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Paolo Casula: Can sustainable fashion come with a personal touch?

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Shopperbird is the first on-demand marketplace where customers make decisions focusing on the materials and fabric used for their clothes! We involve customers in the production process and emotionally attach them to what they buy. Doing so customers know where their clothes come from and what fabric is made from. We encourage shopping with an aware approach of the impact of garments to our planet.

What do you think makes Shopperbird so unique?

Our on-demand business model is an incredible way to deliver uniqueness and one-of-a-kind garments both using the right quantity of materials just when needed. We don’t just use natural and alternative fabrics! We upcycle the old, extending the life cycle of unsustainable fabrics like polyester and more that would otherwise be wasted (fewer people want to wear second hand especially after covid, plus their quality may not be the best while the price may increase for some vintage pieces).

And what would you say is the biggest differentiator between Shopperbird and your competitors?

Our first differentiator, and we take pride in it, is transparency: you talk to the person who makes your clothes and you know where he/she sourced the fabric (usually locally). Second, the freedom of fashion expression we give both fashion designers and customers to make the style they love as the garment doesn’t exist “yet”. Last, but not least, is the strict selection of fashion designers who work as freelancers in the app: we allow ONLY sustainable, natural, and recycled materials; we run severe quality checks and we go through monthly review checks, sometimes rejecting and removing unsustainable or abusive behaviour.

Talk to us a bit about the story about Shopperbird. What led to its founding?

I myself Paolo Casula, CEO and Founder of Shopperbird, am the person who believes most in this idea but, at the same time, I am the most skeptical! I believe any founder should keep, as I call it, an “Ego balance”. Too much optimism may blind your goal but too much pessimism may put you down. At Shopperbird we fight the excesses whether in fashion or in our egos. I am self-funding myself so far closed a £70,000 first pre-seed round that will end in May 2022. We look to raise £200,000 on a £3m pre-valuation that will turn into £6m after the launch of our first MVT in January 2022.

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Why choose to focus on sustainable fabrics? What advantages do they give customers?

If I have to be brutally honest with you, in the current market situation sustainable fabrics are all but not an “advantage” the low demand makes them more expensive. We understand that is just a trend that is deemed to change quickly as we notice the rising in sustainable fashion movements and global warming awareness. Many talk, few act! Shopperbird is acting and will always keep its sustainable values clear even in the future. As I say to many people: “our focus is an on-demand business model and sustainability is a consequence of what we do and how we do it”.

And is that focus on sustainable fabrics what helped get so many industry experts on board?

The leading investments rate are in sustainable businesses (electric cars, renewables, and sustainable fashion). We are not threatened to find investors in the short run but we fear to find the one with different values from ours. We do our research and we are thorough and careful as much as when we select our fashion designers

Let’s expand a little on the process of speaking to the 20+ fashion designers you have at Shopperbird!

The App allows you to select a type of clothing and a material, and in just two easy steps you are in a chat with a fashion designer. In the chat the magic happens, here fashion designers will try to understand your style and what you are looking for, they will help you to fully customize your future garments and walk you through any minimal details. Their goal is to deliver unique clothes that you love. All payments are made in the chat and you’ll be able to be updated upon your order directly by fashion designers and not bots or hundreds of emails.

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Do you have any great success stories you’re able to share with us about Shopperbird?

In just 6 months we have grown our team to 15 fashion designers and we had more than 10,000  customers subscribing to a waiting list without a functional MVP. We have closed a £70,000  pre-seed and our valuation is growing every day. We have been featured by Fashion United UK and we have just started. Customers and Fashion designers love the idea and concept of the app, but now it is up to us not to let them down!

Do you think the rise of online shopping has led to a growing awareness of the materials they use with their clothes?

I think online shopping is speeding up customer shopping behaviour and manipulating their emotions by triggering superficial impulses by creating trends that are doomed to end a couple of weeks later just to leave some space for the next one! Online shopping increases waste and has a return rate as high as 23%. People are like zombies lost in a “waterfall” of drop-down menus, clicking and talking to bots. We want to turn back the pages of history when people used to go to the cobbler, the shoemaker, the hat and bag maker! A time where clothes meant something and people kept using them because they genuinely loved them. It is not in the online shop interest to be transparent or make people think twice before making a shopping decision.

Talk us through what working at Shopperbird is like. Two days must never be the same, right?

Working on demand is exciting. No day is the same, customer interaction challenges fashion designers, from the picky to the most flexible customers! Customers find themself in a dynamic on-demand marketplace where new fabrics are added every day and new designers bring new styles and add value to the community. Shopperbird doesn’t discriminate, we hire students, new graduates, and most of the time they are the ones with better ideas and styles than 10+ years experienced designers!

We give an alternative opportunity to young fashion designers that otherwise would end up working in a cafe or for an unsustainable brand or someone they don’t share value with! Don’t take our word for it what the Fashion united article.

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And having close ties to your customers and community must be crucial to how you guys operate too, right?

We have run more than 250 polls from customers and fashion designers. We gathered the main problems they face in the current fashion industry and we are building a solution targeted to them and they love it! We would have never invested in our endeavour without sampling traction or understanding if we were actually solving a big problem: and the best thing is we can do it in as sustainable, transparent, and unique a way as possible. Solutions are there and have been there for a while, we just turn the other way!

Do you think sustainability will ever be the norm for fashion?

Many talk about sustainability and they are clearly “greenwashing” all of us. We don’t focus on sustainability because we’d have the same reaction as all fashion brands. We believe that on-demand is the best way to deliver uniqueness sustainably; nowadays people are looking for both! We believe we are increasing awareness in the slow fashion community and, obviously, those who share our values will use the app! In the meanwhile, we won’t stop believing in our mission.

And finally, what do you hope the future brings for Shopperbird?

Our dream is to bring our app in the most disadvantaged countries in the world where people are exploited, unpaid, and constantly in danger (e.g. Rana plaza 1300 workers died in Bangladesh). With Shopperbird, creators, fashion designers will be able to earn fairly, working from anywhere in a safe and dignified way, earning more, and doing what they love. All building their reputation and client base! People were waiting for an alternative from the traditional shopping experience. We are just making things differently by prioritizing awareness, transparency, and sustainability rather than greed or profit. Profit and customers will follow as the right investors will!

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