MTH Unboxing: valupa

Fashion trends often have a very short life­time. New styl­es come and go. Brands bring con­stant­ly chan­ging coll­ec­tions into the stores. That might trig­ger the “Fear Of Miss­ing Out” (FOMO) of some cus­to­mers, but it seems to be one of the less important pro­blems. Fast fashion is a huge bur­den for the envi­ron­ment. More and more brands are try­ing to wash them­sel­ves green and are incre­asing­ly focu­sing on sus­tainable, recy­cled and envi­ron­men­tal­ly fri­end­ly tex­ti­les. But what is usual­ly igno­red are the access­ories. The Babels­berg-based start­up valu­pa would like to crea­te an offer for this pur­po­se. The goal is a com­ple­te­ly sus­tainable and envi­ron­men­tal­ly fri­end­ly pro­duc­tion of fasi­on in the future. In the May issue of MTH Unboxing, the two foun­ders Ulri­ke Bött­cher and Nina Kahm­ke tell us a bit more about their mission.

MTH Acce­le­ra­tor: What did you do befo­re start­ing valupa?

Ulri­ke: I stu­di­ed tex­ti­le and sur­face design at the Wei­ßen­see School of Art and Design Ber­lin. During my stu­dies, I spe­cia­li­zed in sus­tainable fashion and mate­ri­al deve­lo­p­ment. After gra­dua­ting, I work­ed in almost all steps of fashion pro­duc­tion and was the­r­e­fo­re able to gain valuable insights into many pro­ces­ses: from crea­ting my own bag coll­ec­tion to sales at inter­na­tio­nal trade fairs and sales manage­ment. Then, during a visit to an Indi­an fashion pro­duc­tion faci­li­ty in 2019, I noti­ced that despi­te an incre­asing sup­p­ly of sus­tainable tex­ti­les, the sup­p­ly of eco-fri­end­ly clo­sures and fashion access­ories was very limited.

Nina: I moved from Munich to Wei­mar in 2014 and stu­di­ed pro­duct design at the Bau­haus Uni­ver­si­ty for five years. During my stu­dies, I imple­men­ted my con­cepts and designs in various work­shops and work­ed with a wide varie­ty of mate­ri­als and manu­fac­tu­ring pro­ces­ses. I was able to incor­po­ra­te my love of details and con­tours into many pro­ces­ses such as mold making for injec­tion and cas­ting, as well as for 3D prin­ting of rapid pro­to­ty­p­ing. I have lived in Ber­lin sin­ce 2019, and I met Ulri­ke at Moti­on­lab while working the­re as a free­lan­ce designer.

What do you do when you’re not working at valupa?

Ulri­ke: I rech­ar­ge my ener­gy by spen­ding time in the sun. In the sum­mer I real­ly enjoy being on the water with my SUP (Stand Up Padd­le). I love dis­co­ve­ring new things and visi­ting fri­ends and acquain­tances around the world, espe­ci­al­ly in India and Thai­land. One of the­se trips actual­ly led to me deve­lop the idea of valu­pa and to under­stand how extre­me the gro­wing pla­s­tic pro­blem is. This moti­va­tes me and gives me strength.

Nina: I am a pas­sio­na­te craf­ter and always on the loo­kout for objects with upcy­cling poten­ti­al, whe­ther in the hard­ware store or at the flea mar­ket, and I relish the oppor­tu­ni­ty to crea­te some­thing new. I also try to spend as much time as pos­si­ble in nature––long walks in Bran­den­burg or a visit to the zoo or the bota­ni­cal gar­dens bring me inner peace.

What is valupa?

valu­pa: valu­pa is a start­up foun­ded in Bran­den­burg, Ger­ma­ny, that pro­du­ces sus­tainable and envi­ron­men­tal­ly fri­end­ly access­ories (buck­les, rivets, but­tons, etc.) for the fashion indus­try. Through in-house pro­to­ty­p­ing, rapid too­ling, and in-house mate­ri­al deve­lo­p­ment, pro­ces­ses can be opti­mi­zed and imple­men­ted in a time- and cost-effi­ci­ent way. Also, our digi­tal pro­ces­ses enables a novel B2B solu­ti­on for web­site mass cus­to­miza­ti­on of the para­me­tric self-design of pro­ducts. Con­se­quent­ly, for the first time, fashion labels have the pos­si­bi­li­ty to cus­to­mi­ze pro­ducts to their indi­vi­du­al needs and to place their order online in a simp­le way.

Why the MTH Accelerator?

The MTH Acce­le­ra­tor has sup­port­ed us in many ways: during our start-up pro­cess, for our mar­ke­ting stra­te­gies and gene­ral busi­ness deve­lo­p­ment, within this cur­rent finan­cing round, and with legal advice. This help has been inva­luable, espe­ci­al­ly in the ear­ly stages, and has alre­a­dy ope­ned a few doors for us through our inte­gra­ti­on into the start­up network.

Why valu­pa?

The tex­ti­le indus­try pro­du­ces 1.2 bil­li­on tons of CO2 per year, more than the avia­ti­on and ship­ping indus­tries com­bi­ned. Due to cli­ma­te chan­ge, the shorta­ge of oil, envi­ron­men­tal regu­la­ti­ons, and the need of the con­scious con­su­mer, sus­tainable tex­ti­les within the Slow Fashion move­ment have gai­ned more and more importance. Howe­ver, the vast majo­ri­ty of access­ories neces­sa­ry to almost all fashion and tex­ti­le pro­ducts are pri­ma­ri­ly still crea­ted from fos­sil raw mate­ri­als and petro­le­um-based pla­s­tics.
To offer 100% trans­pa­ren­cy in all steps of the value chain, valu­pa is working on deve­lo­ping its own bio-mate­ri­al, which is com­post­a­ble, petro­le­um-free, and con­ser­ves natu­ral resour­ces by using resi­du­al mate­ri­als from indus­try. All pro­ducts are also pro­du­ced local­ly in Euro­pe to pro­mo­te the return of indus­try to Euro­pe, mini­mi­ze CO2 emis­si­ons, and pre­vent non-trans­pa­rent value chains and green­wa­shing. By com­bi­ning mate­ri­al exper­ti­se, addi­ti­ve manu­fac­tu­ring, and injec­tion mol­ding, as well as by offe­ring an indi­vi­du­al digi­tal orde­ring pro­cess, valu­pa offers fashion pro­du­cers the pos­si­bi­li­ty to pro­du­ce, cer­ti­fy, and cus­to­mi­ze coll­ec­tions in a ful­ly sus­tainable way.

What is your mission?

Our visi­on is a future whe­re fashion is pro­du­ced wit­hout pla­s­tics, and is fair, sus­tainable, and cycli­cal. Com­bi­ning inno­va­ti­ve pro­duc­tion, rese­arch, and sus­tainable deve­lo­p­ment, we can crea­te more awa­re­ness and con­tri­bu­te to a rethin­king of the industry.