for other players to join.
Why were you interested in the Reweave program?
To be honest, when I was a teenager, I was really into fast fashion. Why would I buy 1 dress for 100 euros when I can buy 10 dresses for 10 euros each? – that was my mentality. Along the way, I started to become more conscious of the impact this created on people’s lives and the environment, and I began to change my habits. I started reducing the number of new clothes that I was buying and began to purchase more things second-hand. But in the end, I believe you need to fundamentally change how clothes are being produced currently to bring disruptive and long-lasting change. That’s what I like about the Reweave Program, we really have strong food on the ground in India and bring about change in the production side. I enjoy working here as I get to work with many passionate colleagues and partners, all sharing the same impact ambition and wanting to drive this sector forward.
What are the goals for Reweave in the coming year?
We’ve got our foot in the door, but the next big challenge is to scale. This year we’ll be bringing 3 different ventures to scale. We’re looking to secure new partnerships and build a new pipeline of impactful businesses with them. Given the new reality with COVID, this is more urgent than ever. We need to ensure that we not only bring sustainable production to scale but also ensure that we take responsibility for the livelihoods of workers and their families in the sector. Now we’re spreading the word and showing the world what’s really possible!
The interest in sustainable and fair fashion has never been higher. Now, more than ever is an incredible opportunity to implement and scale business models that reduce waste, value resources and create social good.