Banofi receives the Hult Prize for Redesigning Fashion from Stella McCartney

by | Oct 1, 2023 | BUSINESS, SUSTAINABILITY | 0 comments

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PARIS — Bananas won out in the end.

Banofi, a company that creates banana leather, received this year’s Hult Prize from Stella McCartney during a day-long “Shark Tank”-style pitch session with the final six teams.

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The company’s three founders, Margaret Boreham, Isobel Campbell, and Jinali Mody, received a $1 million startup grant to help grow it.

The trio started their company two years ago, sourcing their banana trash from Indian farms where they do their research, create their products, and manufacture them.

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Today, people may employ a substance that is financially viable, according to Campbell.

While Campbell wore a corset and Boreham donned a full moto-style jacket made of the material, Mody served as the model for cuffs and bracelets. Banofi is now working on pilot projects with numerous fashion businesses. Banofi has also collaborated with Yale University on a range of notebooks and luggage tags. Misfit Panda, a manufacturer of accessories, has already placed an order.

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They have created a type of the material that will work on soft leather goods, even though the initial iteration of the material only functioned for hard leather items. They are currently in discussions—while keeping the names secret—with two important luxury companies and one significant French conglomerate thanks to this development.

The group felt privileged to accept McCartney’s award. She had actually viewed the material prior to this, and Mody said, “She said she’s really thrilled about how it’s altered.

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McCartney spoke on stage about the necessity of bringing about change in the fashion industry, which frequently boils down to the bottom line.

In a fireside talk, McCartney told the attentive crowd, “The only way you can really make a difference is to show the business of fashion that you have a healthy business option. Offering substitute materials “attracts a great generation of consumer, younger and cooler and out-of-the-box-thinkers,” she continued.

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“Who cares if we’re just talking about a new silhouette or the newest color? That’s wonderful, right? I find it so archaic to put it that way. She criticized the fashion industry for being “relatively out of date and using about ten materials at the end of the day,” referring to its reliance on high-volume, low-cost fabrics that pollute or destroy forests. McCartney stressed the necessity of industry investment in the creation of novel materials.

She continued by saying that she is aiming to eliminate leather from the fashion business in the same manner that many designers have stopped using fur. She also insisted that leather’s low price does not compensate for the harm it causes to the environment.

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Additionally, McCartney offered the students advise. You must firmly believe in the endeavor you are about to undertake. For me personally, having a genuine dedication, a fundamental philosophy guiding why I do what I do, and having a motivation that simply goes beyond anything rather useless,” she said. “Really believe in your goal, and fight with all of your might.”

Each year, a different social or sustainability issue is the focus of the 14-year-old Hult Prize. Although not everyone is interested in “fashion,” everyone does wear clothing. According to Lori van Dam, president of the Hult honor, dedicating this year’s honor to the fashion sector was a chance to bring together several academic fields including engineering, finance, and marketing.

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Many people are unaware of how damaging the fashion industry is to the environment, so van Dam and his team thought it would be a great opportunity to inform them about the effects of, for instance, constantly needing a new outfit for social media. It appeared to be a very complex subject on which we might find many interesting concepts that may potentially educate people.

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Stella McCartney and Hult Prize president Lori van Dam on stage with moderator Dana Thomas, left. GREG CAPARELL / COURTESY HULT PRIZE

Dr. Caryn Pang, a professor at Hult who worked for Macy’s Inc. for the most of her career before switching to education, underlined the need for change in the sector.

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“It’s an industry that has focused on overconsumption for many years, so we now need to seriously consider reforms – what can we do with what we already have? How can a circular economy be established? She asked, “How do we become innovators? Pang pointed out that the award is concentrated on next-generation innovations with strong business reasons.

She went on to say of the ideas being presented, “Not all of them have a background in fashion, but they all have the imagination, the passion, and the spirit, and the drive to make a difference.

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At the Élysée Montmartre theater in Paris, the other finalists included Graff Inc., which creates sustainable materials from textile waste, Effct, which recycles textile waste for use in packaging, construction, and furniture, Riiverse, which turns textile waste into building materials, Innovious, which creates clothing hangers and hangtags from palm tree leaves, and Labwear Studios, which creates on-demand manufacturing.

The last five finalists each received $100,000 to advance their businesses.

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Before the competition was whittled down to the finalists, preliminary competitions were held in 12 locations throughout the globe, including Nairobi, Lisbon, Dubai, and Rio de Janeiro. This was the first time the prize had been committed to fashion solutions and entrepreneurship.

The panel of judges included fashion environmentalist and interdisciplinary designer Runa Ray, Sweaty Betty founder Tamara Hill-Norton, Polimoda head of commercial development Niccolo Sbaraglia, and Olivier Gabet, director of the Department of Objects of Art at the Louvre.

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Along with venture capitalists, there were judges from the financial and funding industries, including executives from the International financial Corporation of the World Bank.

The Hult Prize team observed that many of the teams have patents pending on workable products that are either on the market or about to go to market, and some have strategic alliances with big businesses, like Riiverse’s alliance with Coca-Cola in its native Taiwan. They are all investment-ready businesses looking for venture capital after completing the program’s accelerator.

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On video, former president Bill Clinton, who has usually given the award at the ceremony in New York, said that the prize for the next year will be open to any subject connected to the U.N.’s sustainable development goals.

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