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Female Founder Feature: Nancy Rhodes

Posted on April 17 2024

Female Founder Feature: Nancy Rhodes


In honor of Earth Month we are thrilled to be speaking to a founder who is making a difference when it comes to sustainability and technology in the fashion industry. Meet Nancy Rhodes, Co- Founder of Alternew.

ALLY Shoes: Can you share a bit about your background and journey that led you to co-found Alternew?

Nancy: I'm a footwear designer turned passionate circularity entrepreneur, with over 17 years of experience in the fashion industry as a footwear designer, having worked for everyone from Beyoncé and Kenneth Cole to Costco, Target, and Marshalls.

Being a first-hand witness to the waste generated by mass production, I pursued a Master's in Sustainability and found a white space in the market to support fashion care and repair, the time between purchase and end of use, which led to co-found Alternew to transform the fashion alterations and repair industry.
Rachel, is the co-founder of Alternew and her journey went from engineering to strategy consulting to an MBA which shaped her passion for sustainability and technology. Seeing the same specific opportunity of "goods as a service", co-founding Alternew was a natural progression, combining her expertise in data analytics with her commitment to making sustainable fashion accessible to all.


ALLY Shoes: What specific challenges or pain points in the fashion industry did you notice that inspired the creation of Alternew?
Nancy: The alterations industry is ripe for innovation, currently fragmented, underserved, and lacking the champions needed to support this integral part of the circular economy, extending the garment lifecycle and reducing waste.
Three main areas include -
  1. Waste: The fast fashion cycle contributes significantly to environmental degradation, with millions of tons of textiles discarded each year. Today, the average American throws out 82 pounds of clothes each year.
  2. Lack of Accessibility: Tailoring and repair services are often perceived as costly or hard to find, leading many to discard clothes instead of repairing them, an issue of an antiquated and fragmented system.
  3. Disconnected Supply Chain: There's a gap between fashion brands, their customers, tailors, and repair services, making it difficult for each to benefit from one another.


ALLY Shoes: How do you envision Alternew addressing these challenges and making a positive impact for tailors, cobblers, and repair business owners as well as fashion brands?

Nancy: Alternew is fashions' key to unlocking circularity through elevated post-purchase alterations and repairs. Our technology enables all fashion brands the ability to offer alterations and repairs through our national network of local tailor shops.

By offering alterations and repair, fashion retailers reduce returns, increase customer loyalty, and support their sustainability initiatives, helping them be active participants in the circular economy. Customers engage knowing a brand "has their back", supporting not only their purchase, but making sure they have the perfect fit and love their clothes longer.

And tailors get new customers, an opportunity for the businesses of today to thrive and for a new generation of artisans to grow.
ALLY Shoes: With Earth Month upon us, how does Alternew contribute to sustainability in the fashion industry, and what steps can brands and individuals take to support this mission.
Nancy: Fashion's magic goes beyond first impressions. It's about confidence and the stories we wear. It isn't just about getting a perfect fit - it's about revolutionizing how we approach clothing.
Here are a few ways to support:
  • Make it last: Start by being a thoughtful consumer — pick pieces that promise both style and durability to keep your wardrobe timeless. If you are looking for trend, have an end of use plan whether renting, selling, altering, or repairing. #buybetterwearlonger
  • Tailor made: alter and repair your clothing. Investing in fit is investing in how much you'll love your clothes season after season. Repair your clothes to give them a second life, even if your plan is to resell or donate your items. 86% of unwanted apparel ends up in landfill so a missing button or seam could be the difference between a new owner and a trash can.
  • Champion your favorite brands: Support the trendsetters who are truly weaving sustainability into the fabric of fashion. Remember it's about transparency, not perfection.


ALLY Shoes: As female founders in the tech industry, can you share any insights or experiences from your funding journey?

Nancy: Building a supportive network of mentors and allies is vital to the journey. Being part of a tech accelerator, ERA (Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator) that has not only provided funding, but also 4 months of programming for us to learn and connect, has created a foundation to support our growth. In addition, we've had a chance to meet other startups in our cohort, from climate tech to community platforms and healthcare, breaking silos and learning from each other.

We're navigating a male-dominated funding landscape, but we see opportunities for our mission to resonate with mission driven funds that envision the massive solution we're building to support the fashion value chain, future of work, and an integral part of the circular economy.
Our funding journey has been about understanding that it's not just the capital, but the partnership that means success.
ALLY Shoes: Who is your ally?
Nancy: Our allies are the champions who have stood by us, from our mentors and advisors to friends and family, as well as the fashion brand teams to the alterations community that have aligned with our vision from day 1 and continue to be our pillars of support.


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