The fashion industry is known to be one of the most harmful industries to the environment, contributing to approximately 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The fashion sector must undergo a fundamental shift towards more sustainable practices to mitigate its negative impact on the planet and society.
One notable company leading the way in sustainability in Italy is Artknit Studios, a digitally native brand that specialises in producing and distributing eco-friendly and affordable luxury knitwear. Founded by Alessandro Lovisetto in Biella, the CEO and an ESCP alumnus (MIM, Class 2017), Artknit Studios strives to create top-quality products with the lowest possible environmental impact, working with the best Italian makers.
In our interview with Alessandro, he shared his passion for Artknit Studios' purpose-driven approach and the company's commitment to creating products that benefit both people and the planet.
Your company has a solid sustainable mission, what led you to the creation of Artknit Studios? How did the project come about?
Artknit Studios was founded in 2018 to revolutionise the luxury textile industry by combining digital innovation, craftsmanship, and sustainability. The idea for Artknit was born during my time abroad after completing the Master in Management and gaining international experience at companies such as Rocket Internet, Google, and various investment banks. Upon returning to my hometown of Biella, a renowned textile district known worldwide, I identified the potential for a new player in the industry.
Artknit Studios is a digital brand that connects the best Italian manufacturers with customers around the world, enabling the democratisation of luxury quality. Artknit is committed to creating high-quality textile products using only certified, tracked, and biodegradable materials by avoiding traditional markups and utilizing the lowest possible environmental impact.
Artknit's commitment to sustainability, digital innovation, and consumer goods has been recognized by several vertical accelerators throughout Europe. Ultimately, the company was incubated by the Fashion Technology Accelerator in Milan, where we worked on fine-tuning our strategy and raising our first pre-seed round of funding to launch operations and build our team.
How do you contribute to environmentally friendly production?
The model at Artknit is built on a strong foundation of sustainability, with several essential pillars that minimise the impact of our products. These include the exclusive use of natural, biodegradable, and certified fibres, complete traceability of the supply chain, and the elimination of intermediaries through a diffuse manufacturing model that promotes craftsmanship and small Italian workshops. This approach helps to shorten the supply chain, reduce waste, and address one of the biggest problems in the industry, which generates over 90 million tonnes of waste annually.
To ensure that each product has a minimal environmental impact, we conduct a Lifecycle Assessment before launching it on the market. This process considers the entire life cycle of the product, from the extraction of raw materials to final disposal, and factors in variables such as energy and natural resource use, greenhouse gas emissions, waste production, and impact on human health and the ecosystem. This provides our consumers with complete and objective information to help them make informed decisions.
Our commitment to sustainability is further demonstrated by our transformation into a benefit company. This means that, in addition to pursuing profits, we prioritise common benefits for our stakeholders, which are built around three core pillars: expanding consumer awareness and education on environmental issues, introducing new business models and innovative processes in the manufacturing sector, and achieving a positive impact on the environment. We believe that these measures are crucial to ensure a sustainable future for our planet and for our company.
How did what you learned at ESCP help you achieve your goals?
ESCP has played a crucial role in cultivating my entrepreneurial mindset and method. From the very beginning of the Master's programme, I was challenged to work on multiple projects, and internships, and move to a new campus each year, which forced me to develop efficient organisation and decision-making skills.
In addition to these valuable practical experiences, I also had the opportunity to build a network of meaningful relationships with fellow students and alumni. To this day, some of the people I met during my time at ESCP have become partners and board members of Artknit.
For me, ESCP was a life-changing experience that left an indelible mark, and I am infinitely grateful for the opportunities, skills, and relationships I gained during my time at the school.
What advice would you give to young talents who want to take the entrepreneurial path?
If I could give three pieces of advice to my past self and to young students interested in pursuing a similar path, they would be:
Develop a solid understanding of the industry you want to enter before launching your startup. This means understanding market trends, growth opportunities, and all aspects of how the industry operates. Interview experts, potential competitors, and consumers, and study as much as possible to speed up the startup phase.
Build a deep and premeditated network of contacts before starting your venture. Networking is crucial to gaining support, accessing capital, and accelerating learning while decreasing the chance of making mistakes.
Be determined and persistent. Founding a startup is not an easy journey, and there will be numerous challenges along the way. It is important to have the determination and perseverance to overcome these obstacles. The first few years will likely be more disappointments than joys, so if you are not willing to make huge sacrifices and endure some suffering, this path may not be for you.
How do you finance your growth?
Artknit Studios is a venture-backed startup, to penetrate the market more quickly we opened our company to external investors such as Encelado Ventures and CDP Venture Capital as well as other entrepreneurs in the luxury and retail industries. More recently, Angela Lo Pinto, an ESCP alumna, and Head of Origination for ClubDealOnline has recognised Artknit Studios as an investment opportunity and selected us along with Pambianco Invest Club. We are currently offering exclusive access to our private crowdfunding campaign on clubdealonline.com, where you can find all the information to become a part of our project.
What are the next steps for Artknit Studios?
With Artknit, we have now embarked on a new phase of growth and international expansion, with challenges that are even bigger and more ambitious. Our vision for the coming years is to expand our presence in the offline market by opening physical hubs across Europe, providing our community with the opportunity to experience our products first-hand in a physical setting.
In addition, we are committed to opening a highly digitised KM0 workshop, which will serve as a pilot project for our artisans and inspire them towards increasingly digital-first, sustainable, and data-driven manufacturing. This project is a critical step in our ongoing mission to promote eco-sustainability and innovation in the fashion industry.
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