News | Amsterdam’s textile sector must become circular: ten Dutch companies join a new innovation program

Amsterdam’s textile sector must become circular: ten Dutch companies join a new innovation program

Pictured: Mumster

Article by: FASHIONUNITED | Nora Veerman

In 2030, seventy percent of the textile industry in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area must be circular – an ambitious goal. Yet the textile industry is slow to move in that direction, says Manon Klein. Klein is director of Impact Hub Amsterdam, an impact innovation company that, together with Metabolic and Bankers Without Boundaries, has designed an innovative approach to drive circular system change, starting with the textile sector.

An essential part of this approach is an accelerator for innovative circular startups. At the beginning of February, just before the start of the Dutch Week of the Circular Economy, the ten initiatives participating in the accelerator were announced: companies and organisations from all corners of the textile industry that approach the issue from different perspectives. The Circular Innovation Collective program is supported by the DOEN Foundation, the City of Amsterdam and the Goldschmeding Foundation.

A versatile, systematic approach is essential for a successful circular transition, said Klein when FashionUnited talked to her about the project. Otherwise, it’s too easy to avoid it or make excuses. After all, there are enough barriers: companies run into financing problems or complex government policies, while consumers point the finger at companies that do not offer them a suitable offer. The project aims to break down these walls and, instead of isolated solutions, create an ecosystem that is sustainable in the long term.






The Circular Innovation Collective builds on existing Amsterdam Metropolitan Area textile projects. For example, the City of Amsterdam has been working on improving textile recycling in the city for some time and participated in the Europe-wide Reflow project, which aims to make material flows in large cities as circular as possible.

The Circular Innovation Collective should complement that, says Klein. “Many existing projects focus on recycling. We also want to look at the use of recyclable materials or how clothing can be designed to be repaired or reused more easily. But recycling is the last resort for us,” she says. Klein refers to the so-called R-ladder, a pyramid of circular strategies drawn up by the government. Recycling is almost at the bottom of this pyramid. Above it is a series of other options: refuse, rethink and reduce, for example, by lowering consumption and examining how products are obtained and used.

The goal of the Circular Innovation Collective is ‘to flesh out the higher end of that R-ladder’, says Klein. “We ask ourselves questions like: how do people treat their clothes, and how could we change that?” Concrete action is desperately needed, argues Klein: “Otherwise, we will continue to talk, do research and organise conferences, yet still be nowhere in 2030.”

The Circular Innovation Collective did begin with talking and consultations. In the run-up to the collective’s launch, Klein and project partners spoke extensively with experts and produced a publication containing the project’s four essential opportunity areas:

  • Making circular services such as repair and upcycling more accessible,
  • Developing new plant-based and reusable materials,
  • Informing and supporting consumers,
  • Creating a diverse and inclusive craft culture

Klein explains: “We build on other initiatives but have created our own theory of change. We want the textile system to change, the culture to change, and all stakeholders to be stimulated in the right way to work more circularly.”



The Circular Innovation Collective’s recent report also outlines the program’s timeline. Now that the vision is in place, an accelerator follows to help develop ten scalable solutions.

The participants were selected based on four criteria. Candidates had to fit in with one of the four opportunity areas, be keen to secure financing, be active or want to build a presence in the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area, and be able to create employment in the region. Three hundred suitable initiatives were identified, of which the most promising ten were invited to participate in the program.

All participants are from the Netherlands, mainly from the Amsterdam region. On the topic of circular services, repair platform Mended, sewing café De Steek and collection service Byewaste were selected. The Holland Wool Collective, workwear developer By Rockland, and fashion label Martan, which makes clothing from hotel linen, cover the renewable materials category. Clothes atelier Made Here, fashion studio and software developer Atalyé and communication agency Mumster are working on a more diverse and inclusive craft culture.

Regarding consumer awareness, Race Against Waste, which organises collection campaigns, workshops and educational programs, was selected. This category was the most challenging to find companies in, says Klein. “Awareness is simply a difficult revenue model.” Luckily, there is often overlap between the accelerator’s focus points: sewing café De Steek and communication agency Mumster, for example, also help inform consumers. In addition, the intention is that the initiatives will also work together.

There is plenty of opportunity for collaboration: the ten candidates will participate in several group sessions in the coming period to spar with experts and with each other about various themes. Each company also receives a mentor, coaching from Bankers Without Boundaries and legal advice from De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek. The aim is that on June 21, during the Demo Day for investors, each participant can pitch how they (plan to) contribute to the Circular Innovation Collective goals.













The participants also show how innovation can be scaled up with the help of appropriate funding. Financing is an essential topic within the program because it is also one of the biggest hurdles for new circular initiatives. Circular startups are challenging to finance precisely because their business models are often innovative; we must measure their growth differently than traditional companies. Existing forms of investment are not always a good fit.

Most companies participating in the accelerator are still in the startup phase. Then most entrepreneurs lean towards fast-growth money, but they should think calmly about how they want to build the business, says Klein. “Entrepreneurs who are just starting tend to think: ‘I have to raise investment, so let me quickly sell shares’. That often happens too early. If you start unpacking and discussing your strategy and ask yourself why you actually need the money, a whole world will soon open up. Funding can be done differently. Think of project financing or credit. If you think of financing more creatively, you might even end up with a different ownership model, such as steward ownership.

The program’s financing element is in partnership with Bankers Without Boundaries, a social enterprise founded by former investment bankers who provide financial support to environmentally- and socially-minded businesses. “With each participant, they look at their growth strategy, suitable funding, and which parties are available for this,” explains Klein. “Normally we would present the ventures to financiers on our Demo Day. This time we will make sure these conversations with financiers are started during the program already.”

The Circular Innovation Collective must ultimately become a long-term programme. Klein and the partners are consciously working on this: “We are building an ecosystem. We are not starting from scratch; there is already a network, and there are already projects. But we broaden or deepen that ecosystem by making it more accessible to startups for whom it’s difficult to go alone. We hope that clusters will arise around the four opportunity areas to which we can add innovative projects every year, that there will be mutual trust and that collaborations will arise.”

The program is therefore not completed after June, Klein emphasises. “We also cannot expect these ten initiatives to make the textile industry perfect. But we do want to make a big push towards systemic change. Change that goes beyond a little recycled content or organic cotton.”