Ebay UK has announced that its 100,000-pound Circular Fashion Fund, in partnership with the British Fashion Council (BFC), is returning for a second year following its success in 2022, which crowned on-demand tailoring service The Seam as the grand prize winner.
The Circular Fashion Fund is available for small businesses, innovative tech start-ups, social enterprises and charities and will award up to six 25,000-pound grants for those businesses to invest in and bring new technology and services to the circular economy, with a particular focus on innovation around customer experience, circular inventory and services and social commerce.
Alongside the financial support, finalists will receive a six-week mentoring program, industry networking opportunities and a platform to showcase their innovative circular fashion solutions to a wider audience, as well as support from environmental charity Hubbub, which has taken an advisory role for the fund.
Applications are open from September 25 to October 20 via Ebay’s website. Judging will be focused on four key assessment areas - innovation, circularity, scalability, and sustainability. A shortlist of ten businesses will then be invited to pitch to a panel of fashion and sustainability industry experts and leading organisations.
Ebay's Circular Fashion Fund opens applications for second year
The judging panel for 2023 will include representatives from Ebay, alongside its partners from the BFC, Hubbub and The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, as well as Jane Shepherdson ex-Whistles and Topshop, Joe Metcalf founder of Thrift+, and Hugo Adams chief executive of Kelpi Sustainable Materials.
Kirsty Keoghan, global general manager of fashion at Ebay, who will be on the judging panel, said in a statement: “The UK fashion industry is at the forefront of innovation driving to make circularity the future of fashion. At eBay, we’ve seen firsthand that start-ups and small businesses are a significant driving force behind this ambition for change.
“Following the hugely successful first year of the Fund, we’re committed to identifying and scaling more UK businesses to help make the change we all want to see.”
Caroline Rush, chief executive at the BFC, added: “We are excited to announce our renewed partnership with Ebay after a successful first year. We aim to support and assist businesses in preparing for positive change by embracing innovation, which is fundamental to our mission.
“We firmly believe that everyone has a role to play in building a brighter future for the fashion industry and aiding the growth of companies that are accelerating the circular economy in fashion is key to this. We look forward to continuing to champion the remarkable advances which are being made in the industry.”
Ebay looking to grow the circular economy with Circular Fashion Fund
Last year the fund received more than 500 applications and awarded grants to six businesses, including social fashion rental app By Rotation, the Circular Textiles Foundation, which uses tech to connect clothing design, takeback and recycling was recognised, and Pip and Henry, a designer brand of sustainable shoes for kids made with innovative recycled and biomaterials that also provides recycling solutions and eco-educational content and stories for kids.
Alongside six grants, the fund also named The Seam as the grand prize winner, with the on-demand tailoring service’s founder and chief executive Layla Sargent stating at the time that the additional funds would be used to develop its data and insight capabilities to drive behavioural change within the industry.
Sargent, said: “It was truly rewarding to be a part of the Circular Fashion Fund. A key business focus for us is helping people keep their items in circulation for longer, and the prize fund directly helped with this objective - to scale our Maker network to new locations and increase the types of services which we’re able to offer.
“Now, we’re able to provide repair and restorations across accessories, expanding on our already existing offering of clothing, bags and footwear. As a small company with a two-sided marketplace, our plan for the future is to work with the fund to help make logistics smooth for both parties involved in any transaction - a process eBay does better than any other player on the market.”
Another finalist last year, Oli Pepper at Circular Inc, which provides circular design and sustainable manufacturing to accompany radio frequency identification (RFID)-assisted commercial repair and upcycling of clothing, added: “The Ebay Circular Fashion Fund was an excellent opportunity. From a simple application to becoming one of the finalists, the process was clearly handled and the rewards were great.
“Not only from the financial point of view but importantly from the superb mentorship and the valuable connections with other businesses in the circular economy. The program has made people, brands and organisations sit up and take notice of what we have achieved.”
The finale showcase event and the overall winner will be announced week commencing February 19, 2024.