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.