Startup of the Month: Algaeing, Biodegradable Fabrics With Skincare Benefits
Thousands of toxic chemicals are used in clothing production.
An academic study on sustainable chemistry revealed that there are over 8,000 chemicals used in fashion production globally. These chemicals in clothing can be easily absorbed by the skin with toxic effects. Another mounting problem in fashion is polyester, a form of plastic derived from petroleum oil, which has overtaken cotton as the primary textile used in fabric production. Clothing made from polyester and other synthetic fibers is a principle source of microplastic pollution, which is harmful to marine life. Not to mention, polyester can take up to 200 years to decompose. Add the water contamination created from dying fabrics in each season's trendiest colors, and we have still just scratched the surface of the detrimental impact fabric production has on people and the environment.
Fashion League spoke with the co-founder and CEO of Algaeing, Renana Krebs, to learn how this startup is forging a path in the fashion industry that leads to more sustainable fabric production. Algaeing has unlocked an innovative means of fabric production that creates biodegradable apparel with anti-inflammatory properties that has skincare benefits for consumers.
Location: Tel Aviv, Israel
Special Sauce: Biodegradable and renewable thread and fabric dye
Investors: Closed Loop Fund
FASHION LEAGUE: Can you introduce yourself and your company, and how you started working on textiles and dyes?
ALGAEING: My name is Renana Krebs, and I am the co-founder and CEO of Algaeing™.
I’ve been in the fashion industry for over 15 years. I started my journey designing at elite fashion houses and got to see what goes down behind the scenes. I visited factories, I saw the employees and the working conditions, I smelled the nauseating chemicals that went into dyeing textiles, and I saw rivers completely dyed in colors that predicted what next season’s “must-have” color would be.
I learned that fashion’s impact on the global climate crisis is huge. The latest data shows that 20% of the world’s freshwater is polluted by dyeing and printing processes. What’s more, when consumers wear textiles colored with these dyes, according to the Centers for Disease Control, 10% of these chemicals are then transmitted into our bodies.
This is why I quit my job, studied sustainable design, and started Algaeing™ back in 2016. Luckily, I found the perfect co-founder: a biologist, botanist, & agronomist with 40+ years of experience. He also happens to be my dad, Dr. Oded Krebs. Together, we started our research and found algae’s renewable and biodegradable properties and unique botanical benefits that make this aquatic plant the perfect fit for creating meaningful change in the industry.
FASHION LEAGUE: How does Algaeing's process compare to traditional fabric dying methods, especially in terms of sustainability?
ALGAEING: Algaeing™ solutions are ready to use with existing factory productions, without requiring investment or change in machinery or manpower. We leverage algae’s botanical power to replace toxins and chemicals’ current massive use across the supply chain to protect biodiversity and improve working conditions. Instead of employees breathing in hazardous fumes, they get to breathe algae’s botanical benefits. Furthermore, instead of harmful dyes entering our waterways, the manufacturing byproduct is actually made of healthy algae that goes back into our ecosystem. Accenture estimated that Algaeing™ solutions can potentially save 2,700 mn liters of polluted water by 2030, compared to business-as-usual textile production.
The Algaeing™ impact is felt all throughout the supply chain. It starts when we partner with sustainable algae growers who use vertical farming methods (closed-loop) to grow algae in the middle of the desert where land is harder to populate, using only solar energy and salty or desalinated water. This reduces water and energy consumption, and traditional agricultural land use.
The benefits of Algaeing™ innovations go beyond the manufacturing process and directly benefit the consumer. Apparel and textiles made with our technology have skincare benefits. We’ve actually created a whole new category in the fashion industry: bio-textiles with skincare benefits.
FASHION LEAGUE: What are some practical applications for Algaeing's biodegradable threads and dyes that are currently in use, and what are some applications you envision for the future?
ALGAEING: Our newest product, Algaink™, is the first of its kind, fully biodegradable color range ink made from our patented algae-powered technology. It can be printed on cellulosic-based, protein, synthetic, and recycled fabric on any surface (knitted, woven, or non-woven). Algaink™ is available as of right now.
FASHION LEAGUE: Does Algaeing have any big projects in the works?
ALGAEING: We’re in the process of commercializing new products including Algadye™ and Algafiber™ — expected to launch in Q1 2023. Stay tuned!
FASHION LEAGUE: What values do you think are essential when launching a new business?
ALGAEING: To make a real impact, the business has to be scalable, it's not enough to be carbon neutral, we must be planet positive.
FASHION LEAGUE: Could you share some advice for our readers who may be looking to launch their big idea?
ALGAEING: Your big idea doesn’t have to start big, but it has to come from a true place of authenticity and urgency. When I saw first-hand the devastating effects of the fashion industry on the environment, I knew I had to do something. It was this conviction that motivated me to start Algaeing™ and continues to push the company forward. At the beginning of my journey, I had to “convince” people about the importance of Algaeing’s solutions and the importance of healthier alternatives to manufacturing, but now, the whole global discourse is about fighting climate change. When you launch, be sure to stay true to yourself, even if the market, your peers, or even your family don’t quite “get it” yet.
What do you think of Algaeing's biodegradable thread and fabric dye solutions? Leave a comment below. Follow Fashion League on Instagram, and subscribe to our newsletter for Faux or Fashion™ trivia, and the latest job postings from some of your favorite companies.