September 19, 2018

Queen of Raw: Innovative and Sustainable Fabrics for the Independent Designer

Queen of Raw is an online marketplace that sells sustainable fabrics and other raw materials to independent designers. The company was founded in 2014 by Stephanie Benedetto (also CEO), who I had the chance to speak with to learn more about the company's past, present, and future.

What's your background?

My family has been in the textiles business for over 100 years. In 1896, my great grandfather arrived in New York by ship from Austria and landed at Ellis Island. After settling in the Lower East Side, he became a master furrier, crafting custom fur coats, bolero jackets, and stoles. Textiles and fashion are in my blood.

After six years as a corporate attorney on Wall Street representing technology, fashion, and startup clients, I co-founded a textile manufacturing facility. It's here that I saw firsthand the disconnect between supply and demand.

Brands across industries struggle to find raw materials. And factories around the world struggle to sell the millions of tons of excess stock that currently sit in a warehouse and eventually make their way to landfills or get burned.

Queen of Raw provides the bridge.

What led you to create Queen of Raw? What's the story behind it?

For my great-grandfather, the supply chain was straightforward. He found materials and supplies nearby, created everything by hand with minimal waste and minimal toxins, and sold finished goods to local customers.

Today’s raw materials supply chain is much more complicated; hundreds of steps involving millions of people across the globe and metric tons of water, chemicals, crops, and oil are used in the process. If we continue at the current pace, by 2025, two-thirds of the entire world’s population will face shortages of fresh water and be exposed to hazardous chemicals from textile production alone.

Our vision is to make it easier and profitable for designers and suppliers to connect. If we can change the way people procure raw materials, we can drive sustainable choices across industries. By 2025, Queen of Raw can save over 4 billion gallons of water and 2 million pounds of chemicals, while keeping 2 million tons of textiles out of landfills.

How has the company evolved since its founding in 2014?

We’ve added millions of dollars worth of inventory and signed major partnerships outside of the United States. Now, every week, thousands of targeted buyers search for fabric on Queen of Raw. We’re giving people access to materials that they never had before.

For those who don't know, how does the marketplace work? In addition, who is it for?

queen of raw photo
Queen of Raw Founder and CEO Stephanie Benedetto (right) and Creative Director Corbin Chase (left).

How do we bring this waste back to life? Let’s take New York Fashion Week, for example, it sets the trends for the entire industry. This year, “fuchsia” and “pink” were all the rage.

After Fashion Week, factories, brands, and retailers posted their unused fuchsia and pink fabric on Queen of Raw. And started selling in minutes. They manage all this inventory in one place; we make the transition from their warehouse to web seamless!

Designers want to design with what’s hot. So they do a Google search. When they search for “pink knit tricot,” they find Queen of Raw first.

Not only do they find the fabric they’re looking for, but they can also create an inspiration board and find all the other fabric that goes along with it, plan out their collection, and share it with their design team.

Then purchase everything with the click of a button straight from the suppliers. That’s it. And if those designers don’t end up using all that fabric? They sell it back on Queen of Raw.

What's the most important thing you've learned about running a textile marketplace?

Don’t be afraid! Don’t be afraid to take risks, put your ideas and yourself out there, and test your solution on the market. These are important steps to being able to improve your offering, iterate your product effectively, and be the last player in the market who really dominates!

How big is the team? Any hiring plans?

We did all this as a bootstrapped company of three people strong: Stephanie, the hustler. Phil, the hacker. And Corbin, the hipster. Each of us come from a family of entrepreneurs. We’ve all been entrepreneurs. And we’ve worked at large companies developing expertise on how technology can connect textile’s past to its future.

Where do you go from here?

Fabric. It’s everywhere. And it’s the biggest market you’ve never looked at. Michaels. $6B. Etsy. $1.8B. Jo-Ann. $1.6B. Massive businesses built on selling raw materials. Just like Queen of Raw. Except we’ve found a huge hole in this market—the unused leftover inventory for B2B—and we’re here to fill it. Across industries and around the world!

My great-grandfather came to America wanting a better world for his family and so do I. Especially for my two-year-old son.

Together we can change the world!

Alexander Culafi is a Staff Writer at VentureFizz. He also edits and produces The VentureFizz Podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @culafia.