Labfresh is an innovative online retailer that designs high quality men's clothes. The company was founded by Lotte (NL) & Kasper (DK) in Amsterdam. Together, the dup is on a mission to change the conservative clothing industry by introducing innovative and sustainable technologies.
Meihui (Hannah) Du
TIAS School for Business and Society
Lotte and Kasper started Labfresh by launching a campaign on Kickstarter for a stain & odor-repellent business in 2017. The Kickstarter campaign was so successful that Labfresh raised ten times the required investment and was able to produce their first batch of clothes. In the subsequent years, Labfresh instituted more technologies, added new products to its portfolio, and introduced size and color options. Their current product line includes shirts, t-shirts, polos, sweaters, pants, and socks. These products are not only stain- and odor-repellent, but are also sweat-blocking, wrinkle-free, and made of stretching BCI (Better Cotton Initiative) cotton.
Kasper shared with us what he recognized in the clothing industry, that there is a “disconnect between people who hold patents and the factories, [which results in limited innovations]." Labfresh clothes are different since Labfresh was able to take “all these great innovations out of the labs and into closets, by combining multiple patents into their designs and creating consumer awareness.” Studies prove that due to the technologies used by Labfresh, users wear Labfresh clothes on average two days longer before washing and the product life cycle is 2.5 times longer compared to ‘normal clothes’. Wearing clothes longer means a reduction in the use of water and electricity for laundry, and a longer product life cycle enhances less production. That’s how Labfresh makes a difference.
Ten years ago, Kasper was working for a global logistics and supply chain service provider, spending most of his time in airports, hotels, and meeting rooms. During this period, Kasper noticed that shirts are wrinkled when stored in a suitcase and noticed that using an iron in a hotel can be dreadful and something one would rather avoid at 6 am. He recognized that fitting and buying clothes is an activity that some men want to avoid. Based on these observations, Kasper launched his first start-up, Cloakroom, which is an online personal shopping company for men. Kasper mentioned though, that at Cloakroom, “we were all the time pushing for people to buy more, more, more, and more and that's being a part of the problem.” This motivated Kasper to start Labfresh, which he now claims, “we all the time tell people to buy less.” He further explained the inspiration that, “we only feel like spending our best years, the best years of our lives on this if it makes a positive impact on the planet,” and that he was "positioned to make a difference with his first start-up experience.”
The innovation at Labfresh does not stop here. One of the major challenges in the clothing industry according to Kasper is that “it's very hard to make recycled fibers on a level that is fine enough to make a high-quality product out of it,” and thus reduce the use of raw materials for production. Currently, 40% of the fibers used in Labfresh’s products are recycled fibers, however, the goal of Labfresh is to use entirely recycled fibers by 2025. To further increase the percentage of recycled fibers in its products, Labfresh is investing in technologies that increase the quality of fibers in the recycling process. Also, Labfresh has moved production from China and the U.S. to Italy, which reduces lead time, minimal order size, and carbon emissions for transport. The new production facility in Italy allows Labfresh to increase product availability and expand to new markets in the upcoming years. Labfresh aims to grow gradually, as Kasper is convinced that “it's better to take really good care of your customers in some markets, than to poorly serve the whole world.”
Labfresh succeeds in taking good care of its customers, as it enjoys strong customer loyalty and funding support due to its unique and profitable business model. They have successfully reached the niche target customers who are willing to buy less and pay more for their quality products, whose innovative technologies are exclusively applied by them. The benefits are that 50% of their customers have placed a second order and they don’t need to invest heavily on marketing nudging customers to buy more or compete on prices. Moreover, they have attracted many investors including their customers.
So far, all their new products have been financed via crowdfunding pre-orders, and 232 customers have lent them €400,000 to open a flagship store. Within the last five years, Labfresh has achieved impressive business results. When they first started the business in 2017, their first crowdfunding was the most backed fashion project in Dutch history. After five years of operation, they have already sold products in 98 countries and have accumulated a global customer base of 100,000. In 2021, they opened their first flagship store and six shop-in-shops in the Netherlands and Denmark. Looking into the future, they aim to open more flagship stores in Europe. A recent one will be their second flagship store in Copenhagen. The growth history of Labfresh proves that the business in scalable, which will help the business to flourish further in the future.
Labfresh has made profound social impacts through its care and commitment to its community, especially to its employees and customers. The company offers top of the market salaries and benefits valuing work and life balance. For example, walk and talk sessions where the management can learn from employees about their individual goals are encouraged, and psychological sessions are held to help relieve stress. Additionally, full flexibility is offered regarding where and when employees work, and a whole month per year of vacation/work mode is given so employees can work from their home countries.
The company has not only integrated sustainability into its key product offerings, but has also has committed to raising customer awareness on sustainability, contributing to addressing SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production). To ensure that customers are using Labfresh products in the most sustainably-minded way, the company conducts customer surveys to learn about consumption behaviors, and uses this information to educate. Some education provided is about how washing less is hygienic for using their products, and some education is about the optimal number of washing cycles that their customers can be doing. In addition, Labfresh donates socks to the Salvation Army, because “it’s the number one requested item by homeless people, as people wear socks until they have holes in them and then they throw them away.”
Labfresh creates significant environmental benefits, which can be explained by its contribution to address SDG 13 (climate action), SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), and SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth). SDG 13 is to “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”, and one of the SDG 6 targets is to “by 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors” (United Nations). According to the research by Labfresh, two thirds of clothes’ carbon footprint occurs in the use phase, including washing, drying, and ironing. Due to the FreshCore™ technology, Labfresh products have to be washed less and can be worn longer, which reduce carbon and emissions and saves huge amounts of water, energy, and limits waste. For instance, the average number of times a garment is worn before washed is 1.4 days, but that of Labfresh t-shirts can be 3.6 days, saving up to 540 liters of water, which is equivalent to nine months of drinking water for the average adult (Labfresh).
In 2021, Labfresh has managed to save over 360 thousand kWh of energy and over 15 million liters of water, having made an impressive impact on reducing carbon footprint. Additionally, one of the SDG 8 targets is to “endeavor to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation” (United Nations), which has been perfectly ingrained in the mission and effectively implemented in the business model of Labfresh. With the expansion of Labfresh, more positive decoupling impacts between economic growth and environmental damage can be seen in the fashion industry.
Kasper Brandi Petersen, Founder
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Business Website: https://labfresh.eu/
Year Founded: 2017
Number of Employees: 11 to 50
Labfresh is an innovative online retailer that designs high quality men's clothes. The company was founded by Lotte (NL) & Kasper (DK) in Amsterdam. Together, the duo is on a mission to change the conservative clothing industry by introducing innovative and sustainable technologies.