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Cuyana raises $1.7M to update your closet with fashion that doesn’t harm humanity

cuyanaturkey0506Cuyana is an e-commerce startup that wants you to buy less. Or at least less crap.

The company has raised $1.7 million and unveiled a new business model that emphasizes quality over quantity.

Cuyana is a fashion brand that sells apparel and accessories that are made with high-end materials, craftsmanship, and sustainably sourced. Its latest initiative is called the “Lean Closet” movement which encourages people to buy a smaller number of well-made items, rather than large quantities of cheap products that perpetuate unfair working conditions and harm the environment.

“We understand that we are in an age of fast and impulsive buying – but we also know the joy that comes from finding treasures,” said cofounder Karla Gallardo in an email. “We believe we can function with fewer things when they are better made and want to help our customers elevate their wardrobes and change how they think about shopping. Our goal is for women to love what they buy, as well as love the story behind those unique items.”

If you’ve ever picked up a fashion magazine, you probably understand the importance of wardrobe staples. Style experts frequently recommend a closet filled with well-made, well-fitting pieces that last. Cuyana creates new globally-inspired collections each season as well as a permanent collection with basics like blouses, dresses, hats, purses and jewelry. The design is done in house and material carefully sourced. The production cycle is roughly four months, which Gallardo said is three times fast than the industry standard, and selling directly to consumers. Cuyana’s goal is to help women build an “essential closet” that is affordable, sustainable and unique.

“The idea of intentional buying is part of Cuyana’s DNA,” she said. “Our vision of fewer, better things really comes down to two concepts: cleaning up the retail supply chain in order to offer high quality pieces at affordable prices, as well as encouraging customers to cultivate their shopping habits in a way that makes them feel good about themselves and what they’re buying.”

The harmful consequences of “fast-fashion” made headlines in April after a large multi-story garment factory collapsed in Bangladesh, killing more than 650 people. Bangladesh is the center of the worldwide garment industry — large brands like H&M, Nike, and Gap outsource to Bangladesh where production is faster and cheaper. These lower costs come with unsafe, exploitative working conditions, however, and the April disaster brought the situation to the attention of American consumers. It was just the latest in a series of tragedies fueled by consumer demand for quick and inexpensive apparel, and Cuyana wants people to support products outside of this cycle. Specifically, its products.

As part of its Lean Closet efforts, Cuyana is offering a program where customers can get their unwanted items picked up by nonprofit partners and given to people in need. Shoppers that donate through Cuyana get store credit in exchange.

Direct-to-consumer fashion startups like Everlane and Bonobos are flourishing right now because they can sell high-quality clothing at lower prices by cutting out the middleman. Cuyana combines this approach with the global aesthetic of Anthropologie with the focus on luxury classics, like Celine.

Gallardo previously worked as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs and did online strategy at Apple. Cofounder Shilpa Shah is an interaction designer with experience at Disney. They founded Cuyana in 2011 and currently have five employees in San Francisco. Canaan Partners led this round of funding.

Photo Credit: Cuyana