SAGES named as BFC x eBay Circular Fashion Innovator’s Fund recipients
Remember our LCF Enterprise Challenge 2022 winners? SAGES London is a textile industry start-up that offers a natural and sustainable alternative to the synthetic fabric dyes currently on the market, and they have just been awarded The Circular Fashion Innovator’s Fund, powered by the collaboration between eBay UK and British Fashion Council.
We caught up with LCF alum and SAGES founders, Alice Simpson MA Fashion Design Technology (Menswear) and Emily Taylor, MA Fashion Futures, to find out more about what receiving this award means to them and where the funding will take them next.
Please introduce yourself and say a bit about what you do.
I’m Alice Simpson and I work as Technical Director and Co-founder of SAGES London alongside my fellow founder Emily Taylor who works as our Director. Together we make natural textile dyes from food waste.
You both studied different courses at LCF. How did you meet and form SAGES?
We met while completing our MA courses at LCF on a collaboration project where teams were tasked with envisioning a sustainability-minded business idea. While developing my master's collection for my menswear design course in which I wanted to use natural dyes, I was surprised by the complete lack of commercially available alternatives. I brought this gap in the market to Emily who was studying MA Fashion Futures - a course that holds sustainability at the core of fashion practice. She was able to investigate this further, and after researching, discovered the magnitude of the damage caused by synthetic dyes. These two revelations are what pushed us to find a solution and we launched SAGES.
What is SAGES all about and why is your work important?
SAGES is a textile industry start-up that offers a natural and sustainable alternative to the synthetic fabric dyes currently on the market. SAGES’ idea is a simple, circular solution, we take food waste and turn it into natural dyes. Synthetic dyes are also toxic, carcinogenic and highly polluting. Natural dyes are an environmentally friendly alternative to synthetic dyes and come with none of their harms.
It’s been 8 months since you won the LCF Enterprise Challenge 2022. What difference has the prize made to your practice?
It was a great feeling to be recognised by LCF for the work we have accomplished. While the prize money was amazing, the real help came from the support and mentorship we received and continue to receive. LCF has offered us a wealth of opportunities that have advanced the growth of our business. We must shout out the LCF Graduate Futures team - their help has been immeasurable.
Congratulations on winning the Circular Fashion Innovators Fund. What does this award mean to you?
It's been a real learning opportunity to be around so many other startups and innovators, and the mentorship offered by the team at eBay has helped us answer many questions that we didn't realise we had.
How will the £15k fund help further your vision?
The funding we have received will be used for several things; match funding for grants, travel to summits and conferences but mainly it will be used in order to purchase new lab and testing equipment. Which will allow us to complete more research and development in-house so we can validate our technology as we develop it.
What’s next for SAGES? What are your upcoming plans?
We have a detailed plan of RND projects we aim to complete over the next 2.5 years which will allow us to validate our dyes at TRL 8 -ie proven to be commercially ready. The development of our fixation technology, optimisation of extraction methods, and a large-scale project to determine the feasibility to produce at scale. This will be completed with a commercial partner from which we have several soft commitments to pick from. Alongside this, we plan to slowly grow our in-house team, with a focus on technical expertise.
How can our readers get involved with/or support what you’re doing?
What advice would you offer to new LCF graduates who are interested in forming a sustainability focused start-up?
Be sure to make use of everything LCF has to offer, there's no need to step out completely alone. UAL offers a unique and well-connected network of innovators, lecturers, designers and creatives you simply can’t find anywhere else. Help and guidance should never be underestimated, especially when you're just beginning your venture. Also be aware of the difficulty of the challenge you are taking on but don’t let it dissuade you from continuing your journey and rising to it.