Belfast start-up Responsible raises $6.6m in seed funding

10 Jan 2022

From left: Belfast Lord Mayor Kate Nicholl, Responsible CEO Mark Dowds and Responsible garment processor Marianne Connolly. Image: Responsible

The fashion start-up has developed a re-commerce finance platform for retailers to extend the lifespan of their products.

Belfast-based start-up Responsible has raised $6.6m in a seed funding round led by Barclays Sustainable Impact Capital, to grow its re-commerce fashion business.

Other participants in the funding round include Techstart Ventures, InPost founder Rafał Brzoska and Nextdoor CEO Sarah Friar.

This round of funding will be used to expand Responsible’s reach throughout Europe and extend its network of brand partnerships.

The Belfast start-up has developed a technology called Buy Back that can be integrated into a fashion brand’s e-commerce and physical stores. This informs shoppers of the residual value of the item they are about to buy, which they can return at any point in the future in exchange for credit.

“The fashion industry manufactures billions of items every year and only 5 to 7pc of these clothes are sold for a second time,” said CEO and co-founder of Responsible Mark Dowds. “We are enabling brands to not only become accountable for everything they produce, but also to financially benefit from a more circular and sustainable business model.”

The company said its plugin is available within the e-commerce platform Shopify and will soon support other platforms.

“Data sources like Black Book and Glass’s Guide transformed the automotive industry. We plan to do the same in fashion.” Dowds added.

Barclays’ co-head of principal investments Andy Challis said innovation is critical in the fashion industry to reduce global carbon emissions. “Responsible has developed an innovative model which enables circularity in the fashion industry, partnering directly with brands to extend the life of garments and impact sector-wide change,” Challis added.

Responsible has launched with several partners including design-led brands Ræburn, Côte et Ciel, Kuyichi, and Kings of Indigo with more to be announced in the coming months.

Founded in 2021 with a focus on developing a “circular future”, Responsible operates in the UK from its Belfast and London offices. It plans to establish an EU presence early this year.

Belfast’s Lord Mayor Kate Nicholl expressed support for Responsible’s decision to “locate their innovative, sustainable business in Belfast – and retain this significant investment in our city”.

“Our energetic and ambitious city is full of talent and creativity and, coupled with our rich textiles heritage, it’s wonderful to learn of new and future employment opportunities within this industry.”

Interest has been growing around the re-commerce trend, as Etsy announced in June that it would acquire fashion resale platform Depop for $1.625bn.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic