“Consumers of today like to have a dialogue with their brands…consumers can now ask the harder questions.” Ingvar Helgason, Co-Founder of VitroLabs
In this week’s TMIK, Managing Partner Carlos Espinal and Seedcamp team member Polina Stavrovski chat with two very exciting guests, Ingvar, and Joy Howard who are both building companies in the sustainable fashion space. Ingvar’s mission with VitroLabs is to decouple the leather industry from the meat industry by creating a new source of leather from animal cells. Their technology allows high-end fashion brands and creatives to have a new source of leather with all the same properties and no compromise on quality. Joy’s mission with Early Majority is to build a technical streetwear brand that makes outdoor gear for all eventualities, by operating in categories that have traditionally left out the woman’s point of view.
The four delve into a discussion on the shifting nature of consumer behaviour and how they’re in turn empowering brands from a top-down approach, changing traditional notions of shareholders and stakeholders. Joy offers her take on greenwashing, explaining how she has two minds about companies that can seem ‘performative’ with their sustainability branding. “Over time, it does lead to a change in consumers’ perceptions and their behaviour, but at the same time it’s tough for people who are building something radically different and true to the ideals of sustainability,” she comments. Ingvar nods to the importance of companies being transparent, and that “it’s really telling to see which companies are answering the questions and which companies are brushing them away.” He also mentions the importance of the role governments play in creating carbon emission taxes or at least levelling the playing field by removing subsidies from companies emitting a lot of carbon. “For everything we are consuming, we are not paying the real price,” Ingvar notes.
Joy and Ingvar also discuss the transfer risks associated with migrating from the usual suppliers with decades of experience (but that are way more wasteful), to a more sustainable supply chain that has the same quality of timeline, delivery, and product. Although there has been an increase in demand for sustainable materials, this can also prove quite challenging for startups in competition with more established brands.
Finally, Carlos asks Joy and Ingvar what science fiction book they recommend that will most likely represent our future. Tune in to hear their answers and the full discussion, it’s a good one!