Hult Prize 2023: Future of fashion at play at Melbourne summit
Teams from around the world will compete at Melbourne Business School this weekend as part of the US$1 million Hult Prize Challenge semi-finals.
Melbourne Business School will become a hive of activity this weekend as more than 100 students from around the world converge to pitch their best business ideas for sustainable fashion.
The Hult Prize 2023 Summit in Melbourne will welcome 25 teams from countries including Bangladesh, Canada, Denmark, India, Indonesia, Morrocco and Zambia to take part in the competition’s semi-finals.
Melbourne is one of 12 global host cities for this year’s Summit, with the others being Boston, Dubai, Lisbon, Milan, Monterrey, Mumbai, Nairobi, New York City, Tunis, Taipei and Rio de Janeiro.
In total, more than 8,000 startup teams and 44,000 individuals from around the world are expected to take part in this year’s competition. Last year, Team Flexi from Melbourne Business School became the first Australian team ever to make the final round in New York.
Founded in 2010, the Hult Prize is open to university students in any discipline and offers a reward of $US1 million for the best idea to solve a pressing social challenge. This year’s brief, ‘Redesigning Fashion’, calls upon students to launch an innovative social venture in the clothing and fashion industry to make it more sustainable.
“There are many things to be excited about, such as the great initiative from the startup teams and having Team Flexi as the alumni speaker,” said Kexin Chen (pictured, centre), the Campus Director for the Hult Prize Summit in Melbourne and a Full-time MBA student.
“The startups are coming up with business ideas to tackle challenges in each part of value chain in the fashion industry to make it more sustainable.”
Hult Prize campus coordinator and Full-time MBA student Divanshu Tuli (pictured, left) said: “You will not be disappointed. All the competitors who have made it this far have already proven their dedication and passion towards driving real change. We are all ready to welcome you here at the Melbourne Summit and are hoping that you are as excited as we are!”
Divanshu added: “As a startup founder myself, I understand the challenges and the transformative power of entrepreneurial thinking. The Hult Prize provides an incredible opportunity to inspire, support, and connect aspiring entrepreneurs, fostering a culture of innovation and social impact.”
Fellow campus coordinator and Part-time MBA student Ivy Li (pictured) added: “I am very much looking forward to meeting and working with teams from all over the world and introducing Melbourne Business School and Melbourne to them. It will be busy but very rewarding.”
This year, four startup teams from Melbourne Business School will be competing at the Hult Prize semi-finals at the summits across Melbourne, Mumbai and Dubai. They are...
Envirobe: Upcycling and digital wardrobe
(L-R) Katherine Chen, Charlene Linneman, Vaishali Ghosh
Envirobe is an upcycling platform and digital wardrobe that aims to promote sustainable fashion practices.
“We offer a peer-to-peer rental service that includes vintage and Australian brand clothing, as well as secure collection options and upcycling options for timeless classic pieces,” said Part-time MBA student Charlene Linneman.
“We also offer a virtual visualisation of clothes and alterations on the body, as well as the ability to connect with tailors online. These features set us apart from other fashion rental and upcycling platforms in the market.”
Charlene said they wanted to create a solution that would help reduce waste, promote sustainable fashion practices through education and partnerships, and provide a convenient and affordable way for people to access high-quality clothing.
Fashion Forward: Eco-friendly insulation
(L-R) Zane Lynn Ng, Sunjit Bhatt, Zhao Jie Yan
Fashion Forward aims to divert textile waste and worn-out clothes from landfills and recycle it into an eco-friendly insulation material for homes and buildings. The team calls this material ‘Fashion Fill’.
“Our business solves two problems: A waste problem and supplying a product for the construction industry,” said Part-time MBA student Zhao Jie Yan. “We’re taking the waste product of one industry and using it as raw material for another.”
According to Zhao Jie, current insulation products such as fibreglass can pose health and safety hazards and may require specialised tools to cut. In contrast, he says Fashion Fill is made from cotton from upcycled fashion waste, making it safer to handle.
“We're tapping into a blank market in Australia,” he said.
Fashion Revived: 3D printing of personalised designs
(L-r) Megan Ward, Athena Voudiotis, Sarah Miller, Utkarsh Goel
Fashion Revived aims to leverage the growing trend towards second-hand purchasing by using 3D printing to refresh existing garments, allowing customers to “change the way you change your fashion”.
“There isn't an equivalent market offering,” said Executive MBA student Sarah Miller. “The closest thing would be screen printing, but with 3D technology you can personalise designs to extend the life of your garment, and it can be done on all fabrics.
“This means we can rescue un-loved garments from the depths of our wardrobe and reduce new purchases that ultimately contribute to waste in the fashion industry.”
With their vision “dress for change”, Sarah said they are “driven to disrupt the fashion industry with cutting-edge technology that makes an impact on waste and consumption”.
Terra Atelier: AI 3D-fitting solution
(L-R) Didi Fedorenko, La Verne Legaspi, Jennifer Mancuso, Melissa Chung
To reduce online shopping waste and customer returns from incorrect apparel sizing, Terra Atelier is innovating how consumers can try on clothes in a virtual environment using AI and 3D fitting-enabled software it calls ‘My Taille’.
“Imagine a future where sustainability and customer satisfaction go hand in hand,” said Full-time MBA student Didi Fedorenko. “Our innovative solution not only promises an enjoyable and rewarding shopping experience for customers, but also empowers them to make informed decisions and reduce product returns.”
In doing so, ‘My Taille’ aims to enable retailers to cut costs, avoid overproduction and reduce environmental impact from reverse supply chains, packaging and landfill waste.
“We want to combine fashion, conscious consumerism and the circular economy principles to beautifully and sustainably clothe the world," the team said.
Stating their cases
Two of the five teams — Terra Atelier and Fashion Forward — will make their pitch at the Hult Prize Summit in Melbourne on the Friday and Saturday, 9 and 10 June. Team Fashion Revived will pitch at the Hult Prize Summit in Mumbai at the same time and Envirobe will be pitching in Dubai on Friday and Saturday, 23 and 24 June.
Winners from the summit will move on to the first stage of the Global Accelerator from July to September, when each team will undergo business challenges and mentorship to fast-track building their companies.
From here, six teams will be selected to progress to the second, in-person stage of the Global Accelerator in Paris. The same six teams will then make their final pitch at the Global Finals in September, when judges — which include former US President Bill Clinton — will select the Hult Prize winner.
“We have been following our teams' journeys from the very beginning and they have been nothing short of impressive and inspiring,” said Divanshu.
Kexin said: “The MBS teams invited to pitch in the semi-finals are devoted to developing their ideas and are actively seeking support from industry experts. Working with competitors has been truly inspiring, and they all showed great dedication and resilient efforts to date.”
“I wish them all the best of luck!”
Pitches start on Saturday, 10 June at 3:00pm. To attend in person, register here.