November 6, 2020

Interview with the co-founder and CEO of Impakt_ID, Eva Vutcheva

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Impakt_ID - Exclusive Interview with the co-founder and CEO of Impakt_ID

Q. What inspired you to create Impakt_ID?

A. Impakt_ID was not an instant idea, it actually took a while to come to life. I probably need to take a step back in saying that the major part of my career I have been on the other side of fashion. In 2010 I joined the founding team one of the biggest fashion marketplaces in Europe. It was a very exciting experience for me, but also a sobering one. I have not only seen first-hand the impact of fashion, but I actively participated in the perpetuation of the fast fashion model. In the past 10 years we moved from 2-3 collections per year to an average of 8. The full-price lifetime of an item dropped from 2.5 months to under 30 days and in addition about 50% of all production today is instant waste. This is not a healthy model. It is not good for the Planet. But it also isn’t good for brands, who can barely make ends meet, and consumers, who have wardrobes full of items that make them miserable and agitated. 

Two years ago we started working on a solution to promote better consumer habits and sustainable fashion production, which grew into Impakt_ID. 

I believe long-lasting change should come from a place of consciousness, a place of excitement and choice. And I know we are on the right way with Impakt_ID: combining research & data science with engaging end-customer tools, we are finally able to translate science in a way people and companies can understand and act upon.

Q. How does Impakt_ID work and how do you calculate impact?

A. Our main product is the ID - an algorithm which calculates the footprint of fashion items down to a single product level and presents it on the product page in an engaging and clear way. For every product we calculate the footprint/savings of CO2, water, waste, toxicity and circularity, making it easy for both people and companies to know their impact and find ways to reduce it. Our proprietary algorithm relies on 50 000 data points from primary- and peer-reviewed secondary research to create a reliable footprint standard. Through a plug&play API we link our algorithm to the brands’ product databases, where we source the product information and send back the precise calculation of each individual product.

Q. Why is it important for brands and consumers to measure their environmental footprint?

A. We often say “Truth hurts. Not knowing the truth hurts more”. The reality is that it will be hard to change something when you don’t know what it is. Quantifying the fashion impact is something companies are trying to do for a long time. And it is no easy task. It is important to note that, even though we invest heavily in research and data, our main strength lays in the opportunity to create a standard across the industry. Having a standard will leave little room for greenwashing and will allow us to reverse engineer the way we produce. If you look at any of the sustainability reports of the big retailers (and such have been around for over a decade), you will notice some quite grand numbers. For example – a company generated hundreds of millions of kilograms x year. As a consumer, this really says nothing to me. I cannot relate it to the t-shirt I am about to buy. And I think it is time to make that connection, to bring the conversation into our everyday. Just like we care what is in our food, we need to begin to understand what is in our clothes. And it is not a pretty picture.

Q. What are the best steps consumers can take to minimize their environmental footprint?

A: I guess the “easiest” thing is not to buy anything new ☺ But that really is not a practical thought. I think everyone needs to find their mix. For instance, this is what works best for me: 1. Buy only things that fit me perfectly and make me happy 2. Buy pre-loved or rent (this is really an impactful one) and 3. Resort to natural fabrics that can biodegrade without causing harm.

Q. In your opinion, what are the greatest challenges with sustainability in the fashion industry?

A: This is a very complex question. I think probably the largest issue, psychologically, is that we continue to think about sustainability as something niche. The reality is that sustainability needs to become the norm. Not only because of the morals behind it, but because of the business needs. Even if it doesn't seem so, all big brands and retailers realize they have a long-term business issue here related to profitability and lack of resources, both natural and human. And they are heavily investing into the transition. But it will take a while and we as consumers need to also do our part. 

We see some strong new business models – such as rental and pre-loved making waves, including H&M and the likes of. We also see great new alternative materials and technologies addressing the issue with scarcity of crops and process toxicity. This change takes time and requires scale, so we cannot think of it without having all big players involved. And luckily for us, they are getting involved.

Q. Who have you partnered with in the industry and why are partnerships important?

A: The change this industry is undergoing is so massive that we all need to put our best effort forward. At Impakt_ID see both our customers and our competitors both as partners and try to learn from each other. On the research side we are very fortunate to be collaborating with Dr. Chris Lo and his phd team in The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. We are in close contact with Fashion For Good, one of the leading NGOs working on sustainability in fashion, and we just launched a collaboration with the R Collective, who have been pioneering the sustainable fashion movement.

Q. What plans do you have for Impakt_ID going forward? Any exciting plans ahead?

A: Our main goal is to nurture better consumption and production habits. And changing habits is hard -- it takes time. We start by establishing a global standard for accountability across the industry in a way people can engage with and understand. And we move towards providing the tools for action. We are in for the long run, and this is just the beginning.

Q.  As a woman entrepreneur, how has your journey been?

A: I am almost 40 now, so I have been around for a while. For the most part I have been working on developing innovative solutions. Reflecting back on my work I can clearly see I have always been connected to dealing with data, which is odd as Excel is my least favorite thing. In 2010 I joined and helped build one of Europe’s large fashion marketplaces, that exited to Naspers in 2012. In 2015 I left the company and started a new venture -- a data management unit focused on e-commerce, called I wanted to build a “none”-company, a structure that can exist within very fluid lines. And I could not be prouder of the result. I recently had a chat with an investor who said “this company is two generations ahead of its industry”. And even if I try not to focus on my work only, it still feels good to receive outside recognition. Two years ago I joined my business partner Bory, into Kool And Konscious and we build the biggest sustainable fashion marketplace. And this year Bory joined me into building Impakt_ID. I feel grateful and blessed for this ride. And really quite excited to what is ahead of us.

Q.  What’s your daily motivation routine? What motivates you and Impakt_ID today?

A: I truly believe humanity is capable of change, of figuring out though problems and dealing with scarce resources. And I want to contribute, I want to be part of the solution. I feel I can do that.

Q.  If you had 1-2 sentences to say to other women entrepreneurs.

A: For the bigger part of my career I have been the only womаn in the room and sometimes – not even in the room. Luckily for me, I never felt intimidated by any of that, but I feel many capable people have. If you ever need encouragement on your way, drop me a line. I will cheer you on and probably give a piece of unwanted advice.

Want to learn more about Impakt_ID? Click here

Photos: Impakt_ID

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