Reducing Fashion Waste without maximizing forced profits

Ziel makes on-demand, quality activewear apparel in the United States. With a strong focus on sustainability, Ziel’s model reduces waste and enables a flexible supply of high-quality apparel.

Marleen Vogelaar started Ziel in 2015 with a mission: to reduce waste in fashion manufacturing by leveraging on-demand technologies. Unlike traditional clothing manufacturers, which require design and inventory commitment a year before production, Ziel’s platform enables companies to commission custom athletic apparel with no minimum order and delivery in under 10 days.

The apparel industry is in need of a paradigm shift. The traditional retail model is slowly dissolving due to a saturated industry, long lead times, high discounts due to the everyday coupon, and high end of season write-offs. The result is a serious problem of overproduction: 40 percent of what the industry produces cannot be sold and is destroyed or heavily discounted. An on-demand model has the potential to significantly reduce fashion waste.

With Ziel, Marleen wants to make the industry more sustainable by using ecologically friendly textiles and fundamentally rethinking how clothing is ordered and manufactured. As a co-founder of Shapeways, the world’s largest 3D printing service and marketplace, Marleen drove the transformation of 3D printing into the digital era of mass custom manufacturing. She’s now bringing this same on-demand, network-based approach to athletic wear to reduce waste.

With her experience founding Shapeways and raising over $75 million in venture capital, Marleen is well-versed in the trade-off between growth and control. With Ziel she wanted to do things differently: She wanted to secure growth capital while ensuring her mission of reducing fashion waste was never compromised by the needs of external stakeholders. Rather than exit the company through an IPO or private sale, Marleen wanted to keep control of the company inside the company with mission-aligned stewards.

To protect the company’s independence and mission for the long-term, Marleen transitioned the company to steward-ownership. Ziel’s Golden Share structure enables the company to take on growth capital while ensuring that its independence and mission are protected over the long-term. By separating voting and dividend rights, the model protects the company from ever being forced by investors to maximize profit at the expense of purpose.