#MEFORHER: Boryana Uzunova

During your junior year of university, you co-founded MorphX, a fashion tech aimed at enabling on-demand perfect-fit fashion. How did you come up with the idea to create MorphX? What were your objectives?
It all started with a search for a classic, yet youthful white dress for a New Year’s Eves party in Hong Kong back in 2013. An easy find I thought. The store tour in HKs vibrant shopping scene would probably have been a dream day for the person loving exploration-based shopping. Yet, for the girl with the vision of a classic youthful white dress, it was a disappointment to not find this assumingly straightforward look. Whilst I made an internal compromise with the color, I still couldn’t find a piece that didn’t come with a trade off either on the price, quality or design front. Turned out it wasn’t just me – there was a sensible gap in the plain apparel, call or professional attire, for Millenials, so I started doing exactly this – very plain, classy, but fresh dresses for the young woman, on a custom basis. I had all my uni girlfriends get one, so I thought let’s go bigger and take this online. And boom, it failed. Measurements were always wrong and the dress always returned on a net loss. I wasn’t studying design anyway so I wasn’t offended by the turnout. Being a science and technology uni child, I looked at the bigger picture – 40% of all online orders are returned and fashion is the second biggest polluter of our planet. What if there was a technology to enable us to produce clothes on demand a perfect fit? The damage of mass production would be overcome while everybody is wearing exactly what they want made just for them. And MorphX was born. A combination of a mobile body scanner (FigureX) and a morphing mannequin (BodyMorphX).

What are some challenges that you faced while working on it?
Endless challenges really. First of all no one thought it was possible to create the BodyMorph part of the technology which was integral to the whole thing working out. It took a year to be rejected by 10s of engineers and then even more venture capitals –  is is not possible first they said, but even if it were, this is impossible to scale. Discouraging? Hell yes. But I was lucky to be at university at the same time and it was okay to work on something with high risk of failure. So I kept on trying, looking for engineers, took up engineering classes myself even. Four years more down the road, we had the BodyMorph. Learning to be persistent, while being patient has resulted in changing a lot of people’s mind, including engineers’ and VC’s minds. Complex ideas, activities, methods are always shocking at first, yet they all sink in eventually and transform into something rather provoking. And maybe that was the biggest challenge, learning persistence and patience, but also the biggest prize, as it led to forming an incredible team and results.

Can you tell us a little bit about the MX Foundation?
The MX foundation is what gave our team a purpose much higher than just creating a technology for on-demand perfect fit production. The MX Foundation is where we give back to the society in a very exciting way. There are millions of women and children in frontier countries that have been employed by fashion brands and exploited for cheap labour. The same, however, have excellent knowledge of textiles, designs and how to sew pieces together. So what we do is reallocate part of our profit to the MorphX Foundation and go to markets such as Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Laos stimulate fashion entrepreneurship amongst mothers with flair for apparel, so that they launch their own line to be featured in our upcoming marketplace project Kool and Konscious.

You ran a project called Kouture Kapsule in Hong Kong, that kicked off a conscious fashion movement in Hong Kong. Could you share more about this project and the Rekkapsule initiative?
Kouture Kapsule was a month-long project that we ran in Hong Kong whose mission was to 1) break the stereotype that sustainable fashion is boring and expensive, 2) to raise awareness of the moral and environmental footprint of fashion and 3) actually mitigate some of that negative impact. For the first goal – breaking the perception that sustainable fashion is boring and expensive, we launched a pop-up showroom that gathered 10 very cool sustainable and ethical brands from around the world. Despite just 10 brands, people could get everything from swimwear, to professional attire. From casual shoes to elegant jewellery. To raise awareness on the impact of fashion we held numerous events around conscious fashion and created five beautiful, short, satisfying videos to put the damage in perspective and offer an alternative. For our third and most meaningful goal – actually cutting some of the negative impact, we launched the Rekkapsule Kampaign. Each year more than 21B tons of textiles piles up on landfills. Around 2/3rds of them are from plastic-derived materials, such as polyester taking centuries to degrade. Knowing this really made us believe that simply taking car of how we produce and shop is not enough. Education on how we dispose is just as crucial part of the equation to making the fashion industry a sustainable one. So we invited Hong Kong-ers to come by and drop off the items that haven’t made it out of their closet recently. Depending on their condition, we would donate, up-, down-, re-cycle them at no expense.

