Fashion

4.13.2018

In The Studio With Queen of Raw: An Eco-Conscious Disruption of The Textile Industry

Queen of Raw founder Stephanie Benedetto’s pitch presentation starts off with a simple (albeit bold) inquiry: “Are you naked?” At the risk of upsetting her audience, she takes a stand, and it works.

To be clear, Benedetto has an urgently good reason for her dramatic flairthe US alone recycles only five percent of its fabric each year, and dumps the rest (about 21 billion pounds) into landfills or incinerators. Newsflash: clothing that gets put in the ground pollutes our drinking water, and clothing that gets burned pollutes our air. With stats like these, it’s easy to feel helpless, or worse, indifferent, about the state of the environment, and the textile industry’s overall role in pollution. It’s pretty bleak.

The presentation continues: there are billions of dollars worth of textiles simply stored, unused, in factories around the world. There are also millions of young designers, students, and companies who need said fabric. There is one company who is here to connect the dots. You guessed it: Queen of Raw.

Factories overproduce fabric and brands and designers over-purchase fabric,” Benedetto says. “There is all this waste just sitting in warehouses around the world, waiting to be burned or buried.  So I built the solution and became my first customer. Queen of Raw takes all the waste that goes on in the industry and turns it into profit.”

Benedetto hasn’t always been in the business of revamping the textile industry; she actually comes from Wall Street, but, she says, “textiles are in my blood.” It’s true: Benedetto’s family has been in the business for over 100 years. When she saw a lucrative opportunity in the redistributing of unwanted and unused fabrics from factories to creatives, she pounced.

Fast forward five years, and Queen of Raw is working with the likes of CFDA designer Mara Hoffman and Europe’s leading design textile manufacturer Kvadrat, and supplying to big name companies like The New York Times and WWD. That’s not to say it’s been an easy journey; on the contrary, resistance exists on both sides of the coin. For factories, turning away from the status quo (and holding onto fabric that they’re no longer in urgent need of, in the hopes that it will eventually be bought) is a tough sell. For emerging designers, originality is key, and that often means being adamantly against recycled fabrics, regardless of context or origin.

“Heads are turning, minds are changing, but because we’re such a small team, and the industry is so resistant, it’s been a bit of a fight,” Queen of Raw Creative Director Corbin Chase says. “But the new generation of designers are so sustainably-focused and it’s such a buzz with them, they get it. Within the next five or 10 years or so, it’ll be a standard, flat out. But we did come in at the forefront, and some people don’t know about that. It’s been exciting.”

Heads are turning, minds are changing, but because we’re such a small team, and the industry is so resistant, it’s been a bit of a fight.

Queen of Raw is a small team of three, with outsized ambition for what they can accomplish. Currently, they’re working on compacting this larger-than-life mission into your cell phone, with a mobile app that will allow users to buy and sell on the go. It’s instant gratification meets saving the planet. We’re here for it.

“We want [the app] to be quick and easy, and really to connect the community,” Chase says. “Fashion is competitive and standoffish, but if you’re already copying each other anyways, and now you’re going to be using fabrics in a million different ways, fuck it. Be friends. Work on things together. Change the whole industry.”

Beyond fashion, fabric has a role to play in almost every industry. Whether you’re sitting on it as a pillow at a restaurant, gripping it in the form of a leather steering wheel, or drying your hands with a bathroom towel, we are surrounded by textiles. Queen of Raw hopes to be just as ubiquitous. For the sake of the planet, we hope so too.

We know that the best economies are circular,” Benedetto says. “They find underutilized resources and put them back into the chain of supply and demand. This is the future. For people. For planet. For profit. That’s Queen of Raw.”

Stay tuned to Milk for more eco-friendly fashion.

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