Can Julie Pellipas scale cycling?


Julie Pelipas isn’t just building a fashion brand.

The stylist and former fashion director of Vogue Ukraine has aspirations far beyond the typical influencer-fashion founder. Three-year-old brand Better’s reinvented menswear collection for women has won the eye of the fashion establishment – and a coveted spot on this year’s LVMH Awards shortlist.

But what Pelipas is trying to do is brand tech-enhanced tailoring based on the brand’s ability to transform unloved old clothes into desirable fashion.

Her ultimate goal is to find a solution to the huge amount of waste generated by the constant buzz of fashion that big brands can use.

Every year, millions of tons of clothes end up in landfills or incinerators, but the industry continues to produce more. Converting old clothes into new clothes is very difficult and expensive because instead of a blank canvas provided by a roll of fabric, designers have to deal with materials that are not the same shape and size and cut and sewn for a certain period of time. Purpose. That is why, although augmentation is not a new concept, it is mostly limited to small-scale capsule collections.

“My husband used to joke, ‘Julie, if you had a formal trademark, you would be very successful,'” Pelipas said. But that was never the agenda. When I decided to start, I had this particular concept in mind… It’s not going to be a small part, patch or anything else, it’s going to be an industrial problem-solving technology.

Tech-powered upcycle

The concept of Better had been bouncing around on Pelipa for years, floating around in her head as she attended fashion shows and chatted with flamboyant designers. She noticed that there was too much pressure, too much profit, too much waste in the industry.

“We keep producing tons of these wearables and it looks like we’re never going to see the issue,” Pellipas said. “When you see how you solve it, when you see the formula, it’s just stuck in your mind and it’s ridiculous not to.”

While many young designers lean towards the increasingly fashionable concept of the bicycle, this often means turning to leftover rolls of fabric. This comes with headaches, but it also allows designers to grab high-quality fabrics at a discount and claim a nice green halo for their labels.

It is very difficult to repurpose old clothes. Although brands such as Marine Serre, Ahluwalia and Conor Ives have received acclaim for their collections from reinvented vintage clothing, it’s a hard-to-measure approach.

Reworking tailored pieces is the trickiest of all because of the technical nature required to configure clothing for a human. That’s the problem Pellipas is running into.

“[Julie] She is not just creating collections, she is creating order. It’s completely different from anyone else,” said Julie Gilhart, chief development officer at brand incubator Tomorrow Ltd. and president of Tomorrow Consulting. There is a level of sophistication that I don’t think can be compared to anything else.

A woman sits by a sunny fountain wearing a sharp tailored black jacket and pencil skirt from the Julie Pellipas brand Better.

Better is powered by a series of tailoring algorithms designed to take the complexity out of construction. Taking years to develop, Apart Suits takes tailoring into tailoring and requires imaginative designs and adjustments using digital design and fitting software. Now that data creates a continuously evolving digital backbone that allows the company to quickly calculate how to adjust men’s clothing to fit women’s bodies without compromising the original shape and size.

“We will try to repeat it. [the design] Process in a very efficient and very precise way, so that in the end you have a perfect product that will take you more than a few hours,” Pelipas explained.

From covid to conflict

It is best built under unusual circumstances.

As the world grapples with the Covid-19 pandemic, the brand Launched in August 2020. It was definitely a good time, says Pellipas. Forced isolation created a space for the Better team to work out how the business model works and develop its mining algorithms.

People stuck at home used to spend more time surfing the internet and shopping. With nearly 250,000 Instagram followers of her own, Pelipas had a neat pre-existing platform to launch her first collections. They were produced in small quantities and sold almost immediately.

In the year By early 2022, Pellipas felt the company was on solid footing. She built an R&D and manufacturing facility in Kiev with the backing of a handful of angel investors and was exploring expansion and wholesale and brand partnerships to raise additional capital.

Then her world fell apart.

Days after Russia invaded Ukraine, Pelipas was juggling her Paris Fashion Week schedule to raise awareness of the crisis, support creatives still on the ground in Ukraine, and figure out how to get her team out.

Last year she had to start from scratch. The production team first moved to Portugal, but asked to return home after a few months. Back in Kiev, they worked under the constant threat of air raids. Pellipas lived in dread of a phone call telling her someone was hurt. As the bombardment increased and the warehouse full of bat clothing was about to burn, she held a line and asked if the group would move again. Better now operates production from Portugal and R&D from London, although Pelipas hopes to one day bring the company’s operations back to Ukraine.

“To be honest, it was just a nightmare,” Pellipas said. “I lost my hair, I lost my health, the time I spent with my children.” She wasn’t sure if she would continue with the business. For a year, the company was in survival mode. Things were held together only by a mixture of adrenaline and determination, fueled by the belief that she was doing something.

Concept with currency

This year, Better is ready to grow again.

As a finalist for the LVMH Prize, the brand is firmly on the radar of the fashion establishment. Pelipass is exploring wholesale partnerships and plans to open its own retail location in 2024. It is also interested in partnering with other brands to expand their offerings.

This is an unusual business model, but it is big on trend. Many young brands selling products made from bicycles have made retailers more receptive to the idea. Although consumers are more driven by value and aesthetics than ethics, they may stay longer with a product with a responsible history.

“It’s very contemporary and fashion is about time,” Gilhart said. “You can have the best ideas, but if it’s not the right time, it has no currency.”

Meanwhile, regulations and economics are pushing brands to find new ways to manage excess inventory, leaving them more open to unconventional work and collections that Pelipas says Better Technology has opened up. The financial turmoil of the past few years has left many companies stuck with warehouses of unsold clothes and policy makers are pushing for responsible disposal. Last week, EU governments agreed to ban the destruction of unsold clothes.

Although Better is still a fledgling brand, Pellipas says it is on track to become profitable by 2024. The company has signed a partnership to improve the dying stock for a major luxury player and plans to raise at least $1 million this year to invest in the technology. platform.

“I’m not here to achieve success or status or big money,” Pellipas said. “The first push is to change the system.”


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