Another project of yours is Kool and Konscious, a digital platform aiming to eliminate the environmental and moral footprint of the fashion industry by providing access to the world’s largest selection of sustainable and ethically sourced products gathered in a well-curated, operationally excellent and technologically advanced marketplace. Tell us how did you start this project and where is it going.
Kool and Konscious was the natural next step after MorphX and Kouture Kapsule. On the one hand we had a technology for on-demand perfect fit production. On the other we had proof of demand for conscious fashion. Now we are building the largest marketplace for sustainable and ethical fashion, but we really think of it a platform for conscious fashion to take place. Going beyond just making conscious fashion accessible to the customer, we work with conscious partners across our entire value chain and connect brands with degradable packaging providers, nature-friendly materials producers, eco-colorant makers, carbon-neural logistic companies and more. We further give brands the back-end business intelligence tools to be able to plan, produce and sell their pieces in the right sizes, to the right customers in the right geographies.

By gathering the creative genius of the most innovative sustainable and ethical designers and labels worldwide in one marketplace, you give the opportunity to many emerging designers and small local businesses to be discovered by the public, while cutting the negative impact of fashion. How important it is for you to facilitate their growth and promote the “smaller players”?
Very. There are over 3,000 conscious brands around the world that on average use 75% resources less and spare just about the same amount of the moral and environmental footprint. The people behind each brand are truly talented and produce pieces that are as good and of quality as we would find on the high street. The reason for such brands however to not be able to scale their sales internationally is that whilst being super talented, they lack the capital for proper marketing, the front end IT expertise to deliver the expected user experience, the operational know-how and the scale to achieve good pricing on sourcing and international shipping. So at KK we decided to take care of all the latter and let them focus on what truly matters – designing game-changing pieces.

Some people claim that they do not buy sustainable fashion because it is harder to find than going to a mass retail giant like H&M found in every street corner. How would your new project, Kool & Konscious make shopping for conscious fashion easier?
I can’t agree more. The Kouture Kapsule pop us was one of the first initiatives gathering conscious brands in one place and while the turnout was overwhelming, we were surprised by hearing the same line over and over again – “I want to buy sustainable products, but it’s just easier to pop by the shop next door”. It made us realize there is a way to make sustainable fashion an easy choice, not only for our local Hong Kong community, but for the world. We took a step back to prepare for the leap. Under Kool & Konscious, we are launching the first global state-of-the-art marketplace, where shopping for conscious fashion comes with exceptional customer experience, rich product variety and unparalleled ease of use. With over 200 exceptionally cool brands under our umbrella now, we want to be the“next door” for our customers to save the planet in style.

You are the fundraising manager for Revolv, a platform that provides a solution amidst a growing global emergency with single-use plastics. What attracted you to this job and what do you aim to achieve?
A good friend of mine was working for Revolv in Bali when I was visiting the island – the guys were truly kind to invite me to their co-working and co-living villa. Thirty minutes in the conversation with Brian, Revolv’s CEO, he offered me to join as a CFO. What?! I couldn’t accept as I had my hands full with Kool and Konscious. Yet, I was so passionate about their platform and it’s potential that I ended up helping out no a daily basis and becoming part of the team anyway. As Brian, says, “We are close to being a twenty-person team gathered by 0 job postings”. Revolv is a company with an incredible spirit, mission and capacity that just happens to attract the right talent at the moment it needs it. I guess this is what attracted me to the opportunity as well – Revolv is a truly good, feasible and meaningful idea with an exceptional team behind it. I perceive fundraising as my forte, so the idea of being able to facilitate the resources for a company that could eliminate single-use plastic was more than appealing.

What are three things that you should keep in mind when you are beginning to work in sustainable fashion?
1) There is no established standard for sustainable fashion.
2) The conscious fashion industry is very fragmented at the moment.
3) Awareness as to why we need conscious fashion and where ro access it is still very low.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to launch a fashion startup?
It is a growing space holding a lot of financial, but more importantly environmental and humanitarian potential – so go ahead! And it takes us all to make a change, so remember – collaboration over competition.

Is there something you wish you had known before you started this career?
I wish I knew changing customer behaviour is incomparably harder to building a state-of-the-art technology.

What are some brands with purpose that inspire you?
I am inspired by so many of the conscious brands out there. Each comes with such a personal motivation and an inspiring story. We have listed the stories of a few here. https://www.koolandkonscious.com/kkbrands

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
With a biiiiiiig family, many puppies and, hopefully, having contributed towards a more sustainable and conscious world.

Besides sustainability, what social causes are you passionate about?
Working towards equal and ethical environment for global development is something that I resonate with on an emotional level.

Yours truly,

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